While Barrie city council is currently on summer break aside from a couple of meetings, the work doesn’t stop.
Some councillors, such as Coun. Clare Riepma, are using their time to prepare to come back to the table in the fall with fresh ideas.
In the areas of the city near Georgian College, high incidences of absentee landlords has led to neighbour disputes, and the rookie Ward 1 councillor wants to do something about it.
“As a result, what we get is a lot of issues about parking, garbage and lawn maintenance,” said Riepma. “When a landlord lives in Vancouver, Whitby or London, they’re not involved in what’s happening day-to-day at their house.”
“If you have a situation like that and it’s one house on a street, it’s not great, but it’s not the world’s end either. But here, in the near-college area, we have almost one third of the houses that have absentee landlords,” he added.
Riepma said there are also a lot of students living in the area in spare rooms or apartments along with families, and those properties, he noted, rarely have issues.
“Not every absentee landlord is a problem, (but) it’s always when the landlord isn’t around is where we tend to have problems,” he said.
Riepma plans to put forward a proposal in the near future that the city consider a bylaw that requires absentee landlords to get a license from the city before they can rent out their places.
Currently there is no licensing process in place for landlords in the city.
“It’s the wild west for landlords here,” said Riepma, with a laugh.
“I have spent time talking with other municipalities that have that kind of bylaw in place to find out from them how it’s working and what their bylaw looks like,” he said.
“I have also been working with staff to draft a bylaw and how the implementation would work, because we can’t just pass a bylaw for the whole city and then the next day have everybody applying for a license,” he said.
If a licensing bylaw for landlords were to be put in place, Riepma said the money brought in through licensing fees would pay for enforcement and administration of the program.
“We’d really like to have this bylaw be revenue-neutral,” he said.
Riepma also said it would make it easier for the city to contact absentee landlords in the event an issue or emergency comes up.
“The license would be renewable annually, so in order to get a license you would have to apply to the city, show them your drawings, get an electrical inspection and a fire inspection so we know the unit is safe,” said Riepma. “Some of it is (giving us an opportunity) to talk to these landlords once a year.”
Licensing also can help to assuage the fears of parents sending their kids off to college.
“It’s for the neighbours, the community, the students and I think, in the long-run, for the landlords as well,” he said.
Through Riepma’s research, he said he’s found there’s been nothing but great response when other municipalities have put similar bylaws in place.
“I don’t see it as a punitive thing, I see it as more of an educational opportunity,” he said. “From the city’s perspective, I think it’s good to have a relationship with these landlords.”