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Ottawa ACORN to call for landlord licensing

Landlord group argues system would be redundant.

ACORN wants the city to set up a system to license landlords.

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ACORN wants the city to set up a system to license landlords.

A group that advocates for low-income families wants the city to license landlords after a new survey revealed many tenants are dealing with bugs, drafts and a lack of heat.

ACORN released a survey of 165 of its members Friday morning that found more than half required repairs to their apartments when they moved in.

According to the survey 32.1 per cent had heating problems, 22.4 had bed bugs and 34.5 per cent had dealt with cockroaches.

ACORN member Brooklynne Eeuwes said she  found online reviews of an apartment she was about to move into which claimed the unit had cockroaches. She wanted to back out then and there but had already provided a deposit.

Once she and her boyfriend moved in they found the bugs were regular guests, along with a long list of other problems that the landlord did not address.

She said they considered filing a complaint with the landlord-tenant board, but didn’t believe they would succeed. They did arrange for a property-standards inspector to visit, but nothing happened afterward.

“The work-order form is now four and a half months outstanding,” she said. “Nothing ever happened there was no followup.”

ACORN’s proposal would require landlords to develop annual maintenance plans, which provide insurance documentation to the city and be inspected every year.

John Dickie, a lawyer and chairman of the Eastern Ontario Landlord organization, said there is no need for a new system when tenants already have the landlord-tenant board and a municipal property-standards system. 

“They already have two perfectly good routes, one of which is free and the other is low-cost,” he said.

Toronto recently approved a landlord-licensing system, but Dickie said a step like just isn’t necessary.

“I think they are taking a baseball bat to a fly.”

Dickie said bad landlords who ignore tenants, rulings from the landlord-tenant board and property-standards orders are no more likely to follow a licensing regime.

He also wondered what would happen if a landlord’s license was revoked.  

“What about the tenants sitting in the building now? Are they going to be evicted because the landlord is not allowed to rent to them?” he said.

He said it would add costs to landlords and ultimately those costs would be passed on.

“This will make housing less affordable. It’s counterproductive to what ACORN wants,” he said.

Eeuwes said an annual inspection system would force landlords to clean up their act.

“Having those annual inspections and having that accountability for the landlord will really change things for us.”

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