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City of Toronto proposes framework for licensing landlords

WATCH ABOVE: City proposes guidelines for licensing landlords in Toronto

Rather than flooding the city with 3-1-1 calls complaining about issues in their buildings, tenants may soon have a new tool to help them live with dignity.

City staff released a framework Tuesday for licensing landlords that includes requiring them to maintain the interiors and exteriors of their buildings, and clean common areas as a condition for approval.

Landlords will also need to notify residents of service disruptions in a centrally located posting board.

READ MORE: ‘We were naive’: Canadian landlords share their worst tenant stories

“This isn’t about going after good landlords. There are many in the city. [But] there are far too many, almost parasitical companies that come into Toronto, buy up apartment buildings, remove the superintendent and keep the building in disrepair,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, chair of the city’s Tenant Issues Committee.

“That’s not fair to so many tenants who deserve to live in a quality home.”

Justina Baah, a nurse and mother of three, says she’s been living in substandard conditions for seven years in her North York apartment on Lawrence Avenue and has notified building management.

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“The main problem we have here is the ventilation system; it doesn’t work. I have children, one of them has asthma,” she said, adding that living under these conditions for years has chipped away at her self worth.

“It’s really hurtful, that’s why we’re asking John Tory and city council to step in.”

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Justina says her bathroom is also in need of repair, after a crack formed on the ceiling over her shower.

“You can see the big crack. I’m afraid one day the ceiling will collapse,” she said. “I’ve been reporting [it] but nothing has been done so far.”

Building management says urgent requests are addressed within 24 hours and other problems are dealt with in two weeks. But Justina says that hasn’t been her experience.

Tenant advocates see the proposed licensing framework as a step in the right direction.

READ MORE: Toronto tenants resort to bribes and bidding wars to score apartments

“This is a huge opportunity for John Tory who should be supporting more than 50 per cent of the voting constituents,” said Kemba Robinson, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now representative for the Jane and Finch area.

Around half of the city’s population are renters. The proposed rules would apply to landlords of buildings with 10 or more units, three or more storeys high.

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One of the recommendations is to establish a licensing fee between $12 and $15 per unit.

READ MORE: Landlord and tenant rights: what to do with a rental nightmare

Some fear landlords could pass this cost onto tenants by raising their rents, but Councillor Josh Matlow says that is unlikely.

“If they will try and go to the landlord tenant board for a minimal cost recovery fee that would be very objectionable,” he said.

“I’d find it very difficult to believe that the landlord tenant board would support a landlord’s requests if they tried to do this.”

This is good news for Justina, who pays around $1,100 a month for her two-bedroom apartment. She admits she’s finally had enough and is hoping to move out soon.

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