In a recent meeting, the Thorold City Council has approved the creation of a new licensing system for rental properties within the municipality. The new system comes after recent controversy and complaints from residents of Thorold regarding housing for Brock students. The bylaw, which will come into effect in 2018, is set to ensure compliance with local and provincial regulations by approving a budget of more than $150,000 for the creation of two bylaw officer positions. The bylaw officers, both of which will be full-time positions, will have the ability to conduct inspections of rental homes in Thorold to ensure compliance. The new system will not regulate ‘social gatherings’ or mandate any new stipulations regarding parking for rental spaces.
The new bylaw will put a $250 annual licensing fee in place for rental owners, which will help to budget the creation of the new municipal bylaw officer positions. City politicians have described the licensing fee as ‘modest’.
“The City of Thorold approved the report discussing the Residential Rental Licensing By-law (RRLB). The purpose of the RRLB is to regulate residential rental properties to protect the health and safety of tenants residing in the units, and to protect the character and the ability of all residents to enjoy their amenity spaces in surrounding properties and neighbourhoods”, said Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani in a statement. “All property owners in the City of Thorold who operate a Residential Rental Business will be required license their business.”
“The program requires the hiring of two By-law Enforcement Officers which will result in improved compliance with municipal by-laws such as the Clean Yards and Property Standards By-laws and Ontario Building and Fire Codes; these additions will come without increased burden on the tax levy.” Mayor Luciani also went on to explain how exactly the system will be implemented come next year.
While the law comes into effect on January 1, 2018, there will be a 60 day grace period for landlords and rental owners to submit liscensing applications. Licensed properties will be documented in a list that is shared with Brock University, so that those looking to rent can be sure that their tentative home holds a valid license.
“The program will commence on January 1, 2018 with a 60 day, one time only, grace period to submit licensing applications thereby affording tenants of rental properties with safe and legal accommodations”, Luciani explained. “A registry of licensed properties will be created and shared with Brock University so that students and parents may also be aware of properties holding a valid license.”
“With the new housing by-law they are looking to implement, we see an introduction of a licensing system for rental properties, modelling what is currently enforced in London, Ontario”, Nadia Bathish, the Vice President of External Affairs at Brock University Students’ Union, explained. “In its essence, in order for a landlord to hold proper licensing to rent to tenants, they must adhere to pre-existing regulations that prioritize safety. I see this being especially beneficial for students given that their safety is ensured when renting through these licensed properties. In turn, I hope to see this initiative implemented by the most cost-effective means in order to eliminate any possibility of burdening students with an increase of rent.”
Thorold City Councillor Michael Charron, who has been on council for four of the last five terms, said Thorold residents’ concerns over rental housing goes back at least to his second term in office, when public meetings were being held over the issue.
“There were concerns about contact with the rental owners for resolving issues and imposing bylaws, and always concern about inappropriate conditions for some, not all, of the students”, Councillor Charron explained. “Rental licensing is a business and should be treated as such. As well, public consultation was put into consideration and is always important to bylaw recommendations”.
Charron stressed that the bylaw was not just for students, but for all renters, and also mentioned that most rental owners are local to the city, good citizens, and responsible with their properties.
The bylaw passing comes shortly after some public outcry following incidents of what many Thorold residents feel is excessive and dangerous behaviour by Brock students, in particular one incident on Winterberry Boulevard on October 23. A Facebook page, titled “Thorold — A City Being Destroyed by Students” has also been created by residents, with over 600 ‘likes’. The page has created its own controversy, with many students feeling the page is guilty of both unfair generalizations about students and renters and over-exaggeration about recent incidents.