Brampton pauses landlord licensing pilot only weeks after launch
After mounting criticism of Brampton's first attempt at regulating residential landlords, including a collection of delegations set to speak at Wednesday’s council meeting, City officials have closed the program to new applications, putting a pause on a pilot plan that launched less than a month ago.
Brampton’s Residential Rental Licensing pilot program (RRL) began at the start of the new year, with a $300 licensing requirement for landlords whose property within Wards 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 (half the city) has four or less units. But according to a post on the program’s website it has been “paused temporarily” and the City will not be accepting applications until further notice.
“We heard you and we’re making enhancements,” the website states.
The RRL program applied to “registered second units, unregistered residential rental units and additional residential units (ARUs),” to maintain “the character of local neighbourhoods, uphold property standard by-laws and keep individuals and families safe with enforcement of the Ontario Fire Code,” as outlined in a December press release.
It also would subject landlords renting out units under the program to random inspections.
According to the City of Brampton, the temporary pause is to allow staff to review and “streamline” the intake process.
The City has not shared the exact reasoning for pausing the program, or why less than a month into the two-year pilot changes are already necessary. The website lists a number of alterations to the program including the removal of the requirement for the criminal record check for landlords looking to be licensed; acceptance of a “property tax bill as proof of ownership” and no longer requiring a business licence for “condominium apartments or condominium townhouses.”
Brampton Councillor of Wards 7 and 8 Rod Power previously told The Pointer the RRL program is only a pilot project and that its task force may make adjustments as progress is evaluated. He said the aim was to assess “whether implementing a business licensing program for residential rental properties is an effective measure to reduce the number of property standard complaints and preserve the character of neighbourhoods,” highlighting how Brampton has seen ARUs and multi-unit dwellings spread rapidly in the city. The trial, he said, sought to address current gaps in bylaws pertaining to “accountability of 4 and fewer rental units.”
The RRL pilot aims to ensure landlords are accountable for maintaining their rental properties in safe and living conditions for tenants.
(The Pointer files)
A petition began circulating a week after the program’s launch on January 1, calling for a halt to its implementation, citing a number of concerns with what the program requires and its impacts. These include complaints of the $300 fee but also of additional cost for landlords to “undergo electrical and gas inspections by a certified inspector at the owner's own expense.” Such inspections by a licensed professional fall under basic property standards bylaws.
The fee breakdown according to the Residential Rental Licensing bylaw passed December 6, 2023, includes $125 for enforcement costs, $85 for a fire inspection and $90 for the Clerk’s application processing time.
Another complaint involves the enforcement of a maximum four person per room limit, claiming this “contradicts the Residential Tenancies Act and Ontario Human Rights Code.” Bylaws regulating lodging houses in Brampton permit single-room accommodations without a licence “for up to four (4) lodgers, in up to four (4) bedrooms per dwelling unit,” as written on a City webpage. “If a property contains an additional residential unit, this applies separately to each unit,” it states, highlighting that such policies seek to ensure units are “safe, legal, and livable for occupants.”
The petition lists other concerns and has over 6,000 signatures, raising questions about the leadership of staff and council members who are expected to implement these types of programs only after proper research and analysis has been done to shape initiatives that are properly designed.
Peel ACORN, a tenant advocacy organization, delegated in fall of 2023 at Brampton council to demand the pilot program, which currently applies to properties renting out four or fewer units, expand to include corporate landlords operating larger apartment buildings.
Brampton has a population of roughly 700,000, is the ninth largest city in Canada and the third largest within the GTA, according to the City’s data. It is also the fastest growing of the 25 largest cities in the country. It has struggled with booming growth in the absence of the necessary infrastructure. Housing supply has not kept up for decades and unique pressures such as the city’s large international student population have created a severe demand for accommodations, which can lead to exploitation. Many tenants live in crowded conditions in secondary units, often basement suites that are not registered and do not maintain safety standards or basic building code requirements.
Illegal, unregistered basement suites are common in Brampton. Tenant safety is put at risk when there is a lack of ventilation, improper entrance and exit ways and the use of dangerous heat sources for cooking.
(City of Brampton)
A lack of proper ventilation, fire doors and proper stairways leading in and out of these units, along with many other dangerous features such as the use of propane cylinders indoors for cooking have been highlighted to City Council by bylaw enforcement and Brampton’s fire service for years.
The City’s bylaw for the RRL pilot intends to “regulate the renting of residential premises” to protect the health and safety of occupants by “ensuring that certain regulations are met, that the required essentials such as plumbing, heating and water are provided, for ensuring that the residential rental premises do not create a nuisance to the surrounding properties and neighbourhood and to protect the residential amenity, character and stability of residential areas.”
Brampton Fire and Emergency Services has said risks posed by unregistered secondary suites are among its top safety concerns for residents in the City of Brampton.
In its notice of the recent temporary pause on applications to the RRL program, the City highlighted it is working to streamline “the business licence requirements for registered ARUs (additional residential units),” review “the requirements for inspections” and improve “the online application process.”
It’s unclear whether staffing limitations contributed to the early problems of the program. The City of Brampton was forced to hire an external firm to provide assistance to deal with the overwhelming number of secondary suite applications filed in 2022 after new registration requirements came into effect.
For this Wednesday’s Committee of Council meeting, 21 people are scheduled to delegate on the issue of the RRL pilot. According to the agenda, many are planning to either ask for a review of the program, or an end to it. One request seeks action from council to discontinue the program, claiming it is “unfair to [l]andlords.”
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