The pilot project would be tested in the Rideau-Vanier ward. Photo: Marta Kierkus.
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City of Ottawa councillor Fleury to explore further protections of tenant rights

Ottawa city councillor Mathieu Fleury of the Rideau-Vanier ward is exploring the idea of launching a pilot project to start licensing landlords in order to better protect tenants’ rights, an idea he has mentioned previously but has yet to implement.

This change may have a direct effect on students living in close proximity to the University of Ottawa as Fleury is interested in testing this pilot project in the Rideau-Vanier ward, which encompasses Sandy Hill, Lowertown, Vanier, the ByWard Market, and campus.

“The reality is that 99 per cent of landlords are great and 99 per cent of tenancies are good,” Fleury told the Fulcrum on March 13. “But when we dig down to the one per cent and try to find out what’s the system, and how does it work, and how as a city we protect vulnerable tenancies, we come across situations that are challenging.”  

According to Fleury, some issues faced by tenants include mould and insect infestations, which need to be addressed in a timely manner.

“If we recognize an issue, why allow it to slip away?”

The premise of Fleury’s pilot project would be similar to the licensing process that is currently in place for rooming houses, and he is currently looking at “all sorts of operational measures in the terms of our bylaws.”

Fleury’s comments come after the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) published a survey that suggests that Ottawa residents are widely dissatisfied with their living situation and interactions with landlords.

Declan Ingham, a fourth-year political science student at the U of O, has found himself in that camp. In September 2016 Ingham moved into his apartment at Lees Avenue, only to discover that it was infested with cockroaches.

Ingham brought the matter to the attention of his landlord, who dismissed it and refused Ingham’s request for the return of his rent deposit and an early termination of his lease.   

The case was brought to the U of O’s legal aid clinic and later to the Landlord Tenant Board. Ingham eventually got in touch with the building’s property inspector who offered to fix the solution, but never did.

“Eventually, after stumbling through the City failing us, we turned to Ottawa ACORN who decided to help us out,” said Ingham.

After being in contact with ACORN for four months, along with enlisting the help of city councillor David Chernushenko, Ingham was able to have the lease terminated without any penalties.

“After four months they still hadn’t fixed our unit or solved our cockroach problem, and probably never will,” said Ingham. “Sadly, the next person that lives there will have the same problem.”

Ingham sees this as an issue because landlords “can violate a contract by not upholding their responsibilities, but if you do anything around leaving or not paying rent you are entirely at fault.”

According to Ingham, licensing landlords would move things away from a complaint-based system and push for landlord penalties and annual inspections of units, as well as more accountability from the landlord.

Even though landlord groups have called this kind of pilot project redundant, Fleury believes that this is more than a landlord-versus-tenant issue. Instead, it is all about “a community having that conversation.”