Canada: Toronto City Council Approves New Apartment Bylaw To Further Protect Tenants

Last Updated: April 13 2017
Article by Devry Smith Frank LLP

The City of Toronto recently passed a new bylaw aimed at cracking down on "bad" landlords and providing tenants with more protections.

The bylaw, which was passed by city council with a 41-1 vote, imposes a series of new regulations on landlords that will come into effect on July 1, 2017.

The new rules will address tenant service requests, pest management, building repairs, and cleaning. The bylaw also imposes fines for violating these new rules. .

Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been a major supporter of the bylaw, describes the new rules as "a landmark tenant protection bylaw that is not only being celebrated by tenants across the city ... but is even being talked about (in other cities) as a signal of how to do things right."

The new bylaw will cover about 3,500 buildings in the city, which is roughly 350,000 apartments. It does not, however, apply to all landlords in the city—it is mainly aimed at landlords that oversee large residential properties. The bylaw is only applicable to owners and building operators of a residential property with three or more storeys, and ten or more dwelling units available for rent. The protections will apply to Toronto Community Housing buildings, but long-term residences, such as retirement homes, will not be covered by the bylaw.

Under the new rules, building owners must register with the city within three to four months of the bylaw coming into effect, and must re-register every year. The annual registration fee will cost $10.60 per unit. However, the fees will only apply to private buildings—co-op and social housing providers, like Toronto Community Housing buildings, will be exempt from paying the fee (but not registration itself).

The program will cost about $5 million a year to implement and will be funded through a combination of registration fees (53%), enforcement action (12%), and property taxes (35%).

Prior to the launch of the program, city staff will conduct inspections of the buildings and order repairs. These inspections will serve as a baseline assessment for future inspections.

Tenant Service Requests

The new bylaws implements strict requirements on landlords in responding to service requests. Urgent service requests must be responded to within 24 hours and non-urgent requests within 7 days. A request is considered urgent if it is related to the following vital services: fuel, electricity, gas, heat, or hot or cold water.

Landlords must also implement a system for handling and tracking service requests, and demonstrate compliance with their own system. The system must provide tenants with a copy of their service request submissions upon receipt by the landlord.

Infestations and Pest Management

Landlords are required to take certain steps to prevent and deal with infestations. As a preventative measure, landlords must inspect indoor and outdoor common areas for pests every 30 days.

If notified about the presence of pests in any part of a building, a landlord must inspect the area where the pests were discovered within 72 hours. The landlord is then required to eliminate or exterminate the pests and take adequate measures to prevent the pests from spreading to other parts of the property. Pest treatment operations must be performed by licensed exterminators.

The new rules also require landlords to notify tenants of the presence of pests and pest treatment information. The information must include the date of treatment, the name of the licensed pest management company, and the nature of the treatment. The information must be available for display on a central communication board in the building. While the specific location of the treatment won't be made available, treatment records relating to common areas must be made available to tenants and prospective tenants upon their request.

Landlords are also prohibited under the bylaws from renting units with pest problems.

Repairs and Service Disruptions

Tenants will have to be notified of planned or unplanned service disruptions—including those involving heat, water, electricity, elevators, and security. Notification of the disruption will have to be placed on a central notification board and include information regarding the nature of the disruption, duration of the disruption, and the units affected by the disruption.

Landlords will also have to create a capital repair plan that lists building elements and when they are scheduled to be replaced or upgraded. The following capital elements are required to be included in the plan: roof, elevators, facade, windows, mechanical systems, underground garage, interior flooring, interior wall finish, balcony guards, and handrails. When performing major capital projects, landlords must provide tenants with information regarding the nature and duration of the project and the affected units.

Cleaning

Under the new bylaws, landlords will have to inspect common areas for cleanliness at least once a day.

Landlords will also have to create a cleaning plan that contains a list of common areas and how often these areas will be cleaned. The list must include the following (if present): garbage storage area; walls; floors; laundry room and equipment.

Enforcement and Violation

The Municipal Licensing and Standards division will be responsible for implementing and enforcing the new bylaws.

Landlords that do not register under the program will not be permitted to rent units to new tenants until registration is complete.

If landlords fail to comply with the new rules, they may be responsible for paying the costs of an inspection ($108 an hour) or audit ($1,800).

Landlords and building operators found guilty of violating the new regulations could be fined up to $100,000. Charges would be laid through the provincial offences court.

The Municipal Licensing and Standards committee is also considering extended fines for repeat offenders and special fines for those in contempt of the bylaws for the sake of economic gain.

Enforcement of the bylaw is expected to begin in July 2018.

Concern Among City Councillors

Despite a near unanimous vote, a few city councillors took issue with the new bylaw as being overly oppressive to landlords.

Apartment buildings already face municipal property tax rates that are almost three times as high as what home and condominium owners are charged.

Councillor John Campbell is concerned that good landlords will lose money just because of the actions of a few "bad apples."

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti doesn't think the city should be involved in monitoring landlords. Mammoliti is also concerned that the new regulations will scare off developers hoping to build more rental units. This could be problematic since Toronto is already facing a shortage of available rental units.

These councillors also expressed concern that fees associated with the new bylaw could be passed on to tenants. However, this may be limited to smaller fees (such as the registration fee) as landlords will not be able to pass along the cost of capital repairs ordered by the city. The Residential Tenancies Act has clear language that landlords must absorb those expenses associated with compliance orders.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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