City rental by-laws calls for more awareness

Photo by Jody Waardenburg

Photo by Jody Waardenburg

Housing landlords in Waterloo are under increasing pressure to comply with the rental licensing by-law, which came into effect in 2012.

Now, municipal officials have launched a campaign to increase awareness.

The rental housing licensing by-law aims to balance the needs of property owners and residents looking for safe and properly maintained rental accommodation.

In 2012, it was estimated that approximately 6,000 low-rise rental units existed within the city when the by-law and program were first developed. Since that time, roughly 3,100 applications have been received for rental licenses.

Jim Barry, director of municipal enforcement services for the City of Waterloo, emphasized that the motivation behind the by-law is centered on the safety of those living in the city.

“It’s always safety concerns,” said Barry. “If a property isn’t licensed, we don’t know the state of the property.”

The criterion of the rental license ensures that a precedent is set for the maintenance of rental properties.

“There are all kinds of concerns that are wrapped up into the rental housing by-law,” Barry added. “If a property is licensed we have the opportunity to view their plans and make sure that it’s safe.”.

With such a large student population, the city of Waterloo is home to thousands of low-rise rental properties — many of which have flown under the radar of by-law officials. The licensing by-law is enforced through the work of officers on the street, the surveillance of rental advertisements and through communication with concerned residents.

Barry was pleased with the number of rental property owners that had engaged with the licensing by-law.

“We took a relatively in-depth estimation of how many rental properties there were in the city and that was around 6,000,” Barry explained. “So right now we’ve engaged about 3,100, so a little more than half of the number we anticipated.”

Ryan King, coordinator of off-campus living and neighbourhood relations for the University of Waterloo, is a strong supporter of the licensing by-law. King works directly with students providing support for the transition into off-campus living.

King noted that many students are entering leasing contracts for the first time and may not be aware of whether the accommodation is licensed.

“I think there are a handful of students who do have support and advice from their parents but I think the majority of students are going at everything for the first time by themselves,” he said.
Barry explained that rental proper

Overall, Barry is hopeful about the community’s compliance with the by-law, with just over half of the estimated rental properties having applied for licenses.

“We just want to keep that momentum up,” said Barry.

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