Rental inspections in London budget

City hopes to improve rental housing safety

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Rental sign in front of houses

Laura Barclay

DON'T SELL THE FARM, RENT INSTEAD! The municipal government may enact bylaw enforcement to ensure basic health and safety in rental units around London. Let's face it, we've got to be living in adequate digs.

New inspections of rental properties could be coming to London after a February discussion of the City of London’s budget.

Though discussion over any potential changes will not officially begin until bylaw enforcement officers present a report to London City Council in February, interested parties are already choosing sides. Long public talks will hammer out details over this summer and changes will be implemented by early 2009.

“At this stage, we haven’t determined what scale the enforcement would be at,” Orest Katolyk, manager of bylaw enforcement in London, said.

“The province allows us to be quite flexible in the operations end of enforcement.”

Katolyk explained the city would potentially change enforcement to a more proactive stance. “Currently, we deal with tenants who are complaining about their units, but quite often tenants do not complain due to fear of retribution.”

He added the majority of enforcement would be handled in a progressive manner similar to other London bylaw enforcement procedures.

“We’d start with education and warnings, moving onto fines and eventually go onto court action and ask that the license be revoked.

“What [the changes] could do is improve the living conditions of students who are living in substandard housing,” Katolyk said.

Rental units in basements with substandard ceiling heights and windows would be unsafe problems to be identified and dealt with, he explained.

Some parties have already come out to criticize the proposals.

“The issue is that we don’t know the particulars of what the city is proposing " we’re just speculating at the moment,” said Richard Izawa, president of the London Property Management Association.

“Rental housing in Ontario is the most heavily regulated business in the province,” Izawa noted, naming numerous bylaws landlords must deal with already. “The city has survived quite well so far without licensing.”

Izawa noted licensing will affect affordable housing and raise the cost for students and renters to cover the cost of the inspections.

Nancy Branscombe, Ward 6 councillor, said bylaw enforcement should be revenue neutral, with fees from inspections covering any costs.

“This is not a tax grab " the city is not looking to make a profit,” she said.

With other cities across Ontario looking to address behavioural issues around their postsecondary institutions, London is looking to mainly improve issues of health and safety.

“The impetus for [these changes] is to have safer housing,” Branscombe said. Vital services would be one issue addressed by the inspectors, she explained.

“I receive phone calls from students who have had their heat break down or be shut off by landlords during the winter,” Branscombe said. “Hopefully we can prevent this.”

David Simmonds, vice-president of university affairs for the University Students’ Council, saw the proposal as “the beginning of a life-saving agenda for the city.”

“As an observer from the outside ... I’d be excited about an agenda of that nature that isn’t exclusive to students " an agenda that says London has a property standard,” Simmonds said.

“London is saying the safety and security of renters is important and should be a priority.”

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette