Brampton’s botched landlord licensing program exposes troubling lack of leadership from council
Confusion and criticism dominated the day Wednesday as landlords and residents filled Brampton’s council chamber to express frustration with elected officials about a botched attempt to implement a program to license those renting out four or less units within the city.
Councillor Rowena Santos who chaired the meeting failed to contain the outbursts from those in the gallery, upset about council’s lack of effort to consult with them about a program that has left many landlords shaking their head, questioning its necessity and its failed implementation. When council took a break for lunch, the crowd surged out of the chambers, chanting for the Residential Rental Licensing (RRL) program to be scrapped. A petition calling for its cancellation has garnered nearly 7,300 signatures.
Landlord licensing programs in general are designed to ensure those with rental properties within city limits keep them safe and clean for tenants in accordance with local property standards bylaws.
The limited Brampton pilot program for Wards 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 required those renting out units within this geographic area to pay a $300 application fee to obtain a license. It also opens them up to random inspections from City bylaw officers.
The City of Brampton states the wards chosen to be part of the pilot Residential Rental Licensing (RRL) program were based on which ones have the highest number of property standards and other complaints.
(City of Brampton)
The idea for the program was first proposed by council in November 2022, and following reports from staff that came to council in March and September 2023, including an exercise to compare what other municipalities are doing, the pilot program was approved in November 2023. It went live for applications at the beginning of 2024 but was quickly halted following a flood of complaints from landlords.
Resident Alok Palatal said he had “strong reservations” about how the program was approved by council, questioning why there was not more in depth consultation with the landlords forced to apply for the program.
Rajneesh Joshi decried the lack of professionalism from staff and council, alleging councillors and Mayor Patrick Brown vowed to help landlords during the previous election, but have since failed to live up to their their promise.
“They get our vote and forget about us,” he said.
Rajesh Kumar said he was “shocked and disappointed” that a program created with limited public consultation was approved by all of council.
There was also confusion among landlords about the necessity for a new licensing regime when those renting out secondary suites—or additional residential units (ARU) as they are called in Brampton—already have to register those units with the City and undergo bylaw and fire code inspections to ensure they are safe for tenants.
It appeared councillors themselves were also confused about the program.
“Where are we with that, I just know we had a website, then the website was taken down, I don’t even know what the licensing regime looks like right now,” Councillor Harkirat Singh admitted during Wednesday’s meeting. He is also currently deputy mayor. Singh said he previously voted in favour of the program, but admitted he didn’t know what was happening with it.
“I didn’t know the website was going live,” he said, raising questions about the lack of leadership and professionalism around the table, revealing he only became aware when he started getting calls and emails about it.
Residents fill Brampton council chambers Wednesday.
(City of Brampton)
Mayor Brown also created further confusion Wednesday when he told those in attendance that if they had a legal secondary suite in the city, this program would not impact them. This is in direct contradiction to the City’s press release announcing the program in December which states: “Registered second units, unregistered residential rental units and additional residential units (ARUs) will be included in this program.”
A criticism repeatedly raised by landlords was how this new program would tackle the issue of illegal units in Brampton.
Along with members of the public, it appeared members of council were also confused about the implementation of the landlord licensing program which they themselves approved.
(The Pointer files)
It was a question neither councillors nor City staff could adequately answer, only stating the program creates a new penalty for operating without a license. There was no further explanation of how the creation of a new offence would help identify illegal units in Brampton, something the City has struggled to do for years.
“I’m not understanding that part,” Councillor Singh said.
Councillor Santos claimed that “we are targeting those properties with the highest amount of complaints”.
“Rest assured staff will be knocking on those doors to ensure they have a license,” she said.
It’s unclear what is stopping bylaw officers from investigating these complaints without the RRL program.
The proliferation of these illegal units in Brampton has gotten so bad, Brampton Fire Services has labelled them one of the top safety concerns within the municipality.
“This is a half-baked solution,” resident Amrit Paul Singh said.
Following more than five hours of hearing from residents criticizing the program, councillors heard from staff who said a number of the concerns raised will be addressed over the next few weeks. Staff also noted an incentive program for landlords in good standing is being considered, and they will also be reviewing the inspection requirements approved as part of the now paused pilot. Staff are also looking to host public consultations to get further feedback on the botched plan. It’s unclear why these new measures, or in-depth public consultations were not considered before the program's recommendation by staff and approval by council.
Near the end of the discussion, several residents came forward to express support for the program and how it would work to hold landlords accountable for allowing their properties to degrade to “slum-like” conditions.
“I’ve watched my city go down the drain,” said Richard Campbell. “I believe a lot of this is from landlords who do not care about our city.”
Following a review of the program over the next several weeks, applications are expected to open again for landlords in impacted wards sometime in March.
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