Landlord licensing report ‘disappoints’

Concerned Toronto renters, city councillors and local tenant association representatives gathered at Main Square Community Centre on Saturday afternoon to discuss a soon-to-be-released report on landlord licensing.

Representatives of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were there to inform a group of mostly tenants on their strong disagreements regarding a landlord licensing report to be released by the City of Toronto’s licensing and standards committee Monday.

“We are very disappointed on the report,” said Kay Bisnath, a chairperson for ACORN Gordonridge chapter in Scarborough. “The report is totally different from what we were consulted on,” Bisnath said.

ACORN is urging its members and supporters to show up in full force at City Hall on Monday to send a strong message on licensing issue, she added.

During a recent Livable Housing Forum ACORN learned the city report would call for increased inspections by landlords in an effort to crack down on “appalling” conditions at some Toronto buildings. ACORN however wants tenants to be able to pay rents into escrow accounts, allowing a kind of legal rent strike, in buildings persistently beset by problems.

“We believe the inspection system will be a much slower and less effective,” Bisnath said. “This won’t align with a livable housing initiative.”

ACORN also wants to see same licensing system for apartment buildings or landlords, similar to one now used for Toronto restaurants.

“We want see postings outside buildings so [prospective] tenants can see if the building is in a livable condition,” said Eddie Lantz of St Jamestown ACORN.

Beaches East-York city councillor Janet Davis, a supporter of landlord licensing, urged residents to contemplate on the next move forward; the task is enormous, she said.

“We only have 12 New Democrats, a bunch of Liberals in the middle who derail things and we have Conservatives who will defend landlord up to the end,” Davis said. That is why there are problems at City Hall, she added.

Some of the most recent complaints about Toronto-area apartment buildings including leaky ceilings, striped down wooden floors, rat and cockroach infestations and bed bug infestations. According to Toronto Public Health, the number of complaints about bed bugs has quadrupled over the past two years.

Not everyone supports the idea of licensing landlords.

The Greater Toronto Apartment Association, which represents some city landlords, said the city can already force landlords to fix buildings.