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Toronto rental program blasted by councillors for ‘failing’ tenants

WATCH ABOVE: Two councillors are calling for changes in a City-run program that they say is failing 30 per cent of Toronto residents who rely on it. The RentSafeTO program is supposed to hold landlords to account, but ahead of the Housing and Planning Committee several people called for improvements. Matthew Bingley reports.

Two Toronto councillors are calling for changes in a city-run program which they said is failing 30 per cent of the city’s residents who rely on it.

The RentSafeTO program was launched in 2017, with the goal of protecting tenants and holding landlords to account.

Coun. Josh Matlow said he once heralded it for being a progressive way to protect tenant’s rights. But ahead of the Housing and Planning Committee, he and fellow city coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, blasted RentSafeTO for coming up short.

Matlow said while there were some things to praise, not all the buildings registered in the program have been audited.

“Based on the feedback that I’ve heard from tenants across the city, the city has been failing them,” said Matlow.

RentSafeTO is supposed to strengthen bylaw enforcement, promote maintenance for the upkeep of apartment buildings, and increase the amount of information tenants get. The audit and enforcement program applies to buildings with 10 or more units or that are three or more stories.

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READ MORE: Tenant rights advocates want city to establish ‘Rent Safe’ program

When it was launched, Matlow said he wanted the program to mimic DineSafe, which has a colour-coded rating system.

“It doesn’t exist, that is a fail,” he said.

Matlow said he also wants to address issues with a lack of standard operating procedures.

“A tenant should have some predictability as to when it will be addressed, when it should be fixed,” he said. “Right now it is completely open to discretion and interpretation,” he said, adding that time extensions at the property standards committee should be limited to prevent city work orders from being completed.

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Matlow said 12 new enforcement officers were supposed to be added to the team, but only five have been hired.

“A question that we have that still remains is ‘why not, what’s happened to the money?’” he said.

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The complaints are much different from a staff report before the committee which said the program has been successful in meeting its objectives.

Still, that same report acknowledges there are opportunities for improvement. Those include requiring landlords to post the results of their evaluations in their buildings so they’re available to current and potential residents.

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Not satisfied with all the report’s findings, Wong-Tam said she would try and address the shortcomings at the committee.

“We need to do what we said we would do by way of policy and making sure that it is properly operationalized,” she said.

Matlow added they would also be asking the committee to request more powers from the province to crack down on landlords who practice so-called “reno-victions.”