City councillors have voted against considering how Toronto-style inspections may be used on London, Ont., apartments, despite outcry from groups representing tenants.
The Toronto-style inspections in question are currently carried out through RentSafeTO, a bylaw enforcement program that aims to keep Toronto landlords in line with apartment building maintenance standards.
The program includes building evaluations at least once every three years, a phone system to track and respond to tenant service requests and a registration fee to be paid by landlords.
On Tuesday, councillors were presented with a report from city staff that recommended against bringing a similar program to London, adding that an additional 37 bylaw enforcement officers, and a similar number of fire prevention officers, would need to be hired in order to carry out the program locally.
The agenda from Tuesday’s meeting also included letters from Neighbourhood Legal Services executive director Kristina Pagniello and Life Spin executive director Jacqueline Thompson, who are both members of the London Tenant Landlord Task Force.
The two said the task force was not briefed or consulted on the city’s recommendation and instead want to share the task force’s perspective before a decision is made.
London ACORN, the local branch of a national tenant advocacy group, wrote in another letter that a RentSafeTO program should be implemented in London. The group also formed a rally outside of city hall during Tuesday’s meeting to further amplify their call.
During the meeting, Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer motioned to have city staff bring forward a business case for a RentSafe London program, so that it could be considered during deliberations for the city’s next multi-year budget, which would cover 2024 to 2027.
Helmer praised RentSafeTO’s performance so far in Toronto and told fellow councillors, “This approach of evaluating every few years, scoring the buildings and then auditing the ones where you’re finding significant problems … is the right kind of proactive approach for London.”
“By asking for a business case … it gives us time because we’ve heard from some members of the Tenant Landlord Task Force that they’d like to weigh in on this idea and talk about it,” Helmer said.
“This is our way of pointing the new council in a particular direction and hopefully have them go down that route,” added Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy, who seconded Helmer’s motion.
Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst was quick to disagree, adding that “a lot of this seems to be wasted energy.”
“I see this as mostly administrative. We’re creating a bigger government and not really getting a lot out of it,” van Holst added.
Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis also disagreed with Helmer’s motion and added that some of the advocacy going toward council should be directed elsewhere.
“Things like the problem with the backlogs at the Landlord Tenant Board tribunal is not something that council can fix, it is an Ontario government responsibility,” Lewis said. “The advocacy needs to happen with our MPPs.”
Helmer’s motion failed by a vote of 10 to 3. Those in favour were Helmer, Cassidy and Ward 9 Coun. Anna Hopkins. Ward 3 Coun. Mo Salih and Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner were absent from the meeting.
Soon after, council voted to receive the information contained in city staff’s report, however no other action was made on the matter.
Speaking with Global News after Tuesday’s vote, London ACORN member Jordan Smith said he was “tremendously disappointed, but at this point not all that surprised.”
Smith, who also sits on the Tenant Landlord Task Force, added that London ACORN will continue to push for the local implementation of RentSafeTO.
“We’ve got a new council coming in in six months and we’re in this fight to win it because this program isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolutely essential idea,” Smith said.