Jeremy Jackson, President
Independent Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia
211 Horseshoe Lake Drive – Suite 112
Halifax, NS B3S 0B9
March 14, 2023
Thank you for meeting with me a few weeks ago to have a good clearing the decks conversation about IPOANS concerns regarding the proposed R400 and amended M200 bylaws.
I am writing to provide a bit of background regarding “our side of the story” and our process and intent related to the proposed bylaws.
I suggest we try and meet the week after next with Jill Maclellan and a couple of folks from IPOANS to talk through the issues.
CONSULATION AND PROCESS
I’ll start by clarifying the intention of my motion requesting staff respond to the IPOANS e-mail of April 29th, 2019, in the current report. My motion did not direct staff to meet with IPOANS, I fully expected the five points raised in your letter would be addressed in writing in the subsequent staff report, which they are, on page 6.
In 2016 Council directed staff to “conduct a facilitated workshop with stakeholders for the purpose of developing a residential building licensing model.” This extensive work undertaken by Stantec included substantial consultation with IPOANS and other landlords.
This work was completed and resulted in the 2019 report which recommend that HRM pursue registration rather than licensing. Page 5.4 of this report states, in part, that an option to consider was “registration only and offers this justification:
A major aim of regulators is to improve records on rental units. Setting up a registry that would collect information without pursuing enforcement would achieve that basic goal. It could provide critical information needed by municipal fire and emergency staff and could assist the Municipality with regulatory functions. Information could be made accessible online, perhaps as a layer in Explore HRM, to help tenants assess potential landlords. A registry would not include compulsory inspection.
It would therefore cost considerably less to implement and maintain, although reliance on landlords to provide and update information would likely not be as effective as data collection through regular inspection by trained municipal staff…”
These are some of the core benefits we expect registration to provide and is why Council voted to pursue this option.
I recognize that IPOANS has taken a position against registration, but to say there has been no consultation is not true. There was ample consultation in the Stantec report and before and after the 2016 and 2019 staff reports. Consultation does not normally extend to citizens and interest groups seeing legislation before the general public. Council has chosen to take this middle ground between status quo and a full Ontario style licensing regime.
It is also suggested that a Public Hearing should be required. Council rarely holds a hearing unless it is legally required. At the last Council meeting on March 7, 2023, Council approved a bylaw in second reading with no hearing and approved two first readings without opting for public hearings at second reading. Finally, the Province of Nova Scotia’s Deloitte Report on Housing recommends that HRM not hold public hearings unless legally required (https://novascotia.ca/housing-panel/docs/housing-development-barrier-review.pdf). Simply put, not holding a hearing is normal for a bylaw like this.
R-400 RENTAL REGISTRATION
As stated above, Page 5.4 of the Stantec report outlines the potential benefits of rental registration. The registry will collect information without pursuing enforcement and will not require compulsory inspection. The significant benefits and reasons why these changes are required are further outlined in the 2019 staff report, largely on pages 6-7.
Many of the points raised by the IPOANS letter are in the theme of “the report does not explain…”. The 2023 staff report is the implementation of the 2019 report, which recommends a path to address the findings of the Stantec report. There is no need to reiterate the 2019 summary of the Stantec Report in the 2023 report.
For example, IPOANS letter suggests proof of insurance was never discussed prior to the 2023 staff report, however proof of insurance is recommended for the rental registration on page 6 of the 2019 report, is mentioned 8 times in the Stantec report, and was listed in Attachment B as a proposed amendment.
The 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2023 reports need to be taken together.
IPOANS contends that the data collected by a registry already exists in other forms, specifically pointing to “building permit and zoning related information going back to the early 1950s.” As you are undoubtedly aware, this information exists in archival storage but is not digitized, and some early records are, as we all are painfully aware, far from complete.
Further, PVSC data shows 14% of buildings in HRM were built prior to 1950. It was not until much later in the 20th century that renovations of homes into apartments were regularly captured by permit processes. This category of property, conversions with small number of units, are precisely the properties these changes are designed to address.
The maintenance plan HRM staff are in the final stages of preparing a template. It will be similar to the state of good repair template provided by the City of Toronto, with the caveats that HRM would only want to see work over the next 5 years and HRM will not have as many elements. However, staff would accept any form of state of good repair plan or building maintenance plan that covers the elements of the M-200.
There is no expectation that bylaw will investigate every single registered property, rather those bylaw officers will be tasked with completing the registry and responding as issues arise (more below).
