People keep asking me the same questions about the new Residential Rental Licensing Programme (RRLP) so, in order to save my vocal chords, here are the most common questions and answers, to the best of my understanding:
Q: Will the RRLP solve the student problems?
A: No, that is to say, it won’t and can’t legally specify who can rent, control the number of bedrooms, control the number of parking spaces, regulate behaviour, or reduce noise or parties. But, we’re told isn’t meant to target students anyways. The by-law has to apply to everyone.
Q: What will it do?
A: It will regulate property maintenance, building appearance and safety, and life safety (fire safety, for instance), according to the staff report. Don’t forget, it is maintained that these measures are meant for safety and appearance of all residential rentals, not just students.
Q: Aren’t all those things covered by other laws?
Yes, they are. Hence the charge by one of the landlord reps at Council that it’s “an additional and redundant layer of bureaucracy”. But the by-law serves as a kind of umbrella, which allows a single by-law officer to inspect for all of the areas, unlike now, where it’s necessary to use several City personnel to cover it all )they might still be needed where specialized expertise is required.
Q: Will this licensing raise the rents of the tenants?
A: That really depends upon on how much the landlord needs, or wants, to make on the rent. The licence costs $500 for the first two years, which works out to $20.83/month for those two years, and $400 for each subsequent two-year period (if they renew on time), which works out to $16.67/month. Since there’s only one fee for the building, divide the monthly amount by the number of units and you’ll have the increased cost (i.e. four units will be $5.21/month and $4.17/month more each).
Q: Does the RRLP apply to all rental housing?
A: No, it only pertains to residential rentals, except that, if the landlords live in the building, they may have two boarders with a licence. Apartment buildings are in a different zoning class.
Q: The RRLP is supposed to be “revenue-neutral”, that is to say, it will pay for itself through fees. Is that true?
A: I don’t know. It is supposed to be, but the City is hiring two by-law officers at a total cost of $152,626 in 2018. However, they’re already $69,882 in the hole this year because they budgeted an income for this year that didn’t materialize, plus there were legal costs, etc. to get it off the ground. That’s a total of $222,508 to make up in the first year. at $500/building/2 years, that means the City will have to license 445 buildings in 2018 and another 305 (the cost of the by-laws officers,) in 2019 to break even. That’s either 750 new licences in the first two years. Does Thorold have that many rental buildings?
Q: Has anyplace else tried a similar by-law?
A: The staff report mentions that several municipalities have tried this out, but doesn’t give any examples directly. It does, however, include a report done for the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO). Bear in mind that this report was commissioned by a landlords’ organization and they give only one example. Also bear in mind that you can’t tell by the report how similar it is to Thorold’s. However, the report says that the idea was abandoned by Toronto, Regina, Ottawa, and others because of London’t experience which, in under three years, cost that city $1,260,000, with a return of only $91,400 in the same period but they only charged $25/year plus a $95 inspection fee. They say that it amounts to an $84,000 per-infraction by-law enforcement fee, but that’s basing a recovery rate on fines rather than on cost recovery by sufficient fees.
Q: Weren’t they going to limit the number of bedrooms in a residence?
A: Yes and they say that they still are. But a licensing by-law isn’t the place to do it and they’re intending to present a land-use (zoning) by-law to make that happen, which is where it belongs. They will also deal with residential parking in the same way, though not likely in the same by-law.
Q: Are they saying that this has nothing to do with the Winterberry incident?
A: Yes, they are, and I personally know it’s been true because Council has been asking for this since the beginning of their term (three years ago).