Halifax Regional Council is looking to launch a rental registry that would require property owners to register their rental units and buildings with the city.
District 7 Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Councillor Waye Mason is all for it, citing safety.
“We’ve had people jacking up buildings without a permit, putting in illegal basement suites, not putting fire-rated drywall, not being worried about having a secondary egress so if the place is on fire, people can get out,” Mason said . “This is literally the result of maybe the second motion I made after I first got elected.”
A staff report for HRM council outlines how a rental registry could help the city track rental properties and help to be pro-active with inspections instead of waiting for complaints.
Property owners would be required to provide a maintenance plan.
The Council is also looking to amend another bylaw to increase minimum standards.
“We don’t have a complete picture of what is out there right now because units built before zoning were brought in, before we had zoning and all that stuff,” Mason said.
Kevin Russell, the executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, is not in favor of the change. He points out how bylaws and provincial rules already exist.
“We quite frankly feel they aren’t being enforced and if they were, there’d be no need for what the council is deciding today,” Russell said.
The HRM’s registry wouldn’t require a registration fee and city staff explained landlords would register the property once, unless there were major changes.
However, Russell notes the time it takes to do the paperwork and gather the information is a cost.
He says with increased borrowing costs and the current cap on rent, a rental registration could result in many small rental owners selling their properties.
“This new enforcement mechanism will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Russell said.
ACORN, a housing advocacy group, said this by law would be a big win for tenants.
Dartmouth ACORN chair Lisa Hayhurst showed CTV News her apartment building in Dartmouth, NS, Tuesday. The front balcony was slanted and covered with patches of bird feces.
“We look forward to the council passing landlord registration and actually enforcing building standards,” she said.
Mitchell Cohen, the chief operating officer of Westdale Properties which owns the building where Hayhurst lives, said he wasn’t aware of the bird feces but he called his staff to make sure it was cleaned up and was told some tenants have been feeding the pigeons .
“Nonetheless, it is the landlord’s responsibility and we will ratchet up the cleaning,” Cohen said.
Cohen also said he is aware of the slanting balcony and is planning to have engineers retrofit it in March.
The HRM council ended the first reading of the rental registry debate Tuesday by voting in favor of the bylaw, except for District 15 Councilor Paul Russell.
“I just don’t see the justification for spending the money for this,” Russell said.
If the bylaw is adopted, it won’t begin until April 2024.
Council heard the registry would require hiring new employees to enforce it.
Fines for property owners in violation of the bylaw range from $150 to $10,000, depending on the offense.