RHB’s forum for rental housing associations to share news, events and industry information
Hot Topics: WRAMA provides an important update from the Landlord and Tenant Board, as well as information for potential association members. pg. 45 LPMA explains how to steer clear of conflict in snow removal conflicts, as well as how COVID-19 has changed property management. pg 49 HDAA discusses association issues, including the changes in presidency and Board of Directors, and the expansion of Hamilton’s urban boundary. pg. 53 EOLO discusses upcoming changes in the City of Ottawa’s curbside solid waste collection and the vacant unit tax. pg. 57
The Member Associations
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE Thank you to our members who attended our November event and a special thank you to John M. Dobrowolski, CEO and founder of Rentcheck for presenting. As a small landlord in the 1970s, John encountered major problems with non-compliant and defaulting renters and found there were no outlets to report them to fellow housing providers. This need in the industry prompted him to develop the concept of gathering, recording, and reporting authentic applicant selection data. That led in 1976 to his founding of the Canadian Tenant Network (CTN), the first rental history reporting service, to protect fellow landlords. CTN then became Rentcheck Credit Bureau. Rentcheck pre-dates both TransUnion and Equifax in the screening data sector in Canada. Today, Rentcheck maintains histories of more than 4.7 million renters, comprising more than 11 million leases. This unique database represents more than 368 million months of tenancy ratings and has become Canada’s leading applicant inquiry source. Rentcheck remains unique in the industry for offering authentic tenancy history reports on landlord-relevant resident data. For more than seven years, John advocated as an Ontario paralegal for landlords in landlord-tenant issues and was instrumental in removing information barriers from the Ontario court system. Born in Hericourt, France, John’s family immigrated to Niagara Falls, Ontario when he was two years old. John is a graduate of the Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology and attended the University of Ottawa. He lives in Toronto, Ontario. For those who missed the event, John presented on important information for landlords when it comes to reading and interpreting credit reports generated by TransUnion and Equifax and highlighted key areas for property managers and landlords to pay attention to.
You can learn more about Rentcheck by visiting their website at www.rentcheckcorp.com.
Happy holidays! We at WRAMA wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all the best this holiday season. We will see you in the new year at our next member event.
- James Craig, WRAMA President firstname.lastname@example.org
Board elections – Postponed Typically, WRAMA holds its annual Board of Directors elections in November. This year, however, due to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to delay our elections. We anticipate an announcement and further information about the upcoming BOD elections to be made in the new year. If you are a member of WRAMA and are interested in becoming a member of our Board of Directors, please send an email to email@example.com where we can discuss the opportunity further.
In-person events – To be announced As we progress through the pandemic and the Ontario government continues to make changes to COVID-19 restrictions, we will be keeping a watchful eye on the potential of hosting in-person member events. Before we begin, we also intend to send out a survey to get member feedback about what they like or don’t live about virtual vs. in-person events. We value or members’ opinions and preferences and, as such, will consider all options as we move forward.
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Important updates from the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board On November 19, the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) announced how they will continue to schedule pending applications: • Landlord and tenant merits hearings are being scheduled in blocks. A moderator and two adjudicators are assigned to each block to work as a team. This approach will also continue with the L1/L9 and L2 blocks. • Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) will continue to be available at L1/L9 and L2 hearing blocks, but not for landlord and tenant merits hearings. However, DROs are available for routine mediation upon request. You can make a request for routine mediation by emailing the applicable regional office. • Case management and merits hearings for Above Guideline Increase applications are now being held by videoconference and have been added to the hearing schedule. • The LTB will hold hearings until December 23, 2021. Hearings will resume on January 4, 2022. On December 8, the LTB announced that it is now using a new case management system for most new files – the Tribunals Ontario Portal. Landlords and tenants are required to use the portal to: • Submit L1, L2, T2 and T6 applications (including combined L1/L2 and T2/T6 applications) • Pay application fees • Upload evidence directly On an optional basis, the portal can be used to: • View and exchange documents with other parties • Use the dispute resolution tool to communicate with other parties • Ask for assistance from an LTB Dispute Resolution Officer You are no longer able to file L1, L2, T2 or T6 applications by email; instead, you must use the new portal to file them, or file them by mail, courier or in person at a ServiceOntario office.
