‘The right to inspect’: Brampton holds tele-town hall to discuss paused landlord licensing program
The Pointer files

‘The right to inspect’: Brampton holds tele-town hall to discuss paused landlord licensing program

The rollout of Brampton’s Residential Rental Licensing pilot program, an effort to address “slumlords” in the city, has been a messy confusion. Only a few weeks after launching, the City paused the plan. Backlash from landlords was immediate, and a January council meeting saw dozens of angry residents walk out in protest

In an effort to smooth over the controversy, the City hosted a tele-town hall to inform residents about the proposed changes—including a streamlining of the business licence requirements for registered additional rental units (ARUs), a review of the requirements for inspections and improvements to the online application process.

Illegal rental accommodations have become commonplace across Brampton. Newcomers, international students and others facing the affordability crisis have been forced into less than ideal living arrangements in a city that has failed to approve the right mix of housing stock needed by its residents.

Census data from 2016 show Brampton had the highest average number of people per household in Ontario, with an average of 3.5 residents, compared with a national average of 2.4 and a provincial average of 2.6–the average Brampton household had 46 percent more residents than the average Canadian home.


A Brampton home with its overcrowded driveway, a common sight in a city where tens of thousands of houses have rental units inside.

(The Pointer files)


According to the data, there were 42,060 residential units in Brampton that housed five or more people. It was the only municipality in the GTA where this census category, compared to one, two, three and four-person households, outnumbered all the others, and a sharp contrast to Toronto, where one-person households made up the largest category. 

Brampton had the second highest growth rate among Canada’s 25 largest cities. Two-unit dwellings or secondary suites are often seen as an affordable option for people who can’t afford any other housing type in Brampton. Without any ready availability of affordable houses, these two-unit dwellings have grown in popularity, with most of these units usually located in basements of residential properties.

Previously, Brampton councillors have, conservatively, estimated there are at least 50,000 illegal units in the city (some have said there could be 100,000).

Mayor Patrick Brown, and those councillors whose wards are under the RRL pilot boundaries—Wards 1,3,4,5, and 7— as well as other staff and city officials, took part in the town hall which had more than 7,000 households represented. 

“We felt there was a lot of misunderstanding in the community about the program, about who it affected, about why this pilot program is being embarked upon,” Brown said. He told attendees there is “probably no topic we've had more complaints about in the City of Brampton than illegal secondary suites.” 

Speaking to landlords who have legal basement apartments or legal secondary units, he said the program “does not affect you,” so long as they maintain their legal requirements and don’t convert their units into illegal ones. “If you're permitted to have four people in your secondary unit, then don't turn it into 25,” he said. 

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.”

It’s unclear why Brown contradicted the press release.

“I know that the vast majority of landlords are responsible, that this is a way to support paying your mortgage. But for those out there that have ignored Building Code or Fire Code or basic safety requirements, enough is enough,” he said, highlighting the numerous fires which have occurred in illegal units in the City since he became mayor in 2018. 

Of the 595 residential fire incidents that occurred in Brampton between 2015 to 2019, 56 fires started in a basement apartment, 51 of them were not legally registered with the City.

The RRL program would involve landlords having to obtain a $300 license if they are renting a property which has four or less units within Wards 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7. It would apply to registered second units, unregistered residential rental units and ARUs with the goal of maintaining the character of local neighbourhoods and ensuring property standard bylaws are upheld. 

Within a month of its launch the City quietly paused the pilot with a notice on its website, saying it is making changes. Among those it has already made, the City has removed a requirement for a criminal record check and for condominium apartments or condominium townhouses to obtain a business licence, and will now accept the property tax bill as proof of ownership as part of the application process. 

Polls were conducted online during the town hall meeting. When asked if the City should “crack down” on illegal ARUs, 83 percent of participants voted “yes,” 8 percent “no” and 9 percent said “maybe.” 

When asked if the City should “increase fines and penalties for illegal secondary units if public safety is at risk,” 82 percent of participants voted “yes” with 9 percent voting “no” and another 9 percent voting “maybe.” 

When asked if a secondary unit fire fatality should be referred to Peel Police for criminal negligence, 77 percent voted yes, while 9 percent voted “no” and 14 voted “maybe.” 

The majority of participants of the town hall polls said they favoured addressing illegal apartments, increasing fines and penalties for illegal secondary units risking public safety and to refer a secondary unit fire fatality to Peel Police for criminal negligence.

(City of Brampton)


Brown said the issue in Brampton is the “bad landlords” who don't allow the City to carry out inspections on their rental properties and the RRL pilot program aims to give it legal authority to do so, explaining the City can carry out inspections on businesses. “This way, the slum landlords can't avoid scrutiny and accountability,” he said.

It remains unclear how successful the City’s strained bylaw enforcement department will be at undertaking inspections on such a large number of units. In 2022, the City was forced to seek help from an outside firm due to the overwhelming number of secondary suite applications

In 2021, the City received 5,732 applications for two-unit dwellings, almost 35 percent of the overall applications it has received since 2015. According to a report from Brampton city staff this is ten times the rate of applications compared to Brampton’s neighbouring municipalities.

In order to ensure these units are safe and habitable, as part of the application process, staff conduct inspections of the interior and exterior of the home. This review, according to the City, is supposed to take only 3 weeks from the time an application is received. Currently, it takes City staff 10 weeks. 

Due to the increasing number of projects being placed on the bylaw department by council, staff are currently undertaking an operational review to ensure key projects don’t fall behind. Recently, council approved the redeployment of four full-time officers to address illegal trucking and storage operations in the City

Despite backlash against the program from landlords after its launch, many residents, including those who are also landlords, have expressed support for the initiative. 

“I have lived in Brampton for 63 plus years and I’ve watched my city go down the drain the last many years”, resident Richard Campbell told council at a January 31 meeting, saying he believes this is in large part due to “landlords that do not care about our city,” and expressed support for the pilot which he said he thinks will help hold those landlords accountable. 

At the tele town hall concerned landlords raised that, at times, tenants are inviting other people to live informally out of the unit without the landlord’s permission, leading to unsafe living conditions. This issue was also raised during council’s January meeting.  

One participant said there are landlords who are “caught in the middle” when it comes to tenants bringing in additional people into their legal units. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed by the Landlord and Tenant Board. 

Brown said the City recently passed a motion asking the province to “clean up” the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which is notoriously backlogged.

The motion asks the LTB to address the backlog of cases and to “find a fair balance” between the rights of landlords and tenants when it comes to tenants breaking their lease agreements, such as by subletting to others. 



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