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Oshawa says REM column misrepresented facts on rental housing licensing review

The article “Oshawa proposal is state-sanctioned surveillance by unaccountable enforcement officers,” written by columnist Chris Seepe, contains speculation on behalf of the author who has misrepresented facts and made numerous false and defamatory statements. We have outlined the statements by the author and the facts below.

The title of the article: Oshawa proposal is state-sanctioned surveillance by unaccountable enforcement officers

Facts: The city’s municipal enforcement officers enforce bylaws and follow a bylaw process that is approved by elected members of Oshawa City Council, and as such, they are accountable to the community they serve.

The actions of municipal law enforcement officers must be defendable in a court of law and enforcement orders and penalties most often include appeal mechanisms. Additionally, in instances when a community member feels an order was wrongly given, there are a number of avenues for appeal. The city has a robust appeals system and furthermore, public sector misconduct complaints can be made to the Ontario Ombudsman in the event that a community member feels an officer(s) were not performing their roles with integrity.

Statement in the article: “In January 2022, the City of Oshawa’s City Council heard a proposal from its bylaw department to roll out a residential housing licensing program that would be the first of its kind.”

Facts: Oshawa City Council directed city staff to undertake a public consultation regarding a potential city-wide expansion of the current Residential Rental Housing Licensing (RRHL) program and report back with findings on the potential impacts. The city has not decided to “roll out” a program but is seeking public input and consultation to understand stakeholder concerns and determine whether such a program would be appropriate or effective for residents of the city.

The RRHL would not be “the first of its kind” as London, Toronto and Waterloo also have city-wide licensing.

Statement in the article: “Oshawa wants to license every type of rental housing.”

Facts: At this point, council is requesting feedback from all stakeholders on possible licensing. No decisions have been made.

In our consultation, one of the questions (Question 12 on the feedback form for property managers and landlords) asks property managers and landlords if they “think the program should be expanded to require all rental properties in the city to be licensed?” Additionally, question 13 on the feedback form gives property managers and landlords the opportunity to explain why or why not they feel this way, while question 14 asks property managers and landlords if they feel licensing should apply to individually owned dwellings, multi-unit dwellings under single ownership or both.

Statement in the article: “The city referenced data it created, managed and ‘analyzed’ using thinly veiled, one-sided surveys and carefully selected participants in ‘public feedback’ forums that could lead to only one pre-determined outcome.”

Facts: There is no pre-determined outcome or opinion on RRHL. City Council is requesting public and stakeholder feedback on the potential city-wide expansion of the RRHL.

The consultation invites community members to complete one of three stakeholder specific feedback forms: general public; tenants and renters; or residential property managers and landlords.

The next report to council, planned for later this year, will provide details of all the feedback received.

Statement in article: “The city’s foregone conclusion was that it must set up a demerit point system that rates how ‘bad’ every housing provider is by employing 33 additional bylaw officers at a cost of almost $5 million.”

Facts: There is no proposed demerit point system as part of the RRHL In fact, a previous demerit point system was removed by council during a review of the RRHL in 2021.

None of the proposed options considered for public consultation indicated a need for 33 additional municipal law enforcement officers.

Statement in article: “The city essentially sanctioned a state-run surveillance regime comprising relentless mandatory ‘spot’ inspections using unaccountable law enforcement Praetorian guards empowered to make legal interpretations and pronounce financial penalties for even the most trivial infractions.”

Facts: Again, no decisions have been made. Council has approved consultation to gauge feedback on a potential program expansion.

The city’s municipal enforcement officers enforce bylaws and follow a bylaw process that is approved by elected members of Oshawa City Council, and as such, they are accountable to the community they serve.

The actions of municipal law enforcement officers must be defendable in a court of law and enforcement orders and penalties most often include appeal mechanisms.

Statement in article: “Tenants will ultimately suffer the most in the long run under Oshawa’s proposed licensing program. The net result will be excessive property standards enforcement leading to minimalist property quality and no new housing construction, resulting in a grossly inadequate number of property standards-conforming rental units at extremely unaffordable rent rates.”

Facts: The city is seeking to obtain input from the general public, tenants and renters, and property managers and landlords on the potential city-wide expansion of the RRHL.

Specific questions in the tenants and renters and property managers and landlords feedback forms list the RRHL-associated fees.

Question 11 of the feedback form for tenants and renters provides the RRHL-associated fees per rental type and asks the question, “If these fees were passed on to tenants through increased rent, do you think there is value in licensing to ensure your rental unit complies with minimum health and safety standards (e.g. property maintenance and fire safety)?”

Question 12 asks tenants and renters, “Would you be okay with a city inspector entering your rental unit to inspect it at a scheduled time?”

Question 11 of the feedback form for property managers and landlords asks if they feel the RRHL-associated fees for costs related to inspections and administering the program are “too much, fair or too little”.

About the Residential Rental Housing Licensing Program

On January 24, 2022, Oshawa City Council directed city staff to undertake a public consultation regarding a potential city-wide expansion of the Residential Rental Housing Licensing program and report back with findings on the potential impacts. No decisions have been made at this time. Here is a link to the original council-directed report.

The City of Oshawa encourages and welcomes feedback from your industry and invites you to share with your readers the Connect Oshawa project page at https://connectoshawa.ca/rentallicensing, which includes a link to the online feedback form specific to residential property managers and landlords.

Community members can also provide their feedback by attending either in-person or electronically a Special Meeting of the Corporate Services Committee on Monday, April 4 at 9:30 a.m. Details are available by viewing the city’s meeting calendar.

Feedback on the RRHL Program will be received until noon Monday, April 18 and considered in the development of potential regulatory licensing standards that will be presented to the Corporate Services Committee later this year. More information is available by contacting [email protected] or 905-436-3311.

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