By Ahmed-Zaki Hagar, Michael Linennen, Elizabeth Oloidi, Kristen Doopan and Temi Dada

New tenant bylaws may improve living in East York buildings

New tenant bylaws may improve living in East York buildings
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Local Councillors on the New Bylaw

Janet Davis, councillor for Ward 31, East York-Beaches has listened to the experiences of her constituents over her years on Toronto city council. Many apartments in East York, including her ward, are old buildings that have similar issues.  Davis was among the 41 councillors who voted in favour of the new apartment bylaws on March 29, 2017.

“More than half of the residents in my ward are renters and many of them live in high-rise buildings that were built in the ’70s that have fallen into disrepair,” Davis said after the vote Wednesday. “Those are buildings that should have been maintained, and I hope now that the new regulation is in place, that we can add new tools that we can put greater pressure and accountability on those landlords.”

Effective July 1, 2017, landlords are expected to register with the city for the units they rent out, and pay a $10.60 annual fee for each unit. Landlords are also subject to do cleaning, maintenance, and implement security protocols and must regularly conduct pest inspections. The bylaws will affect over 3,500 buildings across the city.

Toronto City Council voted 41-1 in favour of new apartment bylaw on March 29, 2017 that aims to protect tenants from landlords who do not maintain their buildings. Toronto Observer's Michael Linennen, Ahmed Hagar and Temi Dada report.

However, not everyone is on the same page. Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7 York West, is one of the few councillors who thinks this bylaw is not efficient and said it is another tax grab from the landlords.

“We all know there is issues, we do have the teeth as a municipal level of law enforcement to deal with the issues at hand, and the issues that everybody is bringing up aren’t gonna get resolved by licensing landlords,”  Mammoliti said. “All you’re gonna do by licensing landlords is yes, another grab for taxes and money from landlords, but you’re going to push them into hiding again.”

The bylaw will ultimately make the tenants suffer from higher rent prices, he said, especially when property taxes and garbage taxes are going up.

“Now we’re going to be in a debate with roof taxes which means any water that lands on any of these apartment buildings will be taxed as well,” Mammoliti said, joking. “You’re going to stop any movement of building new rentals in the city of Toronto unless they are subsidized, and then when they are subsidized, we’re going to get into the debate whether or not taxpayers should actually subsidize these kinds of units.”

Mammoliti called for the new bylaw to also cover the Toronto Community Housing organization, which runs thousands of low income apartments.

“Why are we not suggesting to do the same thing to our buildings and ourselves as a landlord?”  Mammoliti said, referring to the massive backlog of repairs on the THC properties. “The audits that you’re speaking about with TCHC are continuing to be deferred for years. And nothing is done because we can’t afford it. We’re the biggest hypocrites when it comes to this.”

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7, at the March 29, 2017 council meeting. (Photo Michael Linennen/Toronto Observer)

“Licensing landlord is not going to get rid of your cockroaches, licensing landlords is not going to get rid of your bedbugs, licensing landlords isn’t going to get rid of the mold that you might see in the building. Licensing landlords only makes the municipality richer, and the tenants are still going to be ignored,” Mammoliti warned, suggesting the clampdown should be a provincial responsibility.

ACORN ends 12 year wait for bylaw to pass

However, opposition from Mammoliti did not spoil the day for ACORN, a tenant’s rights group. After a 12 year-long battle to hold Toronto’s bad landlords accountable, ACORN finally got its breakthrough: in the form of a bylaw which city council adopted March 29. Failure to comply could result in a $100,000 fine. Details of the bylaw can be found here.

“It is a relief, we knew the sentiments, we have been visiting councillors for years and we knew where this was going but to have it now official is relieving. It is a huge victory for ACORN,” said Natalie Hundt, a representative of ACORN at Wednesday’s council meeting.

ACORN wasn’t alone in the fight for the cause. Coun. Janet Davis of Ward 31 Beaches- East York championed their fight at City Hall. Davis “was the first person to pick this up when ACORN came many years ago and spearhead this in City Hall for us, so we really owe her cooperation to this victory,” Hundt said, just before the vote.

They were faced with some opposition. Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti of Ward 7 York-West, argued that the bylaw would be catastrophic for the city because unit owners will not be encouraged to invest anymore, although both Davis and Acorn deny this.

“It is absolutely nonsense,” Hundt said. “There is money to be made and there will be investors who wants to make money. And potentially it won’t be disreputable to be a landlord in this city, if this is a world-class city, you need to have world-class regulations.”

Members of ACORN [there are 80,000] include tenants all over Canada; some of them have bad stories to tell about landlords. Hundt, who has been a member for 10 years, has had experiences with bad landlords, even admitting that she was not a political person till she moved into her first building in Toronto.

“I came to see the building, the gardens were looking nice and the common area was not suspicious-looking. I sign a contract which I would uphold but when I moved in they said that the unit was not available and they put me in a different apartment, which is too big,” she said. That was the first apartment Hundt moved into when she first moved to Toronto 10 years ago; she eventually moved out, admitting that she gets goosebumps whenever she passes the building.

Hundt and Laurie Fisher, a new member of ACORN, labelled victim blaming as one of the tactics bad landlords use to exploit tenants and avoid responsibilities such as making repairs.

“We are paying our rent to you and you are not responding and then they say that we are not following the rules,” Fisher added.

The next fight for ACORN is rent control, and the 1991 loophole in provincial rental law which allows landlords of buildings built after 1991 to raise rent prices however much they like.

“We want rent control to be attached to the unit and not the lease, so that they don’t raise the price as soon as a tenant moves out,” Hundt said.

They plan to take the fight to the provincial level.

“We will be addressing provincial laws to get rid of the rent increase and have real rent controls,” Hundt said. “It has been a campaign that we have had a long time but now with this momentum we will keep going harder and hopefully be successful sooner than it took to get this one [the bylaw].”

The new city bylaw comes into effect July 1.

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