Lawmakers in Oshawa, Ontario will be keeping score on some area landlords through a new “demerit” system, where noise, nuisance and other complaints could lead to rental licence suspensions.
Directed at off-campus student housing, the law makes it more crucial than ever to carefully screen prospective tenants.
The demerit idea was devised by city staff members. Although a novel approach as applied to rental licensing, lawmakers say the idea tracks driver’s licence enforcement.
Demerits will be given on a progressive scale, with licensing infractions at the top with 5 points, noise and nuisance violations at 2 points each, and trash or parking infractions at 1 point each.
Once a property receives 7 demerit points, the owner will be provided notice and must attend a meeting with city officials. If a property receives 15 demerits, the rental licence could be suspended.
Demerits earned will stay on the “property’s” record for two years, regardless of whether the situation has been remedied.
Proponents of the new law say that it doesn’t target landlords, but rather targets “a few landlords.”
During discussion at a City Council meeting, Councillors were reassured that renters would not be adversely impacted by the law. This comment sparked an angry reaction from an onlooker who shouted out his objection that landlords would receive demerits for tenant noise and nuisance complaints caused by tenants. He raised the concern that renters would be impacted by the resulting reduction in rental stock, but was told by Council that his comments were out of line.
When an opponent of the measure called it irresponsible, and “another layer of bureaucracy… on an already heavily enforced area”, she received applause.
Another contentious point of the law is that it only applies to a specific area in northern Oshawa near campus, and directed solely at student housing, which could subject it to legal challenge.
The sole Councillor speaking out against the demerit program pointed out that an unknown amount of staff time and revenue will be directed at 0.04% of the population.
The cost of the measure is unknown. Proponents say tracking and enforcement, which will be essentially manual, would not cost the city. However, it is noted in the original committee report that staff contacted officials in Toronto — the only municipality known to have implemented a demerit point system that has been applied to a broad range of licences. Oshawa staff notes that Toronto’s system requires a significant amount of technological and staff resources.
But objections over budget were summarily overruled, and the measure was passed by City Council. Members decided to take a wait-and-see approach with regard to cost by implementing the program and then reassessing the issue after one year of operation.
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