It was a quiet yet passionate protest in front of the city hall Tuesday as about 100 people showed up to share their objection to the city’s Rental Licensing Bylaw.
“A criminal records check. I’ve been a landlord for 30 years in this city. I’m getting a criminal record check?” property owner Diane Chauvin questioned.
Under the city’s new bylaw, a criminal records check is necessary for landlords in wards one and two in order to obtain a Residential Rental License. The fee, plus inspections and work needed could cost over $1,000.
“We are against this by-law because the city has lots of other tools they already have,” said realtor Johnny Zhuang.
And with spiking housing costs, landlords say it is just one more fee that will be passed on to tenants.
Property owner Ankit Belabiya feels picked on.
“Why not to everyone,” Belabiya said. “Why not to the whole city if it’s actually a safety concern?”
Realtor Diane Chauvin shares the same disdain.
“I think it is discriminatory for everybody in wards one and two. Including the tenants,” she said.
However, Ward 1 city councilor Fred Francis doesn’t agree.
“It’s not discriminatory because the city was afforded the opportunity to do a pilot project for a number of years. Therefor it’s not discriminatory,” he said. “If it was just Wards 1 and 2 in perpetuity, forever, than yes it would be discriminatory.”
Anyone who owns properties with between one and four residential units in Wards 1 and 2 must apply for a license by May 31.
Landlords like Chauvin, say there has to be a better way.
“If you have a problem, a tenant calls in ‘I have a problem,’ the landlord doesn’t do anything then addresses that problem. Don’t blanket us all with the same brush,” Chauvin said.
Belabiya feels there are measures in place to keep tenants safe.
“If they are really concerned about the safety they have everything,” Belabiya said. “They have a building department, they have a fire department. Go inspect the properties. Why slapping everything on the landlord?”
Francis says safety in rental units has been a concern for the past eight years he’s been on the council.
“We’ve hired more by-law officers,” he said. “We’ve changed licensing. We’ve changed planning. We’ve changed different things that we can do to ensure that renters are not being taken advantage of, that rental properties are safe, orderly. We’ve done all that. This is the last measure.”
The licensing fee is $466 in the first year with a $275 renewal the next year.
“The licensing regime that we’re implementing and the rules we’re putting forward are taken from other municipalities as best practices.” Francis said. “That’s what other municipalities are doing. We’re essentially copying to see if it works here.”
Zhuang tells CTV News close to 2,000 people have signed a petition against the bylaw.