Landlords were in attendance at Council again Tuesday night, in a last-ditch effort to attempt to derail – or at least delay – Thorold’s Residential Rental Licensing.
The first presenter was Maria Rekrut, President of the Niagara Real Estate Investors Association. She claimed the by-law is a violation of the right to privacy, in that the City will have the right to inspect the premises. She also felt that places an undue pressure on landlords, and that it isn’t allowed by the Landlord/Tenant Board, it settles disputes between landlords and tenants. Finally, she argued, some tenants won’t be able to afford the raise in rent because they’re single parents or on Welfare.
She went on to say that most of the landlords only make a little more than $100 on rentals, without saying whether that was per unit or per building or over what time period. “Does my profit belong in your pocket or in my pocket?’ she asked.
Ms Rekrut wanted to know how the landlords were to enforce fire safety, since some don’t properly extinguish cigarettes and ashes in a safe manner and take down smoke detectors. She also stated that they can’t force tenants to have a fire drill. Still, she asked how many fires there were in rentals as opposed to private residences, to which the acting Fire Chief responded that such data doesn’t distinguish between the two.
Finally, Ms Rekrut asked, “Have you asked the landlords if we agree? How many landlords have said yes?”
To this point, Council listened politely, but offered no comment, as they aren’t allowed to until they debate the motion: they are permitted only to question presenters. The only one who had a question eventually was Councillor Paone, who wanted to know where Ms Rekrut had obtained the number of $5,000 per building to get licensed. Her response was the inspection costs, plus the fee, plus costs for professional drawings of the property and parking, plus the costs of preparing for the inspections by getting everything in order.She was informed that inspection costs were covered by the fee, unless re-inspection is required, and that the amendments presented that night included the option of a non-professional sketch.
Lawyer Robert Di Lallo wanted to know how Council expected to get all of these inspections done by the effective date. When told that the inspections can be done after the application is received, Mr. Di Lallo remarked that this would create great uncertainty for the landlords, requesting that the date be extended.
Self-described thirty landlord Keven McKinnon, referring to the cost increase created by the by-law, wanted to know if Council was prepared to subsidize tenants’ housing, saying “I’m subsidizing these people already.”
Another landlord, Wally Janzen, asked “Who benefits?” He pointed out that this by-law won’t address previously stated problems of garbage, noise and parking so, “I’m sure that your phones aren’t going to stop ringing,” adding that he doubted they received any calls concerned with the safety of the students. In addition to that, he added to others’ prediction that students might move away.
Mr. Janzen also pointed out that two other cities turned down similar actions, suggesting that this was just another level of bureaucracy. He suggested that they all need to work together to solve the stated three problems.
At this point, at the invitation of Mayor Luciani, the City Solicitor who has been involved in the development of the by-law, was asked to comment. She started off by saying that “the fact that the by-law doesn’t make everybody happy does not mean that it is not lawful.” She went on to explain that the by-law is a policy decision and asked how the City is to enforce the electrical and fire codes if they don’t know where the units are. Finally, she stated that this eight-year project has produced a supportable and defensible by-law.
The final presentation was by Arun Pathak, President of the Hamilton and District Apartment association. He started of by telling council that the programme would cost more than the fee and that he wants to look at solutions. He also wishes to place the onus for requesting inspections upon the tenants themselves, as they’ve done in Guelph. Mr. Pathak explained that, in Hamilton, they’ve struck a committee involving all the organizations affected by rentals, requesting that Council delay their decision until they have Hamilton report findings.
After the delegations were complete, and General Committee settled back into their agenda. When the report of the Residential Rental Licensing by-law came up, it recommended adopting the changes as presented in the report, adoption of the by-law, and setting an implementation date of January 1, 2018.
Councillor Whalen was the only one who asked a question of staff, wanting the fees repeated. After he received his answer, the recommendations in the report were passed unanimously, without further discussion.