Online dispute resolution Parties will be able to use the dispute resolution tool in the Tribunals Ontario Portal to communicate with other parties, or to ask for assistance from an LTB Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) to implement an agreement the parties reach. At the end of two weeks after filing on the portal, if the parties have not reached an agreement, the application will be added to the scheduling queue based on the application type and filing date, and the LTB will schedule the hearing. Negotiation or mediation can also happen later in the process without delaying the hearing date. Dispute Resolution Officers will continue to be available at the L1/L9 and L2 hearings blocks for same-day mediation.
Filing other applications and evidence Applicants can continue to file all other application types by email, other than AGI applications and co-operative housing applications (co-ops), and to pay for those filings online. AGI applications must continue to be filed by courier or mail, or through a ServiceOntario office. Co-operative housing applications need to be paid for online through the LTB’s payment portal. A copy of the payment receipt must accompany the co-op application when filed by email at Co-opprocessingLTB@ontario.ca. The LTB’s evidence email address (LTB.Evidence@ontario.ca) and all regional email addresses will be limited to use for applications other than new L1, L2, T2, and T6 applications being processed in the Tribunals Ontario Portal.
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Not yet a member? The Waterloo Regional Apartment Management Association is the result of the demand for landlord advocacy in Waterloo Region. We were formed to provide information and support to owners and managers of residential rental properties all over the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, and surrounding areas. Our key objectives are to advocate for our members, provide benefits including networking and presentation opportunities, provide up-todate, important, and engaging information and industry knowledge, and connect our members with leaders in the industry of rental housing.
Opportunities to grow We offer a wide range of high-quality events and networking opportunities, and are committed to ensuring our members receive the best digital and face-to-face networking opportunities and up-todate information. We keep it relevant by engaging industry leaders and innovators who support best practices in rental housing provision.
Opportunities to become an industry leader Discover best practices from local industry professionals. The nature of our industry is its constant state of change. WRAMA is always looking for members to step forward and take on leadership roles, to enjoy the reward of seeing a project, committee, or the industry itself move forward thanks to your efforts.
Opportunities to contribute See your contributions grow the rental housing industry and advance your fellow members. There is something in it for you too! By getting involved and contributing, you will gain hands-on experience and watch your contributions shape the future of our industry, and see the positive impact of your work on your investments.
Regular communication to guide you Our communications services are here to lend you support for all aspects of your professional practice including operations, marketing, and other strategies.
Membership rewards and benefits Membership does have its privileges. Exclusive to our members is access to a hand-picked group of vendors, suppliers, and experts to help you accelerate the growth and bottom line of your business.
Networking opportunities It really is who you know. Our veteran members tell us all the time that the most valuable member benefit is the network of peers they have developed over the duration of their membership. This benefit is timeless. To become a member, visit www.wrama.com today!
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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE LPMA closes out 2021 in style The year may be winding down, but we still have exciting events planned — thanks to the education committee for their creative scheduling. Watch our website for more details. Now is the time to participate in LPMA activities and obtain the knowledge you need. Our annual Christmas party is back! This year’s event will be hosted at Bellamere Winery and Event Centre on December 14. The venue has an indoor and outdoor space where we can finally bring back in-person cheer. Our revamped website is on track for launching before year’s end. Exciting features like a member login portal with increased functionality will be rolled out in the next few months.
As always, we welcome your feedback. We’re here to bring you the most value for your membership. By referring a new member, you can earn a $50 gift card. Membership has its advantages. Until next time…
- Shane Haskell, President, LPMA
S T E E R I N G C L E A R O F C O N F L I C T I N S N OW R E M OVA L C O N T R AC T S Before signing a snow removal contract, small landlords should create a mental checklist of potential problems, from how to deal with cars that can’t be moved to where to push huge piles of snow. Determining their needs in advance can keep landlords from alienating their contractor — the person they need to get them and tenants safely through winter. Smaller rental properties have space constrictions that can make snow removal tricky. London lawyer Joe Hoffer said landlords need to discuss with contractors whether it will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure tenants move their cars before snow plowing takes place or whether the contractor will need to clear between vehicles. Landlords need to specify where the snow can be piled once it has been removed. They should point out play equipment, for example, so it isn’t buried beneath snow or pushed to the back of the yard. “One key thing that seems to be in conflict a lot is, ‘Where are you going to put the snow?’” Hoffer said. “It’s important for the contractor, the landlord, and the tenants to be aware of those kinds of things.” Lisa Smith, senior property manager for Norquay
Property Management, said landlords should ensure contractors position the snow so it drains into a rainwater catch basin as it melts. “If not, you’re going to have a puddle that turns into ice overnight,” she said.
