Long Term Affordable Housing Solutions – Public Input Required

July 7th, 2016 · 5 Comments · Landlord & Tenant Board, Property Management, Rental Property

zoningThe government is asking for help with long term affordable housing solutions. You can have more information about it on their webpage and provide input to their email.

I will, however, be a little more public about what you need to get landlords to provide affordable housing.

In most cases the government branches itself are acting against themselves. Cities, fire departments, zoning laws are closing down more apartments then are being created.

I myself have seen this in action, and this year I have seen 5-6 apartments get shut down and have heard and seen how municipalities act like total jerks to landlords for the crime of providing basement apartments.

When the basement apartment rules in Ontario changed so that municipalities could no longer arbitrarily make them illegal in 2011, I rejoiced. I thought this might make it a lot better for landlords. But to quote a lawyer I know “Legislation can’t prevent people from being dicks” Unfortunately the new law let cities set their own by laws for what would be legal standards for basement apartment. There was no deadline for when these bylaws would happen, so years went by before Mississauga & Brampton created their bylaws.

Then there are development charges…for building the basement apartment and you need to apply for a building permit and for that you need plans. Those plans alone will cost between $1500 and up. Then you have to pay for the building permit. Then you have to get a contractor in to build it.

Then there are weird other requirements such as if your house is less than 5 years old, you need a separate furnace. Well there goes another $2000 or $3000. Why do you need a separate furnace? I don’t know.

Oh and god forbid you have a triplex, like one of my previous owners in Whitby. I have no idea how he’ll get out of his situation of having an illegal basement in a duplex. I just want to point out that every apartment has a fire alarm, two exits and in decent condition. The fire inspector there acted like we were criminals and has asked to have existing fire doors removed because they didn’t fit to his satisfaction. That same fire inspector also insisted we get plans from the city and legalize the status of all the apartments. In 30 days…. so in my opinion, the city of Whitby is acting like they don’t want basement apartments, even if they are pretty safe.

In that triplex all the tenants are being evicted, because the work required to bring it up to triplex status is so great, that’s what has to be done. It’s ridiculous. Last I heard the stairwells have to have the drywall ripped off to be insulated and the main floor needs a layer of drywall. The existing fire doors have to be replaced. All because this basement apartment creates such a hazard. But if the basement apartment is removed, it’s safe.

That owner is dying to sell, that’s all he wants. And what pray tell started this saga? The tenant two months behind on his rent reported us for not having batteries in the fire alarm, one of them was removed. Now, all I install are the sealed 10 year battery units so that some asshole tenant behind a couple months on his rent can’t take out a battery and report us to the Fire Department. Live and learn I guess.

Other houses I have removed apartments in this year… one was a 4 plex that we could have made compliant with the Fire Regulations but the City of Toronto wanted $27,000 in development charges each, for apartments that rent for about $1000 per month. (Cheap for Spadina & Bloor) Sorry City of Toronto, no one is going to pay you over 2 years of rent in development charges to provide affordable housing, so there go another two units of affordable housing.

Let’s take for example the city of Brampton (I’ve received a lot of calls from Brampton) they only came up with their bylaws in 2015, for a full four years, they kept closing down basement apartments and evicting people, threatening landlords with fines, they still require registration. Landlords I have known have claimed that when you are developing a basement apartment, they are complete douches, in one case, the landlord installed a fire door between units 3 times in 3 different ways according to the rules and none was approved. Finally the landlord removed the doorway entirely and drywalled the opening. That same landlord asked the Fire Chief and was told that he was responsible for monthly fire alarm inspections. Everywhere else it’s yearly.  How is this kind of nonsense encouraging more landlords to get into the business? That landlord had to pay the contractor to install that door three times.

Parking requirements are another example of providing additional barriers to potential landlords. There is currently a condo building downtown Toronto with over 300 units with less than 70 parking and no visitor parking. As horrified as I am about that, surely we can stop ourselves from requiring a third parking spot to put in an accessory apartment or even worse require an eviction for an existing tenant because the owner can’t widen their lot by 20 feet.

