City programme to take lousy landlords to taskWritten by Sakina bint Erik
Good news for residents of rental housing in Ottawa. Under a new programme by the City, negligent landlords could receive fines of up to $100,000 for failing to ensure the safety and well-being of their tenants.
The project launched on March 1, with the City of Ottawa making multi-residential inspections in the buildings themselves, and in parking lots and grounds. At a March 5 meeting of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), Derek Petch, a City of Ottawa by-law officer said he and his team had begun inspecting more than 55 buildings in the Herongate area and would be visit other wards; noting all repair issues whether reported or not by the tenants, and issuing work orders for the landlords of those respective buildings.
Once the work orders are issued, landlords are expected to address them within a reasonable period of time. Failure to do so could result in a hefty fine, making it difficult for the landlord to register the title for sale in the future.
Any tenant in any part of the city can request an inspection by calling the City of Ottawa helpline at 311 or by contacting ACORN.
ACORN, which serves as a lobby group for tenants' rights has been very active in pressuring the City of Ottawa to create systems by which negligent landlords would be held accountable, and get repairs completed. The group even won an award for drawing attention to the suffering of Herongate tenants.
When beginning work at each location, the by-law officers give a small presentation explaining the nature and intent of their inspections and work to inform tenants of the program. ACORN members accompany the officers to facilitate the inspections.
To help tenants who aren't able to communicate well in English describe their problems, ACORN members initiated and helped develop a pictorial work order. The document assists tenants with any level of English to mark down where the issues were in their unit, and is especially useful for recent immigrants, who generally suffer most because of their inability to make themselves understood by their landlords, and city staff. A French version of the work order is being worked on.
At the ACORN Mar. 5 meeting, Eli El Chantiry, Deputy Mayor and councillor from West-Carleton March Ward, underscored the Mayor's commitment to assisting rental housing tenants communicate with their landlords. He said the Mayor would continue to put pressure on Ottawa's landlords to take care of their properties.
In the discussion that followed, tenants in the audience complained about discrimination, rudeness, and negligence from local landlords. Councillor Mathieu Fleury, who sits on the Ottawa Community Housing board, urged tenants to not give up on the system that the city has for addressing these issues. He noted that as the announcement about the upcoming inspections demonstrated, the system is improving all the time.
In addition, ACORN -- ”˜the Robin in the Hood' for the city's tenants, as one audience member described the organisation ”“ will continue to lobby for tenant rights across the country. The organisation is also involved in a campaign is to raise the minimum wage to at least $14/hour ”˜living wage', that would allow the worker to pay for his or her basic needs such as groceries and rent.
Ottawa ACORN has a rising number of Muslim members, as the fight for social justice is something that Islam supports, and many Muslims live under landlords who are negligent.
To request an inspection any tenant can:
call 311 and ask for a by-law inspector
If tenants want to help with the pro-active ward-by-ward inspection program, they can call:
call Ottawa ACORN at 613-744-7228
Visit Ottawa ACORN at 153 Chapel St, Ottawa
There are several ways that members can contribute, and benefit from being an ACORN member. For example, an ACORN program started last year provides legal assistance for tenants addressing the rental housing tribunal, and a free tax clinic which was so popular this year that there is a waiting list.
This year's ACORN national convention is set for June 22-24 in Toronto. Those members attending raise their own funds through sales of t-shirts and calendars to help with the cost of the trip.
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