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Significant workload expected in taking over property standards enforcement downloaded from province

A new responsibility for the County to handle complaints, inspections and enforcement services related to residential interior maintenance standards is expected to result in a significant workload increase.

Effective July 1, the province will no longer be investigating complaints or enforcing standards, resulting in the re-writing of the County’s current Property Standards bylaw to be enforced by building and bylaw staff.

Although standards proposed are to be complaint-driven enforcement, Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works, expects the department will be busy.

“As of the end of June the province is out of the business and it becomes our responsibility,” said McAuley, noting there has been no companion funding from the province to assist with the change.

Councillor Kevin Gale noted continued angst over how the municipality tries to enforce its many bylaws currently in place and questioned how the municipality would handle yet another.

McAuley told councillors at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting the complaint-driven tract is better than proactive bylaw enforcement which is estimated to cost $300,000 to adequately staff the department, provide for increased legal and operational costs.

“Frankly, we have no choice. The province has downloaded it to us, so we are stuck with it, but we expect our bylaw enforcement people will be almost solely engaged in this bylaw and have little time for the rest.”

There are currently three bylaw officers providing canine control, bylaw and parking enforcement. Their duties include enforcement of property standards, grass cutting, zoning, noice, canine, taxi and food truck licencing bylaws, as well as livestock evaluation submissions and fence viewers. The County houses an average of 80 dogs annually for varying lengths of time, which requires an officer to spend one to two hours a day at the kennel. Outsourcing that service was estimated at more than double the current budget.

On average, on a complaint-driven basis, enforcement officers have averaged just over 180 recorded occurrences annually for the past five years, each requiring orders for a variety of offences. That number does not include complaints received and dealt with by telephone, or on-site visits, which double the recorded numbers.

The number of rental unit complaints received in the Cuonty average 40-50 per year. Most complainants, after being informed of the process for lodging a complaint with the province, do not follow through.

With the service moved to the municipality’s charge, it is anticipated staff will be dealing with a much larger number of complaints, entailing two to three inspections for each occurrence. When a property owner does not comply, there will also be staff time required to hire a contractor and supervise work, and possibly court time and costs for more serious cases. Enforcement officers would provide inspection services for minor infractions and building inspection staff would be required for inspections with more serious deficiencies.

With some bylaw enforcement cases, owners refuse to comply and legal charges follow – typically involving two to three prosecutions annually, with an average legal cost of $4,000 per prosecution and can accumulate 100 hours or more of staff time for each. Fines levied in a successful prosecution are normally less than 10 per cent of legal costs incurred.

Currently the bylaw gives the municipality the authority to clean up, or repair a property where an order has been issued and the work has not been done. Costs incurred are invoiced to the property owner and a failure to pay results in the amount applied as taxes.

Staff recommended an administrative penalty or fee of $200 be added to the fees and charges bylaw noting the amount is not severe but would assist in promoting compliance with standards.

Landlord-tenant rights are a touchy subject, noted councillor David Harrison.

“It’s one of the main driving forces behind the lack of affordable housing because many here, not only in the city, don’t want to be in that business because the rights of the tenant outweigh the landlord and as a result it’s reflective in a lot of people doing seasonal rentals here, versus long-term rentals. This looks to me almost like another nail in the coffin because it’s going to make life even more difficult for a landlord if a tenant happens to have a bit of a grievence and the County’s in the mix now.”

The bylaw will be brought forward to council for enactment.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Theresa says:

    Did I read this right? There is a dwindling supply of permanent rental units in the County because “the main driving force behind the lack of affordable housing” is tenants complaining too much about “a bit of a grievance.” This is the main driving force? Not money? Well, the more you know!

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