Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: Landlords appeal to tenants to stop apartment licensing

Councillor cries foul about notices asking renters to oppose an “apartment tax,” against their own best interests.


June 4, 2016

Laurie Monsebraaten

The Toronto Star


A tenant tweeted to Josh Matlow complaining of literature on proposed landlord licensing left on her door.

Proposed new rules would require annual inspections for apartment buildings and require landlords to make sure maintenance plans are in place. Photo: Richard Lautens / Toronto Star file photo


Toronto landlords are urging tenants to oppose a licensing system for apartment buildings, claiming the proposed annual fee of $12 to $15 per unit “will increase the rents and taxes paid by tenants without improving the quality of rental housing.”


The campaign, sponsored by the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, advises tenants to email councillors on the issue before the initiative — intended to give the city tools to crack down on bad landlords — is debated at their meeting this week.


But Councillor Josh Matlow, head of the city’s tenant issues sub-committee, is crying foul. “I’m really concerned about a campaign based on misinformation,” he said of the landlord-sponsored website and door-hanger notices that began appearing in apartment buildings Thursday.


“The landlord lobby is claiming this is a new city hall tax on tenants, which it is not. It is a fee on landlords to cover the cost of a licensing system to ensure tenants have a safe, healthy and respectful places to live,” he said.



“It seems like the landlord lobby is deliberately trying to manipulate tenants into advocating against their own interests. And I think that’s shameful,” he added.


His committee has been pushing to require landlords to be licensed, at what city staff say would be an annual administrative fee of $12 to $15 per unit.


Daryl Chong, of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, said “there is nothing misleading” about the website and door hanger, which clearly identify his association as the sponsor.


“The increased fees are going to be passed on to tenants,” Chong said. “Landlords can apply for an above-guideline increase for something like this.”


A spokesman for Housing Minister Ted McMeekin confirmed that landlords could seek an above-guideline increase from the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board to recoup the cost.


“But ultimately, it would be up to the board to decide,” said Mark Cripps. “Our expectation is that licensing fees would not be passed on to tenants.”


Under the city’s proposal, which would cover about 3,300 apartment buildings three storeys or higher and with 10 units or more, landlords would face annual inspections of common areas. They would be required to develop detailed plans for building maintenance, cleaning and pest control. Tenants would have to be notified of service disruptions such as malfunctioning elevators and outstanding city work orders. And state-of-good-repair capital plans would have to be filed with the city.


If council gives the green light this weekEND, city licensing staff would hold public consultations over the summer and produce a draft bylaw for approval in the fall.


Tenant Diane Campbell, who lives in Matlow’s ward, arrived home last Thursdaynight to find a notice hanging on her doorknob urging her to “say no to the apartment tax” and immediately saw red.


“I thought: An apartment tax? What is this? I already pay enough rent. I don’t need to be paying any more,” she said, adding she immediately tweeted Matlow for an explanation.


Campbell admits she wasn’t aware the city was planning to license landlords. And even after searching online for more information, she’s still not sure what to think.


“My apartment is in pretty good shape, but if it means people living in buildings that are poorly kept can get them fixed, then it’s probably a good idea,” she said. “But tenants shouldn’t have to pay more to get their basic rights addressed.”


Tenant advocacy groups have been waging their own campaign in support of the plan.


ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has been calling for landlord licensing for 12 years, has launched an online petition and a video.


“We are petitioning councillors, too,” said ACORN organizer Andrew Marciniak. “We don’t know how the landlords can say licensing is an apartment tax. The city staff report said the fees would not increase rents.”

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