The RentSafeTO initiative approved by Council in 2017 is one of the most comprehensive, progressive, and rigorous municipal tenant protection initiatives in North America. The new multi-residential apartment by-law was the result of years of hard work with local tenant advocates and city-wide organizations, including the Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants’ Associations, ACORN, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, as well as community legal clinics.
Unfortunately, Council voted today against the colour-coded rating system, based on the DineSafe program, that was central to the RentSafeTO program. The rationale from many opposing Councillors is that a “red” rating on the front of a building will stigmatize renters inside.
It is curious that I have only heard that argument in Council Chambers or from Big Landlord Lobbyists. Tenants already know if there building is in poor shape. The stigmatization stems from having pest infestations or mould, not a sign. At present, not all, far too many Landlords do everything to delay making critical repairs including dragging out the process through the courts. A red sign is a visible marker that can shame Landlords into action. Tenants would rather a temporary red sign than a building that is permanently in disrepair.
Tenant groups have been very clear that they see the visible rating system as validation that their local government cares about their health and safety and, more importantly, will take steps to improve their home.
I have already heard from many disappointed renters who feel blindsided after the system had already been approved several times in the last couple of years. I want to assure tenants that I will not give up. My office has connected with several tenant groups today and have already started planning our next steps to see this program through to completion.
We will keep fighting to ensure that every tenant has a clean, safe, and healthy home.