Toronto’s New Apartment Bylaw Aims to Protect Tenants and Crack Down On Bad Landlords

Originally published at Torontoist. Photo by Seekdes (Mike in TO). Via the Torontoist Flickr pool.

The new apartment bylaw passed by Council yesterday isn’t exactly what tenant advocates imagined, but for apartment renters, it’s a promising step forward.

Owners of “problem properties” like 500 Dawes or 105 West Lodge are a perennial problem for residents, their councillors, and City staff. Detractors have argued that it would be enough to beef up the City’s MRAB program, which audits apartment buildings for compliance with property standards. However, advocates for tenants and low-income residents want the City to have more teeth to deal with squalid apartments and unresponsive landlords.

Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), chair of the Tenant Issues Committee, envisioned a system like the City’s DineSafe program. As Municipal Licensing and Standards head, Tracey Cook, explained, what staff came up with isn’t licensing—it’s a mandatory registry. That means landlords still don’t need a license, permit, or any particular certification to operate in Toronto. Staff are still looking into creating a DineSafe-type rating and sign system, and will report on it to the Licensing and Standards Committee later this year.

But they’re now required to:

  • Register their building and pay a fee ($10.60 per unit). Note: the registration fee is considered a necessary expense to bring the building into compliance with property standards, so landlords can’t use it as a reason for an AGI (above guideline rent increase).
  • Provide cleaning, maintenance, and security plans.
  • Keep records of tenants’ service requests.
  • Notify tenants about service disruptions, renovations, any MLS audits, and more.
  • Regularly carry out pest inspections and treat infestations proactively.
  • Use certified professionals for repairs and pest control.
  • Fix any property standards issues before renting out a unit to a new tenant.

These are only some of the recommendations; you can find more information in the (pretty readable) report. One extra provision worth noting: as well as citywide building audits, there is a planned door-to-door tenant engagement program aimed at low-income and otherwise disadvantaged tenants.

What’s Next?

The City still needs to work out penalties and translating Council’s directions into appropriate legalese. The bylaw comes into effect July 1, 2017, and MLS will report back to Council in a year on their progress.

Tenants having problems with their landlords can call 311, the FMTA hotline, a legal clinic, or their city councillor.

Rent Control

Another landlord/tenant decision that’s worth noting for the record: councillors voted 32-11 in favour of a motion from councillor Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) to support MPP Peter Tabuns’ new rent control legislation seeking at closing the 1991 loophole, which would go a long way to fix the city’s current housing crisis.

Mayor John Tory voted against the motion.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said a colour coded system for the front door is unlikely. When in fact, staff are still looking into creating a DineSafe-type rating and sign system, and will report on it to the Licensing and Standards Committee later this year. Torontoist regrets the error.