As the city of Toronto ponders spending millions on a program that would licence and regulate landlords, maybe it should ponder this: According to the recently-launched tenant advocacy website LandLordWatch.com, the city is the biggest slum lord out there — by a long shot.
Toronto Community Housing is comfortably perched at the top of an ignominious list of the 100 worst landlords in the city, racking up 454 violations.
Havcare Investments Inc. came in a distant second with 174 violations.
TCH acknowledges the issues, saying they are always going to be on such a list because they are one of the largest landlords in North America.
TCH points out they own 2,100 buildings which is slightly less than 60,000 units and 50-million square feet of residential space.
“The company knows every repair that needs to be made in every building because we’ve done assessment reports on every single building,” said TCH spokesperson Lisa Murray. “We’re working very closely with MLS to address any issues that come up but when you’ve got 2,100 buildings that are aging, you’re going to have a lot of problems.”
“That’s exactly the reason why we started the capital repairs program in 2013 because there had been no funding for years and years to keep up the buildings,” adds Murray.
“We’re in year four of the plan, completed 30,000 repairs and that’s only about 20 per cent of what’s required.”
On Thursday, the Licensing and Standards committee will debate a proposed bill to regulate landlords in Toronto. If given the green light at that meeting, it would then require final approval by city council in June.
“We are … looking for real tools and real consequences for when a landlord doesn’t keep their building in good repair,” said Coun. Josh Matlow.
The proposed licensing system would regulate landlords and allow inspectors to enter buildings for annual checks. It would also require landlords to develop building maintenance plans.
The system would apply to about 3,000 apartment buildings with 10 units or more at a cost of $3.5 million a year.
City staff believes landlords should pay a $12-15 fee per unit to cover the cost. Some fear that expense would be passed on to tenants like Melissa Feltmate, who are already stretched thin.
Feltmate lives at 500 Dawes Road, which has been deemed the worst building in Toronto by LandlordWatch.com, with 174 city of Toronto investigations under its belt.
The building received nearly 100 complaints last year alone, and Feltmate says her own have fallen on deaf ears.
She gave CityNews a tour of her apartment, pointing out gaping holes in walls, crumbling flooring, and evidence of mold, among other infractions. She says she’s been complaining for years, with little recourse.
She pays $910 a month.
Kelly Fairchild also calls 500 Dawes home.
“It’s the only (apartment) I could afford and the only one that would take me,” she said.
“I would certainly like to live somewhere else. (Am I) trapped? I guess by my own circumstances,” she admitted.
Fairchild says the complex is in dire condition.
“There’s a lot of infestation issues,” she said. “A lot of people have ants, cockroaches, I know there’s mice. You can hear them running around in the ceiling sometimes. “
LandlordWatch.com was launched on Wednesday by ACORN Canada and RentLogic, using city of Toronto data to compile their lists.
ACORN, a tenant activist group, has been pushing for landlord regulation for the past 12 years.
The group’s Geri Stevens says landlord licensing is long overdue.
“We want safe decent places to live,” she declared. “We want somewhere to call home. Not a hell hole. And a lot of these units are hell holes.”