Anyways… enough bitching, here’s my wishlist.

  1. Municipalities have to get behind the initiative to provide affordable housing
  2. Remove bylaws that provide barriers to entry – parking requirements for example.
  3. Square footage regulations – accessory apartments can only be 75% of upper floor…why waste space?
  4. Extra Furnaces? Seriously why?
  5. Development charges ? Why?
  6. Allow more than one accessory apartment as long as it’s fire safe.
  7. Look at and simplify Fire Regulations for Accessory Apartments.

Just a few days ago another landlord called me from Mississauga because her tenant was threatening her with the City and calling them because her apartment wasn’t registered. This is one more basement apartment that will never be rented again and another landlord who has no interest in staying a landlord.

Tenant Enabling Legislation

Private landlords that create affordable housing are not necessarily thinking about starting a landlording business but rather as a casual mortgage helper in their own home. Imagine their surprise when their tenant moves in, doesn’t pay rent, threatens their life and they have to make a choice to move themselves and their children out for their own safety like one Mississauga woman did. Or they start smoking weed in the house stinking everyone out.

Another tenant I just evicted, turned his basement apartment into a farm for dogs, when his dog had nine puppies. He didn’t choose to clean up after his dogs, he just bought sawdust and put it down. It’s really horrifying. We filed for impaired safety for the upstairs tenant and it took over 3 months to get a date for the hearing.

Legislative delays… so the Landlord & Tenant Board is taking way too long to book court dates. It’s ridiculous. The government needs to replace adjudicators as they quit/move on/get fired/come to the end of their term. They need to recognize that it takes months to get to the Tribunal just for an average non payment of rent case and that it’s the landlord that gets to pay for that added time.

  1. 14 day wait for the N-4
  2. File the N-4 a few more days
  3. LTB adds at least 5 mailing days to the court date notice of hearing
  4. More days because there is no space in the hearing schedule
  5. Finally the hearing…
  6. Add 10 more days of waiting for the Order to be Issued
  7. The Order actually adds another 11 days to pay all arrears then you can apply to the Sheriff
  8. Next pay $300 and change to the Sheriff and wait for them to mail more papers to the tenant.
  9. Finally a few weeks later the Sheriff appears and throws your tenant out.

Why should the landlord be subsidizing all this tenant goodwill? The government thinks we should give deadbeat tenants free rent for extended periods of time, they can pay for it. Again these are not commercial landlords, this is some guy going to work, paying his mortgage, paying his utilities being forced to subsidize another who just doesn’t want to pay/can’t pay. If the landlord hired a paralegal to deal with this add another $1000 or so in legal fees.

Then if said tenant doesn’t show up, they can just claim <Insert bullshit reason here> and they get another review hearing and more months of free rent, again without paying a dime to the landlord.

Needless to say, after one experience like this, the landlord mostly sells their property or leaves it empty. One more withdrawn apartment and one more victim of the process, one less affordable space. After years of this kind of erosion of affordable housing, after countless landlord victims, after protecting deadbeat tenants the government wants to know how to create affordable housing?

  • How about if instead of letting tenants ride roughshod over landlord property rights, you help the landlords have some autonomy over their property?
  • How about if you enforce the leases the landlord & tenant sign of their own free will?
  • Pay the rent on the first means pay the rent on the first.
  • No smoking means no smoking
  • No pets means no pets
  • If you don’t pay utilities – hello eviction time… not go sue your tenant at Small Claims
  • Finally if you threaten your landlord or assault them, out you go on the street.

Government, how do you think it feels as a person who worked hard to collect a bunch of money to put a down payment on a property in this completely unaffordable housing market and live there with your family. You have a bright idea to get a mortgage helper tenant and they move in to the basement apartment. They move in their 2 large dogs, they don’t clean up the shit, they smoke cigarettes and weed daily, blare loud music every night till 11 o’clock or later, have 3-4 friends over for drinks and fun BBQ in the backyard every weekend. They do tons of laundry, leave the lights on when they aren’t home and park in the middle of the shared driveway. When you park in the street you get a parking ticket.