Determining risk In a basic monthly contract, the obligation is on the contractor to clear the driveway, sidewalks, and parking areas if the snow exceeds a specific depth. Most landlords choose a monthly contract so they know what the service will cost, Hoffer said.
Another type of contract bases payment on the number of times the contractor visits a property. There is risk involved because there is no way of predicting the number of snowfalls in a month and, therefore, the number of times the contractor needs to visit the property. “There’s a lack of certainty. There’s a question of how much risk does a landlord want to assume,” Hoffer said.
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Regardless of the type of contract, Hoffer recommends incorporating a general clause to ensure the grounds will be safe for those who want to access their vehicles, and enter and exit the property. It’s important for contracts to state that snow will be cleared by a specific time, such as 7 a.m., so workers won’t be delayed because they can’t exit the parking area, Smith said. It’s not unusual for tenants to threaten to withhold rent if they can’t get to work. She advises landlords to include removal of snow and ice from a canopy, awning or overhang above a door. When tenants exit their home, snow can slide down the overhang and onto the individual. Contractors should also remove icicles that could injure tenants. Because it’s common for snow plows to damage sod or to hit a sign or fence, Smith suggests contractors agree in the con0tract to repair any damage they cause.
Fixed price service versus extras Landlords can choose between a fixed price service with a monthly payment and no extras, or charges for extras, such as salt or additional visits beyond the specified number. Hoffer recommends asking the contractor what the extras involve. A few years ago, it was popular to overuse salt because it represented additional revenue. Smith advises landlords to include salt in their monthly payment to prevent overuse. Insurance companies may give landlords consideration on their premium if salt is included. Once the parties have come to an agreement, the contract will feature an outline of the contractor’s responsibilities, followed by the scope of services and the fees. The scope of services describes the work that will take place, including sanding, salting, and ice removal. The contractor — not the landlord — should implement the contract and make decisions. That arrangement avoids conflicting potential liability, Hoffer said. If a tenant slipped and fell, the contractor could claim the landlord gave instructions that led to the individual’s mishap and the accident could have been avoided had the landlord not interfered. Landlords should leave the choice of materials to contractors. If a deicing product was inadequate, and an individual slipped and fell, the principal liability would rest with the contractor and not the landlord, Hoffer said.
Liability insurance Because it’s common to sue landlords for slips and falls, it’s critical that contractors have liability insurance. The contract typically requires the contractor to produce a clearance certificate from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to show employees have coverage. Landlords should request a certificate from the liability insurance company to confirm the insurance is in place and in good standing. In the event of a slip and fall, the landlord and contractor would be sued and the insurance companies would work out where the liability lay. Hoffer said there should be a clause in the contract in which the landlord will be indemnified, or compensated, by the contractor if it is determined the contractor is to blame; however, a settlement may require partial payment of damages by the landlord (or their insurer). It’s also prudent to include a requirement the contractor maintain a log as proof of the work carried out. Contractors should be insured for $2 million, which is adequate for a smaller property with fewer tenants and therefore lower liability, Hoffer said. Finally, if the landlord breaches the payment obligation of the contract, the contractor’s services will likely be withdrawn. The landlord will have no protection if an individual slips and falls because
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the snow and ice are not being removed, Hoffer said.
the pandemic, an additional 500 residents were paying rent online.
COV I D - 1 9 S PA R K S A N E VO LU T I O N I N PROPERTY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Registration for pre-authorized payments also increased. Staff are saving time not having to pursue tenants for late payments and payments are being processed more efficiently.
Property managers never used to think twice about travelling multiple times a month to check on apartment buildings in other cities. Just 18 months later, they are using technology to work remotely — without adding the pressure of travel time to their day. That’s one example of how the pandemic has caused the property management industry to evolve, said Theresa Lapensée, senior operations manager for Sifton Properties. Administrative staff are able to work offsite, and they’re doing their jobs faster and more efficiently.
