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New regulations for long-term rentals heading for easy approval at council

While controversy surrounds the city’s move to heavily regulate the short-term rental market, there’s not much opposition to the city’s plan to introduce new rules for landlords of long-term rentals.

The community and protective services committee last Friday unanimously endorsed staff recommendations to create more rules for private-sector rentals, designed to protect tenants and respect communities in which the units are located.

The city said it couldn’t implement a licensing system for rentals under the Ontario Municipal Act but it can use bylaws to strengthen the rules for landlords. Tenants, too, would have responsibilities under the proposed regulations.

Here’s how the city would hold landlords and tenants to a higher standard if council voted in favour of the staff recommendations on Nov. 27.

New rental property management bylaw

The bylaw would compel the landlord at the time of signing a lease with a tenant to provide contact information for the landlord and designated property manager, instructions for waste management, instructions for lawful parking, instructions for maintenance and cleanliness and instructions on how to report problems.

The document would be made available to bylaw officers if they request it. According to the city, this would create “a record of responsibilities” that would be better than creating a licensing system.

The document would help to determine whether violations are the fault of the landlord or tenant.

The city continues to look into a process for bylaw officers to gain lawful entry to units to investigate complaints.

Cutting down on vermin

The city wants to make sure both landlords and tenants are responsible for keeping away pests and vermin.

Groups representing landlords and tenants would be brought together to hammer out “clear and robust pest and vermin control standards and requirements for both landlords and tenants,” the city says.

Staff would determine whether the new standards should be part of the property standards bylaw or the new rental property management bylaw.

Hefty fee for property re-inspections

Bylaw officers won’t ask for money from a landlord for the first inspection after receiving a complaint, but if they come back to re-inspect and the work to fix the problem hasn’t been done, or if a deadline has elapsed, the landlord would get a $500 invoice for re-inspections.

The city has had trouble administering the current fee schedule, which bills $102 for the first hour of re-inspection time (or part of that time) and $50 for each subsequent hour.

The city estimates the new fee would bring in $225,000 annually, which would fund two more bylaw officers on a temporary basis to undertake property inspections.

Tracking problem rental addresses

The city believes it can do a better job of tracking complaints related to a rental address.

An existing database would be used to collect information about whether the caller is the landlord, tenant or another person, and a history of notices of violation.

On the other hand, it would eat up more time from Service Ottawa staff and bylaw officers in recording and maintaining the information.

More educational resources in different languages

The city would use its website to beef up information about rental properties and make the information more accessible to people who don’t speak one of the official languages.

Algonquin, Inuktitut, Somali, American Sign Language, and Quebec Sign Language would be added to other languages used in the education material. The city has already made material available in Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian, Mandarin, Spanish, and Urdu.

According to the city, 22 per cent of residents speak a non-official language as their mother tongue.

The initiative would cost $100,000.

Online searchable database of violations

The city wants to look into the possibility of creating a searchable database so people can see violations and orders for each rental address.

“Providing this information to the public will enable tenants to make informed choices about where they are renting and further encourage landlords to maintain required standards,” the city says, citing a model used by the City of Vancouver.

The City of Ottawa still needs to research the idea to make sure the release of information doesn’t violate privacy laws.

Making documents available for tribunal cases

Tenants have told the city they want access to compliance reports to use at the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board.

City staff are seeing whether they can improve the documentation process so both landlords and tenants have access to records that might help in a tribunal case.

The city is also considering developing a new compliance report that would be automatically made available to landlords and tenants after an investigation.

Document printing would lead to about $30,000 more in expenses annually for the city.

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