After the City of Mississauga passed their 2022 budget on December 8th, the City officially approved the Apartment Building Standards and Maintenance Pilot Program. This pilot program will require apartment buildings with two or more stories and six or more units to be registered and have proactive inspections of the building.
Rental licensing programs help to create safer housing by proactively enforcing by-laws that focus on the safety of tenants. In most municipalities, by-law enforcement is reactionary, which means the onus is on tenants to report unsafe living conditions. It can take a significant amount of time for the issues to be resolved and this can create a strained relationship between tenants and landlords. Proactive enforcement can take the burden off of tenants and hold landlords accountable for the state of their rentals. Regular inspections can also prevent the deterioration of housing stock and preserve existing affordable housing in cities, especially in older buildings.
Mississauga’s pilot program is a great step forward in protecting tenants living in apartments. Most municipalities in Ontario with rental licensing programs focus on smaller rental properties, such as converted houses that are typically rented to post-secondary students living in the city. However, over half of renter households in Ontario live in a purpose-built rental apartments, according to the 2016 Census. Toronto is the only other municipality that has a rental licensing program for apartment buildings – RentSafe – that was implemented in 2017.
The Mississauga pilot will cover 337 buildings, representing 30,322 units. From 2017 to 2020, there were an average of 346 complaints to the city each year from tenants in the apartment buildings, indicating a need for proactive enforcement. Landlords will have to pay an annual registration fee of $18.25 per rental unit that will help to cover to cost of the inspections. The pilot will start in July 2022 and run for five years.
Critics often claim that rental licensing programs could have a negative impact on the rental market because of the increased enforcement of by-laws. However, areas with licensing programs have not seen a reduction in rental units or an increase in cost of rent. Rental housing licensing increases protections for tenants and ensures the safety of units by enforcing by-laws already adopted by municipalities. To guarantee tenants do not lose their homes due to the policy, municipalities can implement displacement protocols and advocate for funding to preserve and enhance the safety of rental properties. The City of Mississauga should monitor how the policy impacts the rental housing market, but implementing rental licensing is still in the best interests of tenants.
ACTO is pleased to see the City of Mississauga taking a positive step forward in increasing protections for tenants. We hope that other municipalities across Ontario will consider adopting similar programs to create safer rental housing across the province.