Vital Services bylaw revision leaves City Council on the hook for cash

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A review of a revised bylaw reveals many London renters have not been safeguarded from negligent landlords.

In 1995, London City Council passed the Vital Services bylaw that required landlords to pay for a resident’s vital services " heat and hydro " when these services are included in a tenant’s rent. If the landlord failed to do so for the winter months " when these services are the most essential " the city agreed to pay for these bills.

This bylaw was enacted to prevent negligent landlords from failing to pay service providers and leaving tenants without heat or hydro.

Before the bylaw was updated in 2007, only residences with five or more units were included in this law. The bylaw was then updated to include residences that had less than five units, such as a four bedroom apartment.

Last week, London’s Community and Protective Services Committee reviewed the effects of this change. The number of cases the city handled in a year jumped tremendously from three in 2006, to 28 in 2007 to 232 since the new legislation was passed.

“We are going to have these same rules for the units that are less than four. The utility companies will have to negotiate with [landlords] until they pay the bill,” said ward 12 city councillor Harold Usher, who chairs the CPSC committee.

Bills paid by the city get included in the owner’s property tax along with additional charges, Usher said.

“We as a city spend an enormous amount of manpower to encourage [landlords] to pay the bill and work it out with the utilities company to send them a second bill before they cut if off,” he added.

“We should not have to do this. We are paying someone a taxpayer’s salary to do this and we should not have to. So we want to get after the landlord much earlier and get the utility company to [also] chase the landlord.”

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