A letter written by Mr. William Lang and published on December 8th, 2020 – “Cornwall Residential Licensing Program” – speaks of a desire that landlords and tenants work together to improve the condition of Cornwall tenants. I support that desire for unified action and suggest that it should be applied to helping City Council establish a “made in Cornwall” Landlord Licensing program
What does Landlord Licensing really mean?
It means helping to ensure that the basic human need of shelter is provided through safe and reasonably well maintained rentals for tenants. This would be good not only for tenants and their children but for Cornwall as a whole. Having worked with Cornwall tenants for some years now, I have seen the impact of substandard housing. Some of the cities that have adopted this model, such as North Bay and Oshawa, have noted significant improvements in the quality of the rental stock and compliance with safety and property standards regulations. These cities have progressed as well in improving their overall appearance. In turn, this helps to draw new residents and strengthen their local economy.
Landlord licensing is good for everyone. It can help to change the negative perceptions some may have of our own community because of a number of run-down rental complexes.
We have heard that it can reduce the number of fires through improved conditions. It can help save lives. Firefighters can be greatly assisted if they are, at a minimum, able to know how many rental premises there are in one structure. At present, they are unable to be sure.
It is true that landlords are already supposed to meet standards. There are enforcement mechanisms for non-compliant landlords (such as property standards inspections and the Landlord and Tenant Board). Yet our city continues to have a high number of rentals that do not respect the rules. There are many reasons for this, one of which is the fact that enforcement is complaints-based. This means that unless a tenant complains to the city or to the Landlord and Tenant Board nothing happens. Many tenants simply decide to move, don’t complain because they are afraid of reprisals or simply don’t know their rights. The current system is not protecting our most vulnerable. We need a system that ensures that all rentals are safe and reasonably well maintained.
A licensing program should not impose an undue burden upon landlords or the taxpayers. We want landlords to be successful. There are many creative solutions for ensuring that this is the case. One such solution is for landlords to complete a self-reporting checklist on an application and to gradually inspect units over the years, like the city of London, Ontario. Cornwall already has 6 inspectors capable of performing inspections. Technology could also be leveraged so that applications are done online with little need for city personnel to review each application.
Fantastic claims made by some about the expected cost of this program are not helpful. The truth, as stated by City officials, is that this can be a functional yet economical system.
I believe interested parties can come together to work on a “made in Cornwall” Landlord Licensing Program. A Program that does not impose an undue burden on landlords or the taxpayers while protecting tenants and ensuring a consistent quality of rentals in Cornwall. Let’s change the narrative around this question and, together, create a licensing program of which we can be proud.