City councilors voted against examining how Toronto-style inspections could be used in apartments in London, Ont., despite outcry from groups representing tenants.
The Toronto-style inspections in question are currently performed by RentSafeTOa by-law enforcement program that aims to keep Toronto landlords in compliance with apartment building maintenance standards.
The program includes building assessments at least once every three years, a telephone system to track and respond to tenant service requests, and registration fees to be paid by landlords.
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On Tuesday, councilors received a report from city staff which recommended against setting up a similar scheme in London, adding that 37 additional by-law enforcement officers and a similar number of fire prevention officers should be hired to run the scheme locally.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting also included letters from Kristina Pagniello, Executive Director of Neighborhood Legal Services and Jacqueline Thompson, Executive Director of Life Spinwho are both members of the London Tenant Landlord Task Force.
Both said the task force had not been briefed or consulted on the city’s recommendation and instead wanted to share the task force’s perspective before a decision was made.
London ACORN, the local arm 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 City Hall during Tuesday’s meeting to further amplify their appeal.
During the meeting, Ward 4 Con. Jesse Helmer proposed that city staff present a business case for a RentSafe London scheme, so that it could be considered during deliberations for the city’s next multi-year budget, which would cover 2024 to 2027.
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Helmer praised RentSafeTO’s performance so far in Toronto and told his fellow advisors, “This approach of evaluating every few years, rating buildings, and then auditing those where you find significant issues…is the good kind of proactive approach for London.
“By asking for a business case…it buys us time because we’ve heard from some members of the Landlord Tenant 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 moving it down that path,” added Ward 5 Council Maureen Cassidy, who seconded Helmer’s motion.
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Ward 1 County Michael van Holst was quick to disagree, adding that “a lot of it seems like a waste of energy.”
“I see it as essentially administrative. We are creating a bigger government and we are not getting much out of it,” van Holst added.
District 2 Com. Shawn Lewis also disagreed with Helmer’s motion and added that some of the advocacy to the board should be directed elsewhere.
“Things like the problem of backlogs in the Landlords and Tenants Board court are not something the council can solve, it’s a responsibility of the Ontario government,” Lewis said. “The advocacy must be done with our deputies.”
Helmer’s motion failed by a vote of 10 to 3. Supporters were Helmer, Cassidy and Ward 9 Coun. Anna Hopkins. District 3 Com. Mo Salih and Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner was absent from the meeting.
Shortly thereafter, council voted to receive the information contained in the city staff report, but no further action was taken on it.
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Speaking to Global News after Tuesday’s vote, Jordan Smith, an ACORN member in London, said he was “hugely disappointed, but at this point not surprised at all”.
Smith, who also sits on the Landlord Tenant Task Force, added that London ACORN will continue to push for the local implementation of RentSafeTO.
“We have a new board coming in six months and we’re fighting to win it because this program is not just a good idea, it’s an absolutely essential idea,” Smith said.
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