“COVID-19 forced us to evolve and it’s remarkable for our industry to see how quickly we were able to. Five to 10 years ago, most companies that make up this industry would not have envisioned people working from home,” Lapensée said.
LPMA held an open-forum meeting in November in which members discussed their experiences with virtual practices. Past president Shirley Criger moderated and LPMA board members Lapensée and Robert Dobbin, regional director of Skyline Living, responded to questions.
Rent payments The transition from live to virtual services is particularly noticeable with rent payments, Lapensée said. Despite encouragement to pay online, many of Sifton’s tenants still paid rent in person. That changed when the pandemic occurred and the company’s offices closed to the public. As a result, online payments increased more than 50 per cent by April 2020. In the first few months of
The same is true of maintenance requests, which residents used to submit in person. Now, 90 per cent come to Sifton by email or online.
Working remotely Although the operational parts of companies require employees to work together, Lapensée expects more flexible options will be here to stay. For example, if a company owner bought buildings in another city, property managers could visit those buildings once a month, supplemented with Zoom meetings or video calls, instead of travelling there three or four times monthly. The ability to access networks and web-based software is another innovation that allows many employees to do their jobs remotely. In addition, a digital process for approving invoices gives Sifton’s employees the flexibility to work on a computer or mobile device. Work can be done more quickly and the company is able to pay its vendors efficiently. “It’s a massive time saver compared to what we used to do five or six years ago,” Lapensée said.
Digital communications and events Instead of posting notices on bulletin boards, employees are using email templates that can be updated and sent to residents. Sifton uses Facebook and Instagram to share videos and reminders with tenants. “We already valued email communications and digital platforms, but we just have really enhanced them and increased the pace of communication during the pandemic,” Lapensée said. Property management companies are also holding digital events and smaller, physically distanced community events. “And those are positive things,” she noted.
London Property Management Association (LPMA) is a non-profit organization, located in London, Ontario, Canada, that provides information and education to landlords. LPMA represents the interests of both large and small property owners. The association has more than 400 landlord members representing approximately 35,000 rental units. Membership is open to landlords and property management professionals who own or manage one or more residential rental units.
Sign up online or call Tina Potter. Ph: 519-672-6999 Web: www.LPMA.ca
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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE The holiday season and new year are quickly approaching. The HDAA sends our best wishes to everyone for the holiday season and hopes everyone has a great new year. We are excited about what is in store for the HDAA in the new year and are anticipating the start of in-person events again, beginning with the January dinner meeting. The HDAA will also see changes with some fresh faces on the Board and a change in presidency. We hope the new year brings positive news about the pandemic as we look forward to normal running of the HDAA and to be able to see our members in person again. - Arun Pathak, President, HDAA
HDAA Board of Directors
The past couple of years have been challenging for everyone, financially, personally, and socially. We are very thankful for the engagement and support from our members and fellow associations. We have persevered as an industry due to the support and encouragement for one another. The HDAA would not be able to run as an association without this support and are incredibly thankful to our membership. We are looking forward to the new year and being able to provide our members with ongoing educational opportunities, advocacy, and networking opportunities as well.
The HDAA is excited to soon announce our new Board of Directors, which will see some fresh faces. The Board plays an integral role in the guidance of the association and is responsible for the association’s initiatives, events, education, and lobbying efforts. Without our very helpful Board, the association would not be able to run as smoothly. Although the HDAA will see some new faces on the Board, we will unfortunately lose a couple of Board members who have been integral to the association. We look forward to sharing this announcement and who our new Board members will be in the next issue.
Hamilton urban boundary expansion
The HDAA has seen a recent change in presidency with Arun Pathak taking on the role again in an interim capacity. Arun had been very involved with the HDAA as past president and we welcome him Arun Pathak back as the face of the association again, if only for a little while. We are excited to have Arun back in this role and are ever appreciative of his hard work and dedication to the association. His involvement over the past two decades has played a huge role in shaping the association and his advocacy for rental property owners has created positive impacts in the rental housing industry.