It’s not illegal to be disrespectful and an asshole entitled tenant but it will eventually result in an apartment being withdrawn from the market. That’s the problem.

Solving this problem as a government entity would require a 180 degree turn around in policy and as a part of the Social Justice Tribunal that’s not going to happen soon.

Rent Arrears and Collections

I’ve already discussed the joy of evicting a non paying tenant, however, due to current government policy of stretching out the length of time of eviction and time to get the sheriff etc, you’re looking at 4-6 months of rent arrears. The jokers at the Landlord & Tenant Board think a court order is the same as cold hard cash but it isn’t. It’s actually bullshit that will require more work, more money and more time and more expertise to collect. If your tenant is on ODSP or Ontario Works you can’t garnishee those sources of income so forget about it.

If you want to simply put it on the record that there was a Landlord & Tenant Board Order on the tenant that was not paid on the tenant’s credit report, you can’t. The same credit checking companies that charge landlords millions in credit checking fees will have nothing to do with reporting said bad tenants to the landlords that pay them to do exactly that. You can thank privacy legislation for that.

Considering that in the current legislative environment, tenants can rip off landlords repeatedly with impunity and the tenants are shielded from consequences, it’s not surprising that I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the number of working people taking advantage of delay and stealing thousands from landlords. These are not downtrodden single moms down on their luck, it’s working people making over $100K per year. But why not if they can do it and get away with it… and therein lies the problem.

Bad tenant lists get shut down on a regular basis because they violate privacy laws and there is no sharing of lists or a master list anywhere to help protect landlords and so we are left with the credit check as the means to determine who gets an apartment or not.

Needless to say there are very bad tenants who cause a lot of damage, and they too need to be found and made to pay for their damages rather than just move somewhere else.

It’s about accountability, and as the government is now finding out, because of the lack of interest in providing any type of affordable housing to the market, tenants are not accountable and no one even expects it. Without a respectful and equitable business environment, landlords just bow out, sell and go back to their regular jobs.  No one is interested in paying their huge mortgage, paying huge property taxes and being harassed and disrespected in their own family home for the honour of making an extra $500 per month (after paying utilities, extra insurance, extra property taxes) and that’s if you started with a legal basement or apartment.

Another example of this problem is with water bills which the city just off loaded onto landlords. If the tenant doesn’t pay it just gets tacked on to the taxes, go suck an egg landlord. If you want to shut the water off, go suck a rotten egg landlord. You have the freedom to pay and bend over while your tenant gets to wash the neighborhood laundry at your expense. If you don’t like it don’t be a landlord… Guess what?  A lot of people are taking that option.

Basically the Government  has created an untenable unfair system where tenants can with impunity take advantage of the law and loopholes to live at the landlord’s expense.  Over and over again the different branches of government have been warned that small landlords will vote with their feet and they are. No one wants to offer affordable housing because it’s not worth it.  The answer heard loud and clear from many many many small landlords is a big fat NO.

If you want landlords to enter the business, make it easy and profitable.


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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Nathalie

    So so well said!!! 100% yes, correct! How absurd is our system it is completely ridiculous. If they are serious about wanting affordable apartments available things will NEED TO BE REFORMED.

  • Christine

    Yikes. I think the only thing they’re serious about is somehow getting more money out of it.

  • Annie

    Curious where do I go to find out if a basement apartment in a house is illegal and what constitutes illegal?
    does a basement apartment need separate meters? If in a city , you are only allowed one garbage pail and someone moves in the basement, who should pay for the tags?

    • Rachelle

      There is no easy answer, it depends on the city you live in. In Oshawa, there are two zones one for students and one normal. It’s completely confusing. I guess I’d say to start on your city’s website. A basement apartment doesn’t need a separate meter. If you are only allowed one pail, both people share it. If you need extra tags for your garbage buy some. Other than that it depends on your landlord and the agreement you have with them.