Why are the landlords so opposed to solving a major city student-housing problem?

Posted November 23, 2013

For most residents living in wards five and six, there is the annual pain of enduring as many as a dozen students living in converted lodging houses in single-family areas. These young, temporary residents disregard the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood with parties, loud music and frequent visits by police.

The city officials have to blame themselves to allow this non-conforming situation to creep into residential areas over the years. Indeed city staff has expressed concern about the safety in these multi-occupied homes. Staff cannot force its way into these lodging houses without the authority of the owner to inspect safety devices and standards.

Then there is the concern that there are absentee landlords who are frequently not available when city officials require information.

This is why the Landlord’s Association is fighting the proposed bylaw to license rental housing in the city. The bylaw is still taking shape as city staff investigates all aspects and talks with stakeholders. One of their inquiries has been with other cities where there are universities and determine how they cope with off-campus student housing.

The city staff said that a final version of the bylaw should be ready between April and May next year.

So why are the landlords so worked up about regulations that will make their properties safer and the owners accountable?

This has become an unregulated industry in Guelph in which the landlords will have to be more accountable for the operation of their rental properties. Sure it’s going to cost more and those costs will be passed through to the students. Even in the costliest version of the five proposed bylaw variations, $132 per year, per rented bedroom, amounts to only $11 per month in additional rent.

And if known past practice is evident, two students may share the bedroom and cut the increase to $5.50 per month. That’s about the price of two beers.

So again, why are the landlords opposing the bylaw?

It’s all about control. For a variety of reasons, not the least is income tax reporting by owners, the landlords are functioning in a virtual lawless vacuum that is making them a lot of money.

But in October 2014, they will have to reckon with the residents in wards five and six who are disgusted and fed up with the situation.

There is good reason to believe that elected representatives in the two wards are aware of this. If they do not support the rental bylaw, they will be vulnerable seeking re-election.

 But then, what have they done to ameliorate the problem in the past seven years?




Filed under Between the Lines

15 responses to “Why are the landlords so opposed to solving a major city student-housing problem?

  1. Trevor Wright

    Maybe it would easier for all parties, and less money spent on administration, if the city would just pass a by-law that would fine the landlords instead of the tenants for any issues or problems at the residence. I am pretty sure that one $5000 fine to a landlord for a noise violation would certainly wake them up. No need for licensing. However, the city wouldn’t have to hire five more people to administer this so it probably wouldn’t fly.

    • Heather

      Excellent idea Trevor! I agree, but I think a $5000 fine should go to the students/parents in the house that is causing the trouble.Licensing will do nothing to stop these students from being jerks, if landlord has to pay it. Maybe the students would gain respect for their neighbours if they had to pay, but doubt it. There parents never taught them to respect other people and their property in the first place.And I honestly don’t know how the city is going to find all the illegal rental houses unless neighbours tattle.I have about 20-25 rentals on my street alone, and only have a total of 46 homes.So half are now rentals.Nice place to retire?
      IMO this is just another cash cow for the city. If 8700 house need license at even $200 a year, look at the money they are bringing in to waste on some other stupid idea Farbridge has.

  2. William

    I agree that something needs to be done about absentee landlords, who are typically major violators of most by-laws. Those landlords who live in the same dwellings as tenants typically self-enforce the rules and maintain their property. The problem is once you hand over any information to a government body you’re permanently on the hook. For instance, once you’re paying $11/month to the city of Guelph the city will then get greedy and request more and more and more. Never trust a government with a poor track record.

  3. Jeff

    Funny that you say “Staff cannot force its way into these lodging houses without the authority of the owner to inspect safety devices and standard” and then blame the staff for not forcing its way into these lodging houses. They can’t, which is why they need a by-law. A rental property is a business, and just like every other business, it should be licensed to prevent abuse.

  4. Adam

    It’s interesting how everyone is concerned about: “These young, temporary residents disregard the peace and quiet of the neighbourhood with parties, loud music and frequent visits by police.”

    So, please explain to me exactly how a room tax is going to stop this?

    We already have a police force and bylaw officers that every private residence and landlord alike funds through our taxes. Why not just have them do their jobs and hand out fines to offenders? An annual blitz of this activity each September would put proper behaviour at the top of each student’s mind when they and their fellow students are being held accountable.

    Also, it’s not only students who engage in loud behaviour and have parties. Private residents do this each weekend as well. Should we tax them and hope the noise stops? This entire exercise is such a silly argument and will make no difference.

    Sooner or later students need to be responsible for their own actions.