Over the past few months, the City of Hamilton has been discussing the expansion of Hamilton’s urban boundary, with the options to either allow for urban expansion or to have the boundary frozen to prevent it. The City distributed a survey to residents for their thoughts, which showed the vast majority of respondents were opposed to urban boundary expansion, preferring to prevent urban expansion and limit environmental impacts. A Nanos survey was also distributed and showed different results. The majority of the respondents to that survey preferred to expand the urban boundary versus intensification. Of note was that the vast majority, 3 out of 4 respondents, said they would consider moving if they were unable to find their preferred housing at an affordable
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cost. Lastly, 8 of out 10 respondents don’t recall receiving the City of Hamilton survey. Although the majority of respondents to the City survey were against the expansion of the Hamilton boundary, many residents didn’t provide their thoughts. The survey may not be the most comprehensive view of the thoughts of Hamilton residents on urban expansion and may not reflect the opinion of many. After piles of reports, months of debate, thousands of public submissions from advocacy groups and residents, and more than 20 hours of discussion over the course of two council meetings, the council voted 13-3 to freeze the urban boundary. By doing this, the council has rejected urban expansion into roughly 3,200 acres of prime farmland, which would have accommodated a forecasted population boom over the next 30 years, and instead will focus all future growth within the existing urban footprint. This may be challenging as the Province forecasts the City’s population will spike by 236,000 people, reaching 820,000 by 2051. This means approximately 110,320 more residential units would be required. The Ontario government does not seem to be in favour of this decision, which may result in a “shortage” of housing and may not meet expected market demands for the next three decades. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing worries this will worsen an already bad situation with housing in the GTHA, stating that accommodating population growth through infill and intensification is “not feasible.” This decision also goes against the recommendations of City staff who preferred an “ambitious density” option that would call for phased urban expansion into 3,240 acres of rural land, coupled with an average intensification rate, through infill development, of 60 per cent over 30 years. Freezing the urban boundary, on the other hand, would require an intensification rate of about 80 per cent. This is argued to be unrealistic and would not satisfy Ontario’s market-based land-needs policy, which City staff, consultants, and provincial officials also believe. The intensification required with freezing the urban boundary will cause apartment-heavy density targets, drive up costs of single-family dwellings, and send would-be buyers of single-family housing away from the City, further exacerbating the housing crisis. The Province is aware of the housing crisis and wants this fully realized by municipalities as well, and is encouraging city councils, including Hamilton’s, to put a plan in place to address the issue of housing affordability. By freezing the urban boundary, Hamilton is unfortunately doing the opposite. City of Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger advised this is not a “forever decision” but one that seems right for the moment. He argues that, in the short term, it would maximize the potential of the LRT and encourage developers to look at infill opportunities within the existing urban boundary. The City would then measure how that impacts future supply and pricing. The issue with this mentality is that infilling old lots comes with a heavy cost to developers and these expenses often won’t support family-style homes but instead high-rise housing. Single-family housing would become more expensive and drive many would-be buyers out of the City and into surrounding areas.
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The idea that this is not a forever decision is also concerning as any decision now would take years to reverse should the City decide to change its mind and proceed with urban land growth in the future. Redevelopment applications can take over five to ten years to be processed; this delay would mean we would be too late to stop any issues with housing shortages, which is already an issue. The decision to freeze the urban boundary is quite controversial, particularly because it does not coincide with provincial recommendations or concerns and does not help with current housing shortages and affordability issues. Although the City has made its decision, it may not be a done deal, as the Ford government could veto the decision and require the City of Hamilton to move in a different direction. The provincial government does not seem in favour of the decision, so it would certainly not be surprising if it does decide to veto this decision.
Past events October 20 – RTA & LTB Changes Webinar The HDAA welcomed Mark Melchers from Cohen Highley for a free members-only webinar. The webinar focused on the newest RTA and LTB changes that took effect on September 1. Some significant changes came into effect with the last round of changes from Bill 184. Rental property owners can recover damages, unpaid utilities, and other expenses from former tenants and can do this through the Landlord and Tenant Board versus the Small Claims Court. The L2 has been updated accordingly and a new L10 form can be found on the LTB website for these claims. This new change only applies to tenants who moved out on or after September 1, 2021.
Tenancies terminated before that time have to go through the Small Claims Court process. Another significant change comes in place to help with concerns over improper eviction for personal use and renovations. In any new N12 or N13 applications, rental property owners will now be required to disclose any N12s and N13s they have served for any rental property over the past two years. The compensation to tenants for improper eviction has also increased to up to one full year’s rent, plus other expenses that can be awarded, plus the difference between their old and new rental amount. Additionally, fines for improper eviction have increased to a maximum of $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations. Other changes were mostly administrative, including updates to interpretation guidelines. These changes should mark the last changes brought about by Bill 184. While the changes related to N12s and N13a are meant to protect tenants, many changes in Bill 184 are quite positive for landlords and will hopefully be helpful to many struggling landlords.
