The City of Montreal aims to better protect tenants on its territory with its new responsible landlord certification project.
Mayor Valérie Plante announced on Tuesday what she calls a new “tool in the toolbox” to help tenants find safe, livable spaces.
The city is launching a new online public landlord registry.
According to Plante, it is the first of its kind in Quebec and will help the city have additional leverage to ensure a safer and healthier rental stock, while reducing the risks associated with the growing phenomenon of renovations and rent increases.
The new registry targets only rental buildings with eight units or more — an estimated 35 per cent of the city rental market, a total of 12,000 buildings or 25,000 rental units.
Owners of the rental property will have to register their spaces online in a public record.
Registration will have to be renewed every five years.
The information snapshot provided will include the rental fee and the units or buildings vacancy.
The registry will also have to show proof of inspections.
It will include things such as whether the building is up to code and free of vermin, as well as any work that is in progress or that needs to be done.
The new registry will have teeth behind it to protect the consumer.
Individuals who do not comply could face fines of $250 to $650 for the first offence and that can jump to $2,500 for the second offence.
Businesses caught flouting the certificate will have to pay out $1,250 for the first offence and $5,000 for the second.
Each infraction, the mayor said, can and will be charged per day and per rental unit.
The registry will still have to be voted on by council and will undergo a public consultation process by the city’s urban planning committee.
The city aims to tackle the largest rental buildings first with those with 100 units or more by June 2023.
A complete implementation of the new registry is expected by June 2027, which would include all owners and buildings with eight units or more.
Reaction to the announcement has been mixed.
While advocates for tenants” right say its a step in the right direction, they believe the registry doesn’t go far enough.
“Why is it only 35 per cent of the housing market concerned? Why not extend it to at least four units and more?” asked Marion Duval, spokesperson for RCLALQ — an organization of housing committees and tenants association.
The registry could lead to better living environments for some tenants because landlords will have to carry out inspections, Duval explained. But she says the impact won’t be significant since it only applies to a small portion of the market.
The same holds true for renovations and rent increases.
Duval argued it’s a phenomenon that is not limited to bigger buildings.
There are two types of renoviction situations, according to Duval. One involves a building being bought but then abandoned so that it becomes a dangerous living environment and people are evicted.
The other, she said, is when someone buys a smaller four-unit building, for example, and evict the tenants so that they can renovate for family to move in. What often happens, though, according to Duval is that the new owners end up just painting the place and then renting out at an increased price.
Another problem is that the registry is limited in scope not only because it reflects a small portion of the rental market but because information in the registry will only be updated every five years.
Meanwhile, the association that represents landlords in Quebec argued the registry is not necessary.
“That the mayor is just aiming towards landlords, imposing costs, doubling or even tripling structures that are already in place is highly inappropriate,” said Martin Messier, president of the Quebec Landlord Association.
Messier argued the city is targeting all landlords, while at the same time admitting that only a few are negligent.
The organization insists tenants in Quebec are already well protected and renters can file complaints with Quebec’s rental board if they have problems with landlords.
“This tribunal as a matter of fact can order the work to be performed, reduce the rent, condemn the landlord to damages and of top of that the city wants to intervene? We see that as a burden — unprecedented and not justified at all.”
Messier also argued the free market should take care of rent control.
“The market should just decide the initial price of the rent and when a landlord and the tenant establish a price, no one should intervene,” he said. “If the landlord is renting that unit too high, it will stay empty and that’s it.”
— With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant