Licencing Cornwall landlords to be studied

In this July 2019, file photo, the Knox City Center apartment building on Second Street East in Cornwall, Ont. The city is spending $9,000 to undertake a study later this year on licencing landlords. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – City council has authorized the municipality to undertake a $9,000 study into the future licencing of Cornwall landlords.

The proposed regulation is aimed at improving rental housing in Cornwall, as landlords would have to meet health, electrical and building code requirements in order to be licenced.

It would also weed out illegal basement apartments.

Licencing fees would range from $50 to $300 depending on the state of compliance. A sample draft bylaw shows the fee would be renewable every three years. Though Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said during Monday’s council meeting that the fee could “potentially (be) one-time.”

Other requirements would have landlords carry at least $2 million in liability insurance on their buildings.

Penalties for breaking the potential bylaw, would range from $25,000 to $50,000 for individual landlords and $50,000 to $100,000 for property companies. Additional administrative penalties would be $250.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald was “honoured” to back the council motion to move ahead with the consultation process, supported by Coun. Carilyne Hebert. “This is so good that this is finally on the table,” MacDonald said.

Coun. Glen Grant says he’s spoken with landlords who are concerned about the potential costs “and that cost being passed on to the tenants and that becomes an affordability issue.”

Grant, who sits on the Cornwall Planning Programs Evaluation Committee, called the public consultation “vital” because he’s seen some “horror stories” and there are “some unfortunate people living in unfortunate situations.”

While many on council agreed with doing the study, now would not be the best time because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coun. Eric Bergeron says both landlords and tenants are struggling right now and the data might be skewed.

A city report states that 30 per cent of Cornwall’s housing stock is rental units, almost 21 per cent higher than the Ontario average.

Voisine speculated it could be higher due to people from outside the area buying investment properties.