The 2019 report states “Two matters fall outside the scope of the inspection processes noted above. One is smaller residential (1, 2 and 3 unit) buildings and single room occupancies, and the other is the lack of proactive inspections of living spaces.” (page 3)
An explicit goal of these changes to the M200 bylaw and R400 is to remove the regulatory gap with respect to inspections of smaller residential buildings of 3 units and below. As stated above, there will be no inspection, rather, the 2019 states:
“Buildings would be identified by staff using historical property data and registration data, combined with third party complaints. Once identified, an inspection could be scheduled that would include both the common areas and random units. An inspector who finds a violation in one unit may choose to have the owner verify it has been inspected and/or corrected throughout the building. This would improve conditions for all tenants and reduce the number of complaints and consequently the number of visits required by the inspector. An inspector would also have better information about the history of the property. An owner who has been consistently in violation would be quickly discovered and more fitting regulatory tools and escalating fines could be used.”
As you know, municipalities are tasked by the Building Code Act and the Halifax Charter to ensure buildings meet the National Building Code and National Fire Code.
A persistent question in the IPOANS letter is “why do you have to list this again here.” This is a very important question, and the answer is that HRM’s current inspection framework lies with our fire inspectors who inspect buildings with more than 3 units. By adding a provision requiring annual inspections for smoke alarms in M-200, HRM gains the ability to deploy Assistant Building Officials to inspect/enforce the requirement for smaller rental properties.
These codes already require monthly inspections of the items listed in the proposed bylaws. The bylaw simply clarifies responsibility for those inspections.
For example, in the Emergency lighting section of the National Fire Code 2015 section 18.104.22.168 states that “emergency lighting unit equipment shall be inspected at intervals not greater than one month” to ensure that section 22.214.171.124.1 “Fire Extinguishers and Class D extinguishing agents shall be inspected at least once per calendar month.” M-202 fixes authority for Assistant Building Officials to enforce these rules that IPOANS members must already follow, and Fire Inspectors can already enforce.
Regarding dryer vents, the existing wording in the M-200 already requires an annual inspection of the dryer vents, the new wording was to provide consistent language with other provisions.
Toward the end of the letter IPOANS identifies specific concerns with the M200 bylaw proposed changes. It should be noted that almost all these changes are based on real experiences with bad landlords doing exactly what is identified as being unacceptable in the proposed changes.
We have amended M100 and M200 several times in the last decade to include revised language making it easier to issue summary offense tickets that will be able to be held up in court if they are challenged.
The bylaw changes proposed are not targeting tenant behavior, they are targeting behavior we have seen by some bad landlords, which has been widely report in the media.
The changes address experience with a landlord blocking the drains in unoccupied unit, to flood out tenants below, and another removing doors and locks from rented units. The goals is to provide additional clarity to the obligations of landlords, making it easier to charge and successful convict people who take these extreme steps.
To clarify some other issues raised in IPOANS letter and emails from your members:
- The bylaw applies to rental units that are being operated for commercial purposes.
- Inspecting provincial buildings, from offices to schools to public housing, is not HRM’s legislated role. HRM has a legal responsibility to inspect all buildings that are not provincial or federal.
- HRM staff stated is that they had spoken with tenancy and confirmed the jurisdictional division between the province and the municipality. They did not consult on the bylaw.
- HRM management knows how much a compliance officer costs to employ.
- Families sharing the expenses of a home is not a commercial rental.
- Notice provisions for legal documents match the current notice provisions for legal documents from HRM.
- The boilerplate in the legislation that states users must comply with all applicable legislation is similar to languages in other legislation and legal contracts.
IPOANS notes that HRM has done nothing to provide financial relief to rental housing providers or incentivize investment in rental buildings. HRM’s legislated role is to implement community planning through land use bylaws and ensuring the building code and minimum standards are met.
Tenancy and especially rent caps are exclusively the realm of the Province. IPOANS should be aware that the HRM Charter, the provincial legislation that creates the municipality, does not allow grants or incentives to private businesses or individuals.
Anyway, I hope this background helps explain how we got here and where the relevant information is. Let’s meet next week and have a long discussion regarding these issues.
Councillor | Le Conseiller | Wunaqapeme’j
District 7 Halifax South Downtown
APPENDIX A – relevant staff reports
- 2023 – R400 Rental Registry and M-202 amendments to M-200 https://cdn.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/230124rc1517.pdf
- 2020 – M-201 Amendments to M-200 https://cdn.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/200929rc1113.pdf
- 2019 – Rental Registry and Minimum Standards direction https://cdn.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional-council/190430rc1515.pdf
- 2016 Replacement of M-100 with M-200- https://legacycontent.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/160614ca14111.pdf
- 2002 Adoption of M-100 Residential Occupancy Standards Bylaw https://legacycontent.halifax.ca/council/documents/021217ca927.pdf