    • Adam: If the landlords cannot control the behaviour of their tenants, why is the problem thrown at the police and by-law officers? This is just passing the buck. The police have more important jobs to do for the safety of everyone in the community than to break up student tenant parties that disturb neighborhoods.

      And to blame the neighbours who have to put up with this stuff, you cannot be more mistaken.

      This is all about who has the skin in the game. The landlords have invested in setting up student lodging housing in single family zoned areas. It is a very profitable business. The people in two wards of the city are angry and have every right to be.

      The University objected to a large student housing development across the street from its property. One of its arguments was that there would be no control over student’s behaviour off premises. The OMB saw through that argument and ordered the city to allow the project to proceed.

      So, if the University of Guelph is so concerned about student behaviour, why doesn’t it build more on-campus housing on its large tracts of land?

  5. Douglas

    Sooner or later landlords need to be responsible for their selection of tenants and the resultant destruction of residential neighbourhoods.


      Would you not think that the time has arrived to have the City and UofG re-examine the reopening of a liquor licensed establishment on campus?

    • David Birtwistle: Good suggestion. Most post secondary education institutions have licensed premises on campus. Apparently the issues of liability have resulted in U of G students having to seek alcoholic beverages off campus. Regardless the citizens would welcome such a move and it would certainly improve the growth of the downtown area.

  6. N.E.

    It is definitely not the landlords’ fault that some students act the way they do. The fact that anyone is entertaining the idea of charging landlords for tenant behaviour is ridiculous. This attitude is the problem here! These are young students who are often away from home for the first time. What do you expect them to do? Stop demonizing students and stop blaming landlords. Students bring a huge amount of money to this city – nobody complains about that. If you live in a student area you are going to have to deal with students. Police, by-law officers, landlords etc. are not going to stop loud music and drinking. That’s just life…deal with it.

    I do agree with rental property licensing. If licencing was imposed the city would be forced to take a look at their current policies. It is almost impossible to operate a legal student rental in Guelph today. Even the by-law officers know that the regulations are ridiculous. For this reason, most landlords choose to operate within the grey area outside of city regulation. These are generally smart people trying to make sound long term investments. I can guarantee you that they would prefer to operate legitimately and avoid headaches. The fact that the vast majority of landlords operate illegally should tell you that the problem is with the current regulation. If you impose ridiculous rules, nobody will follow them. Trust me, this is the truth!

    The City of Guelph needs to welcome students and the landlords that provide them with housing. They are both huge assets to our city. We need to come to a reasonable solution for student housing instead of imposing punitive regulations on landlords. This is very obvious – it is not a complex problem and it does not require a complex solution.

    • N.E. Normally, I do not reply to unsigned comments. I’ll try to keep this simple. This is not an issue about student behavior. It is about a city administration that has been unable to control the use of multi-occupant homes in single family areas. The city and the University of Guelph opposed the Varsity Abode project at Gordon Street and Stone Road. The OMB denied their opposition. What does that tell you? Just down the road, the City of Waterloo has solved the student lodging problem by promoting and building exclusive student buildings in appropriate areas. Guelph is barely into this and the present administration has been dragging its feet to encourage this kind of development. This has a lot to do with economics, specifically for those that operate these student lodgings in single-family zoned areas. Thed solution is readily available through existing enforcement bylaws. The city turns a blind eye on enforcing these bylaws to restore peace and security to the affected neighbourhoods.

  7. N.E.

    By the way, the U of Guelph does have a liquor licensed establishment on campus. The Brass Taps. I believe it’s been there for over 20 years.

  8. N.E.

    Gerry – In what world are landlords responsible for the actions of their tenants? If my tenant is a drug dealer should I go to jail too? What if my tenant murders someone? Life in prison?

    It is not the landlords responsibility, by any stretch of the imagination, to control the actions of their tenants!

    Gerry. Let me break it to you:

    Number 1 – You live in a student city.

    Number 2 – The students aren’t going anywhere.

    Please read numbers 1 and 2 carefully. Take some time to digest them.

    If you live in a high density student area your home has gone up in value. Sell it, move somewhere quieter and pocket the extra cash. It is that simple. Times change guys, it is very important to adapt.

    I apologize for my rants 🙂

    Sometimes I just can’t help it…

    • N.E. No, the students live temporarily in our city. As such they are obligated to obey the law, be responsible and appreciate that they are privileged to have the good fortune to learn in one of the best Universities in the country. These are mostly mature, young adults most of whom are a credit to the community. To suggest that people living around a student lodging house will see their property values increase is ludicrous.

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