WATERLOO — Waterloo proposes to become the first local city to regulate landlords who rent houses, charging them $1.2 million a year for rental licences.
Critics see it as a costly red-tape headache that will dissuade people from renting out bedrooms and houses.
“It’s really an attack on the Mom-and-Pop operation,” said Glenn Trachsel, of the Waterloo Regional Apartment Management Association. He predicts it will lead to a housing shortage.
Proponents say rental regulation will improve property standards and tenant safety.
“We know we have lots of rentals and we want to make sure that they’re all safe,” said Jim Barry, director of bylaw enforcement. “And by safe, we want to make sure that they’re safe for the people renting, and for the neighbourhood around them.”
Landlords would be charged fees ranging from $501 to $819 to secure a rental housing licence. Annual renewals would cost $231 to $405. Fees would pay all costs for rental regulation.
Apartment buildings are excluded due to higher provincial safety codes. The target instead is an estimated 5,000 houses, townhouses, and duplexes where bedrooms are rented out. This includes owners who rent out bedrooms in a house they still occupy.
Rentals would be capped at three bedrooms to reduce the impact of large rentals on neighbourhoods.
Campus-area challenges are driving the proposed regulations, unveiled Thursday following public consultation. Some rented homes are decaying in student neighbourhoods. The city has also had trouble enforcing licences it currently requires for lodging houses, which allow more than three tenants.
Regulation could provide helpful clarity around rental standards, said George Patton, president of the Kitchener Waterloo Real Estate Board. But there’s concern about the impact on landlords.
“Does this negatively impact whether or not people are prepared to invest?” Patton said. “If it does have a negative affect, it may have a ripple effect in terms of availability of accommodations for students.”
Regulation would require landlords to submit floor, maintenance and parking plans, provide proof of insurance and tenancy agreements, allow city staff to enter and inspect the units, and comply with codes and bylaws. Landlords could face $350 tickets for violating their licence.
Council could approve regulation in February after hearing delegations.
“We don’t want to jeopardize the business of rental housing,” Coun. Scott Witmer said. But tenant safety is also critical. “With that, sometimes there is a cost.”
Waterloo would be the first local city to license rental homes, following Oshawa, London and Mississauga. It’s a power municipalities received in 2007.
Licences for lodging houses would be phased out. Landlords could eventually secure licences for boarding houses, or drop down to three bedrooms.
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