Windsor council chooses against licensing residential rental properties
Published Tuesday, February 6, 2018 5:06PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, February 7, 2018 11:41AM EST
It's a public safety issue that various councils have pondered for at least a decade, but on Monday night, the City of Windsor closed the door on a residential licensing bylaw.
Council will instead beef up enforcement against the minority of so-called bad actors, but it wasn’t without impassioned pleas from landlords, renters, and concerned citizens.
Among those was the family of former University of Windsor student Andrew Kraayenbrink. The 19-year-old died in a house fire in 2016.
His mother, Jennifer Depooter, believes if the city had a proper rental licensing regime, her son’s death could have been avoided.
"Members of council it is your duty to help ensure the basic human right to safe and healthy housing for the citizens of your city," she said during delegations at city hall.
Depooter points to a poorly placed smoke detector in Andrew’s student home, which according to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, could have alerted her son to the flames sooner.
"The delayed detection resulted in the advanced fire conditions faced by the occupants as they considered their escape from the home. And that would be my son," she said, while choking back tears.
Andrew's siblings also made their cases to council.
"The city should have been making sure that his life wasn't in danger," argued his brother, Aaron Kraayenbrink.
"Your city's lack of safety killed my brother, and it killed me," said sister Kaitlin.
But every voice looking for a licensing bylaw was matched by another -- mostly landlords -- opposing the proposal.
Some landlords and tenants argued a nominal annual fee would result in jacked up rental costs for students and ultimately drive investment from the city.
“I think any type of licensing will totally backfire what you’re trying to do,” realtor Al Teshuba said. “This is a bad idea.”
“It’s going to be a black eye on Windsor because it’s going to be more red tape,” said another property owner, Borys Sozansk.
Mayor Drew Dilkens said imposing annual fees on landlords will punish the good ones who sign up while the bad landlords continue to skirt the bylaw.
“The bad actors will not comply,” Dilkens said. “It's very unfortunate what happened to [Andrew]... I don't want to minimize that in this conversation, but I truly don't think that a full licensing regime, if in place at the time, would roll back the clock on what happened to Mr. Kraayenbrink."
Instead of a licensing regime, council approved a two-year pilot project. Two temporary building inspectors and one additional fire prevention officer will be hired at a cost of $714,000. The mayor says the process will be quite simple.
“If you believe your home you're renting is unsafe, call 311 and we will actually have dedicated resources that will be able to respond to those particular complaints," said Dilkens.
The motion passed by council will also enact rules to set a maximum number of bedrooms based on total floor space in a house. After the two year pilot council can re-evaluate plan.
The city hopes the extra enforcement will be paid for mostly through fines for orders issued against property owners, but does anticipate the cost to taxpayers to be around $160,000.