Upcoming events January 12, 2022 – Dinner Meeting The HDAA is very excited with the anticipation of once again holding in-person dinner meetings and being able to meet with members again. The HDAA will be hosting an in-person dinner on January 12, 2022 at the Waterfront Centre to kick off the new year. The program will include introducing our new Board members and discussing other updates within the HDAA, as well as our plans for the new year. We will be providing more details in the next few weeks but encourage our members to hold the date in their calendars.
Hamilton & District Apartment Association Since 1960, the Hamilton & District Apartment Association has grown significantly. Our members manage over 30,000 units throughout Hamilton, Burlington, Brantford, Guelph, Mississauga, Oakville, St. Catharines and into the Niagara Peninsula. The association is a highly respected organization, sought out regularly by government, industry, media and the public.
Interested? Call us or join online! Ph: 905-616-2058 Web: www.hamiltonapartmentassociation.ca
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Chair’s message The City of Ottawa has received court approval for its “set fines”, which allow by-law officers to issue tickets to those who fail to comply with the new Rental Housing Property Management By-law. Those fines range from $100 to $1,000, plus the victim surcharge. Not having the required systems, records or plans in place when a by-law officer requests them is liable to cost a landlord $1,125. See past issues of this magazine for what you need to do to comply. As detailed below, EOLO is now turning to address the City’s new vacant unit tax, and new curbside waste collection plans. New requirements for bin collection from multi-res buildings will follow soon. - John Dickie, EOLO Chair
Curbside solid waste collection changes in Ottawa The City of Ottawa is performing an extensive review of how it handles solid waste (residual garbage and recycling). Currently, the main goal is to reduce residual waste in order to extend the lifespan of the Trail Road Landfill. The main approach is to raise diversion through recycling. City Councillors do not want to site another landfill, since that is very costly, and no Councillor wants to approve a new landfill in their ward. The immediate issue is curbside solid waste collection. That applies to most smaller rental housing providers with low-rise buildings. Within the multi-res sector, curbside collection serves only to three types of properties, namely: • Townhouse communities with pad collection (rather than bin collection) • A few townhouse communities where tenants take their solid waste to the road • A few smaller buildings, mostly downtown, where there is no room for bin storage The curbside collection issues will NOT apply to most units operated by most EOLO members. However, we want to protect our small members, and avoid bad precedents that could negatively affect multi-res owners under the reforms to the bin collection, which will be coming next. We also want to build unity within the rental housing community, including supporting members of the Ottawa Real Estate Investors Organization (OREIO) and the Ottawa Region Landlords Association (ORLA). EOLO has long worked very successfully in co-operation with ORLA and OREIO, and we all want that to continue.
The current regime For each household Curbside solid waste served by curbside collection takes place collection, the current weekly, but only organic limit is six items of recycling is picked up residual garbage weekly. One week also every two weeks. includes blue bin and Items can be garbage residual garbage pick-up, bags, garbage bins and the alternate week (both with some size includes black bin pick-up. and weight limits), or For most City residents, bulk items (such as the pick-up point is at mattresses or sofas). the end of their driveway. City staff state freely However, in townhouse that the six-item complexes, it is often at a limit is not currently designated pad or pads. enforced. There is no limit on the quantity of recycling in the blue bin (glass and plastic), the black bin (newsprint, paper, and cardboard) or the green bin (organic recycling). There is no intention to impose any limit on the quantity of recycling. On a City-wide basis under the current regime, City staff report that the average number of items of residual garbage set-out every two weeks is 4.18 items. As a further breakdown: • 85% of households set out 4 items or less every 2 weeks • 81% set out 3 items or less every 2 weeks • 71% set out 2 items or less every 2 weeks Ottawa’s diversion rate is now 58 per cent, and staff would like to see that increased as much as possible.
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Here is a summary of the three proposed options, with the staff estimate of the effectiveness of each option, based on what other Ontario municipalities see with the different regimes.
