Emergency and Protective Services is conducting a review of regulations governing private sector rental properties to address public health and safety, consumer protection, community nuisances and other areas of municipal concern.
This review includes a review of policy options to address housing conditions, student housing, rooming houses and shared accommodations.
The first staff report and recommendations were presented at a Special Meeting of the Community and Protective Services Committee on November 15, 2019 and approved at City Council on November 27, 2019.
Following Council’s decisions on the recommended regulatory frameworks, staff developed the required by-laws, policies and procedures, as directed. The second staff report stemming from the Rental Accommodations Study focused on measures to improve rental housing quality (long-term housing), and was presented to and approved by the Community and Protective Services Committee on August 20, 2020. Subsequently, the report and recommended draft by-laws were approved at City Council on August 26, 2020.
While these by-laws will be enacted in 2020, they will not come into full force and effect until August, 2021.
Rental housing conditions
Approximately 1/3 of Ottawa’s residents live in rental housing.
For many, rental housing provides a flexible and affordable alternative to home ownership. For some, rental housing brings unwelcome challenges based on the quality, availability and affordability of rental units that meet their needs.
While the Province of Ontario regulates most aspects of the relationship between tenants and landlords, the City of Ottawa has enacted a number of by-laws which directly or indirectly regulate rental housing. These include:
- The Building By-law (2014-220) regulates the administration and enforcement of the Ontario Building Code Act, 1992 respecting the construction, renovation or any change of use of buildings and designated structures.
- The Heat By-law (2010-210) regulates the maintenance of adequate heat in rented dwelling accommodations.
- The Licensing By-law (2002-189), Schedule 26 licenses and regulates rooming houses.
- The Property Maintenance By-law (2005-208) regulates the clearing and cleaning of refuse, debris or snow and ice from all properties.
- The Property Standards By-law (2013-416) prescribes standards under which properties are to be maintained. This by-law regulates residential properties, non-residential properties, vacant buildings, vacant lands, open space land, and Heritage Properties.
Through the Rental Accommodations Study, the City considered whether updates to these by-laws or new by-laws are required to effectively manage public health and safety, consumer protection and community nuisances related to rental accommodations.
Specifically, the City has considered how proposed changes in regulation influence three key factors:
- Are the current property standards appropriate for rental housing?
- How can the City work to ensure these standards are met more consistently?
- Can regulatory changes encourage more investment in private residential rental properties, or protect existing housing?
- Do existing or proposed regulations discourage investment in rental housing or encourage loss of existing housing?
- How are Short-Term Rentals affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?
- How are vacant properties affecting the availability of private market residential rental units?
- How would regulatory changes impact housing costs?
- How is gentrification impacting rental costs and what role should the municipality play in managing resulting issues like “renovictions”?
As a result of the staff report and recommendations, Council has approved the following new measures:
- A $500 re-inspection fee for non-compliant properties was approved by Council in December 2019 and implemented in February 2020.
- The new Rental Housing Property Management By-law will establish basic standards for the operation of rental housing units. Staff have begun development of supporting materials for landlords and tenants in preparation for implementation in August 2021.
- Amendments to the current Property Standards By-law (2013-416), including new pest and vermin control regulations with standards and obligations for both landlords and tenants, will be also be implemented in August 2021.
- Two additional by-law enforcement officers have been hired to undertake focused enforcement of property standards and property maintenance matters at problem addresses.
- Improved tracking mechanisms are being introduced to better monitor rental housing quality.
- A new online searchable database is being developed to display the history of property standards and maintenance violations at municipal addresses.