The Edmonton City Council wants the city to license landlords
An Edmonton City Council believes that a City of Edmonton landlord licensing system would help improve rental standards.
Parish of Papastew County. Michael Janz said a licensing system, along with a set of rental regulations and standards, would make it easier for renters to make repairs and ensure basic maintenance was completed.
“It’s about a systemic view. Just like we do licensing for rental vehicles… for restaurants. It’s about setting the bar and raising it and introducing a better standard.”
Janz wants the city to investigate the issue and submitted a request for information to city officials. The proposal is expected to be presented to the city’s Community and Public Services Committee on April 25.
Clear expectations and standards could lead to fewer landlord-tenant disputes, Janz said.
According to Alberta Department of Services spokeswoman Lindsay Milligan, more than 10,000 complaints are processed by the province and thousands of investigations are completed each year.
Common uses include bail and damage disputes and tenancy termination requests, Milligan said.
Janz said a licensing system would level the playing field and help potential tenants.
Janz’s proposal includes a searchable online landlord database that tenants can access, containing information about the landlord, violations of the Health Code and other documented concerns.
“The landlord can do that for tenants,” says Janz.
“They can do reference checks, they can do credit checks. They can get more information from you as a tenant than you probably want, but what do you really know about your landlord?”
Janz said a licensing system would also help neighbors deal with troubled landlords.
He added that the need for quality rental housing will only increase if property prices continue to rise.
“The idea that everyone can afford a home right out of college is a myth from our grandparents and is changing. Therefore, the law and protection must also change,” said Janz.
Janz reckons the regulatory regime would be mandatory, although he doesn’t expect all landlords to sign immediately. His proposal calls for the fees charged for licensing to be used for an enforcement system.
With clear rent expectations and an enforcement system, Janz hopes fewer people will have to take legal action to resolve disputes, which can be costly.
It can even be difficult to find an attorney who focuses on this area of law, said Edmonton-based attorney Tim Smythe.
“In my opinion, given the cost of legal services, most people involved in landlord and tenant disputes are either self-represented or are represented by agents, as opposed to attorneys.”
Smythe volunteers for the University of Alberta’s Student Legal Services project, which handles many landlord and tenant claims.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation latest report shows that the February vacancy rate was just over 7 percent and that the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,270.
The same report found that providing enough affordable rental housing for Edmonton’s low-income households remains a challenge – particularly those with incomes below $36,000.
A landlord licensing system was introduced in Montreal in February. Toronto has the RentSafeTO Program. Buildings are regularly evaluated and all data is collected and made available online.
The Alberta Residential Landlord Association (ARLA) declined to comment but said it was monitoring the situation.