Partial pay-as-you-throw This option would see a lower limit, of say three or four items of residual garbage every two weeks, with an ability to buy a garbage tag to throw out additional residual garbage items (with no limit). The tag would probably cost about $3. City staff report that system is used in Kingston (with one bag per week free), Niagara (two bags every two weeks free), Waterloo, Durham, some parts of Peel, Carleton Place, and Perth. Presumably with a three-bag limit (every two weeks) on free residual garbage disposal, the diversion rate in Ottawa is expected to increase by 6 per cent, with a 28 per cent reduction in residual waste.
Firm item limit This option would see a lower limit, of say three or four items every two weeks, with no ability to buy a garbage tag to throw out additional residual garbage. (Presumably, some residents would “take up” their neighbours’ underusage of the limit. Tenants on pad collection would do that easily. Neighbours would have to do it on the sly or by agreement.) That system is used in Hamilton, London, Guelph, Oakville, and Burlington. The diversion rate is expected to increase by 5 per cent with an 11 per cent reduction in residual garbage. (It is not clear why the reduction would be less than with partial pay-as-you-throw, but a four-bag limit every two weeks would account for that.)
Clear garbage bags with recycling and organics bans A clear garbage bag program would require households to use transparent bags for curbside garbage collection. The clear bag would allow collection contractors and enforcement staff to see if residents have put divertible material into their residual garbage, and then refuse the bag as residual garbage, or take other enforcement measures. That system is used in Markham and other areas north of Toronto, and in Halifax. To address privacy concerns, Markham allows one small opaque bag in each large clear bag, while Halifax allows one opaque bag. In Markham, the diversion rate is now 81 per cent, which suggests an increase in Ottawa’s diversion rate could be achieved in the order of 20 per cent. For landlords, the clear bag option seems like the worst option, in that clear bags with organic waste, newspapers, glass or cans are likely to be left at the pads every two weeks, leaving us to pay for the private disposal of those bags, or to separate the divertible material, putting out the residual garbage in clear bags.
Key issues City staff will gather more information from other municipalities. Staff appear to be open to refining the details of the options to achieve compliance with the least effort and risk to rental housing providers. EOLO will seek to avoid rental housing providers being penalized for breaches by tenants, and to avoid increased cost in enforcing the garbage rules. We also want to avoid any bad precedents for the upcoming reforms to the bin collection system, which applies to apartment buildings. As well as working with OREIO and ORLA, EOLO expects to work with City staff. Ideally, we will gain political points by supporting an option the staff and the Councillors are happy with (such as partial pay-as-you-throw), while obtaining any tweaks needed to minimize the negative impacts on rental housing providers.
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Vacant unit tax Several months ago, Ottawa City Council approved a proposed vacant unit tax (VUT) in principle. City staff are now consulting on the details. The City’s goals are to gain more rental housing supply, and to pressure owners to keep old properties in a better state of repair. Certain key provisions are already determined: • By provincial law, the new tax will only apply to residential units (i.e., one to six units on a property, not 7+, which is multi-residential) • The standard test for a vacant unit will be nonoccupation for six months or more during a calendar year (which will trigger the VUT for the next year) • There will be a suite of exemptions, including an owner in hospital or long-term care, a property tied up in litigation, “snowbirds” whose return is delayed past six months, and others
Key issues outstanding While a tax rate of 1 per cent of assessed value was chosen when the VUT was approved in principle, there is now pressure to increase that rate. The ordinary total residential property tax rate is close to 1 per cent, so the total tax would double on vacant properties. In contrast,
Vancouver’s current VUT rate is 3 per cent, which increases the total tax by four or five times (since Vancouver’s standard tax rate is lower than Ottawa’s). EOLO opposes any increase in the VUT rate. EOLO and the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) find it ironic and annoying that much of the vacancy during re-developments occurs due to delays in the City’s approval processes, and in the necessary applications at the Landlord and Tenant Board, and yet the City is putting pressure on developers to avoid vacancies. Besides the exemptions listed above, which most Councillors favour, EOLO and GOHBA want to achieve exemption for many of the following: • Land assembly for re-development • Units where the owner is “actively moving forward to demolition or renovation” • Units where permits have been applied for or construction is taking place • Units deemed uninhabitable • Units on the market at market rent, but not rented • A situation approved by a designated City official (to cover one-off situations)
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