Creating Better Standards for Toronto's Tenants

Dear Constituents,Today the Executive Committee is discussing a very important item that will affect our community. Item EX 26.2 is trying to tackle the lacklustre standards of many of our City’s rental buildings. I sent the following memorandum to state my position in regards to this report and how it affects the future prospect of creating a Landlord Licensing system in Toronto. This will affect large landlords (buildings with more than six units) and their tenants. My hope is that we will come out of this process with a better rental stock and with more dignified living conditions for tenants.Sincerely,Anthony Perruzza------------------------------------------------Monday, November 10, 2008I am hopeful because this report recognizes that much of our rental housing needs a dedicated municipal enforcement effort to make it habitable and decent.By way of its recommendations it seeks to address the legitimate concerns of Toronto's tenants through a reorganization of Licensing personnel. It falls short by not providing new and necessary tools to ensure landlord compliance when negligence has been determined. I believe a licensing system is the way forward.Council first proposed licensing landlords in 1999. This was a key issue in my election campaign. Tenant engagement and participation in the election defeated the only Council incumbent to lose his seat in the 2006 election. I shared in the excitement of tenants across the City, when during the inaugural of this Council the newly appointed Chair of the Licensing Committee committed himself to the development of a Landlord Licensing strategy.The Licensing and Standards Committee on several occasions during the past two years approved motions that had staff input and that requested a licensing regime for landlords. One of those motions asked to bring forward a report “detailing options to license landlords and/or rental properties”.Only through an enhanced system can we implement the enforcement mechanisms required to force repairs in an adequate and timely way. Currently, non-emergency repairs can often take more than a year to be rectified through landlord delay tactics involving multiple appeals and the slow grind of the court system. The statistics used to explain the enforcement campaign (725 landlord compliance orders in the first 9 months of 2008) are merely the 'tip of the iceberg'. It is simply not possible to know what proportions of buildings are now in disrepair and what it could cost, between staff time and legal expenses, to force repairs of Toronto’s properties.It should be noted that a high percentage of Toronto's renters are recent immigrants and low-income families who lack the access and/or will to engage Toronto's property standards enforcement division. The existing enforcement tool box has no means to get around tenant’s lack of participation in the system, because it is not focused on tenants and their rights as consumers, but rather on enforcement. It makes the standard for oversight the worst building as opposed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment and provides no new tools for tenants to protect their rights as consumers.Council must improve the system and give enforcement staff the tools to ensure that our tenants are protected and properly serviced. We should take this opportunity to enhance the current system, while the new task force is hard at work conducting its audits.I strongly urge the Executive Committee to request that staff report to its next meeting with recommendations of a licensing strategy for Toronto’s rental properties.Sincerely,Anthony Perruzza,City of Toronto Councillor,Ward 8

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