A maintenance bylaw to help ensure that renters will be able to reside in properties that are held to a safe standard could be coming to Williams Lake if staff get their way.
Building Inspector, Gary Deane and Director of Municipal Services, Gary Muraca told Council at Tuesday’s committee of whole meeting of circumstances where renters have made complaints to the City regarding the living conditions of the properties they are renting including a tenant who after turning on their oven to 400°F had to leave it open to stay warm.
“With the shortage of rentals in the City, over the last couple of years we’ve noticed the frequency of these complaints are certainly increasing,” Deane said. “Because people are making money by stuffing people into their basements, and in one case into their crawl space, and they’re calling these rental units, so it’s one of these things here we’re going to be a little proactive.”
Bylaw officer Brendan Foote said the City’s good neighbor bylaw deals with property issues excluding those directly pertaining to a dwelling unit, and that the proposed maintenance bylaw would start to cover off the dwelling unit.
The maintenance bylaw Deane and Muraca said would be administered by the building and bylaw departments and complaint-driven or staff initiated, and not to create hardship for property owners.
“We want to make sure that the inventory rentals in Williams Lake stay to a standard therefore as time goes on there’s no premature demolition of these buildings,” Muraca said.
Mayor Walt Cobb asked if the proposed bylaw would provide landlords any protection as in the last year he has been made aware of numerous situations where the tenants have ‘thrashed’ the places and landlords cannot get rid of them.
“This model bylaw dovetails into the rental tenancy act. So one of the things it will do is it will encourage landlords to enter into proper contracts-the rental tenancy contract. So it will give the landlord some protection that would be recognized as having these rentals,” Deane said. “We feel for some of the landlords but to be honest with you it’s not just the tenants who have given us complaints. We’re getting complaints from social services that visit some of these places and their neighbors about the conditions that they’re finding. The RCMP occasionally are going into some of these places and some of these police members are very, very concerned about what they’re seeing.”
A model bylaw for municipalities related to building maintenance was established by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as a result of amendments to the Municipal Act in the 1990s. Muraca said the model bylaw will serve as a starting point for use in drafting a bylaw suited to local conditions and community needs.
Councillor and landlord Scott Nelson said he would like to see the proposed bylaw go one step further and include landlords and Airbnb properties.
Deane said this is the third time he brought the proposed maintenance bylaw forward under the direction of previous chief administrative officers. He said it never got to Council until now.
“This is something that we seriously believe in,” Deane said. “Staff time in this will not be drastically impacted. We can do it I think pretty well with the staff that we have in place right now. There will be some initial time extra in preparing the bylaw because the model bylaw by the province gives us a foundation to deal with.”
A minimum rental standards bylaw to help tenants who live in unsafe or unhealthy rental accommodations was adopted by Quesnel City Council last year.
(Note: this article has been updated after incorrectly identifying Muraca as the Director of Development Services.)