There was contentious debate at Windsor City Hall Monday night over the prospect of creating a residential rental licensing system.

Landlords and residents made their arguments for and against a licensing regime that's been on the public agenda for a decade.

The renewed effort is on the heels of a fatal fire in west Windsor last fall that claimed the life of 20-year-old University of Windsor student Andrew Kraayenbrink who lived in student housing.

Some residents and landlords on the west end were calling for a licensing program, modelled after the ‘Waterloo’ regime. It would charge landlords a licensing fee of $500 to $600 to register their property for rentals. Proponents of that method argue that it’s a small amount to pay to ensure safety for all renters.

“Unfortunately, tonight I think I saw a struggle where people are misgiven, putting profits over people. And that's never good,” said Mike Cardinal, a landlord who agrees with installing a licensing scheme. “The profits of a landlord, or an investor, should never be a priority over the safety of people."

Opponents of the program – mostly landlords who claim to be law-abiding property owners -- told council more regulation wouldn't actually capture the so-called "bad actors" but instead create another cost and more red tape for the landlords who registered.

City staff was recommending council maintain the status quo, saying existing bylaws and complaint driven enforcement would be just as effective as having landlords obtain rental licenses.

Coun. Ed Sleiman made a motion for administration to draft a bylaw modelled after Waterloo, London and Oshawa examples. The vote was hung four-four (yes: Sleiman, Holt, Gignac, Bortolin; no: Francis, Kuzmierczyk, Borrelli, Dilkens) with councillors Elliott and Payne abstaining due to a conflict of interest. Coun. Bill Marra was not in attendance.

A motion to accept the staff report was also hung, and the matter was therefore deferred to a later date.