Vancouver to Publish List of Worst Landlords

New York City officials made news this year when they started posting a “Worst Landlords” list on the popular online classified Craigslist.

In a statement released last week, the official responsible for NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List, Public Advocate de Blasio,  indicated that his “innovative website will soon be adopted as a model by the City of Vancouver, British Columbia to hold landlords there more accountable.”

In fact, Vancouver officials campaigning last October promised they would bring a Landlord Watch List to Vancouver. Vision Vancouver candidates, including Mayor Robertson and Councillor Tim Stevenson, agree that creating an online, searchable database of Vancouver landlords similar to NYC’s list will “empower renters and give them a tool to see the history of their buildings and identify problem properties.”

Stevenson says the database means property owners will no longer be able to ignore their buildings in “isolation and anonymity.”

“Fifty two per cent of our citizens are renters, and Vancouver tenants deserve an easy way to know the history of the building they live in, and if their landlord is responsible,” Stevenson said.

New York City’s Watch List has met with some opposition from landlords, who are not so quick to declare the plan a success. Landlords there are concerned about the verification process, and whether properties listed are, in fact, in violation. There were also complaints about privacy, and the lack of due process that comes from punishing landlords by publishing the information on the Internet before they’ve had the time to oppose, or fix the infractions.

This year, de Blasio made a couple of changes to his Watch List. For instance, the website now tracks whether a landlord is making repairs or racking up new violations. This is being done by using a tiny, diamond-shaped icon which mimics a “men working” or road construction sign next to the landlords’ information. The site will also continue to list buildings that qualify for removal from the Watch List by making repairs.

According to de Blasio, the website has improved living conditions for thousands of New Yorkers. Yet landlords there say the initiative oversimplifies the underlying causes of poor building conditions–rent stabilization and rent control rules which make is impossible for them to raise enough capital to perform the necessary updates on rental properties, many of which are in older buildings.

Landlords in NYC complain that their hands are tied when it comes to making repairs. Because they have tenants who are paying only a tiny percentage of the current market value rent, they simply can’t afford the repairs, not to mention the modern upgrades that some tenants demand.

Rent stabilization and control programs have remained controversial in New York City. While the rent growth rules are praised for keeping housing affordable, this has not come without consequences. In fact, these limitations have shaped the strategies that many rental property owners employ today.

For instance, owners looking for ways to avoid the harsh financial reality of rents frozen in time often will place updates to the buildings on perpetual hold, keeping repair and maintenance bills as low as possible, while waiting for the investment to mature so they can sell. Others keep bills low while gathering capital to make major improvements which may qualify the properties for future rent increases.

While some landlords have responded to the Watch List by making repairs, others remain in this holding pattern, challenging the market to decide whether tenants will remain in the properties.  While the program has the power to improve liveability, it could diminish, rather than create new housing stock. The Watch List program rests on the assumption that tenants will forgo renting in properties on the list, giving landlords incentive to change. But with affordable rental stock low, this begs the question: will tenants avoid properties on the Watch List, or are they stuck renting from current inventories anyway.

According to de Blasio, more than 250,000 visitors have used the Watch List since its launch.

New York City’s Watch List is one part of an overall housing strategy, which included eight companion provisions,  like free legal help for tenants, a prohibition on renting City office space from landlords on the Watch List, publishing the Worst Landlords on Craigslist, streamlining the process for making repairs, extension and expansion of rent regulations, and sending advocates into “troubled buildings” to help form new tenant associations.

Like New York’s program, Vancouver’s Vision leaders are looking at a multi-faceted approach to regulating rental housing, including the possible creation of a rent bank, seeking ways to increase the stock of affordable rentals, and a task force on renters’ rights.

In addition, Vision leaders favour the continued use of legal injunctions on landlords with single-room occupancy hotels, forcing them to maintain their buildings and prevent evictions.

According to Vision Vancouver, there are over 67,000 rental units in the City of Vancouver, with 55,000 of these units more than 40 years old. Over 14,000 renter households in Vancouver spend more than 50% of their income on rent.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

DONALD BADGER and IRENE VENTRESS January 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

WE NEED A LIST OF BAD RENTERS AND BELIVE ME THERE ARE 1000′S OF THEM. PRIVACY ACT FOR LANDLORDS DOES NOT WORK SO IT SHOULD NOT WORK FOR RENTERS .

Vivian January 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

I think the list is very useful. Encourage and support tenants to take ownership of their community.
It’s a tool for assuring living conditions! and increasing communication.
A tenancy-group, online membership would create the intended tenant community that can make this program particularly useful.
We always hope that a balanced communication can exist between landlord and tenant.

Vivian January 3, 2012 at 11:49 am

There is a method for tenant check:

A landlord has the right to conduct a background check into finances etc. that is a good tool for assrting a good tenant.

Crime=Free Multi-Housing is a program started in Chicago, and practiced across North America. This is a controlled group that operates training of landlords, encourages CPTED, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, offers training to recognize signs of a Grow Op, and is organized to share information on bad tenants through regular gatherings of a group of landlords and building managers. Crime Free Multi Housing is good for tenants and for landlords. It is the only proven method to reduce crime in rental buildings. This assures accountability.
A landlord needs to check his property regularly, a landlord needs to assure against health dangers in his unit!

Jeff January 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I like Vivian’s comments…’ Encourage and support tenants to take ownership of their community.’ They own it alright, just ask them.

I always make it clear, ‘yes, it’s your home for the next 30 days then if you don’t have the rent on the first, well it ain’t gonna be your home for much longer’, simple.

‘…create the intended tenant community…’ here in BC, there are all sorts of these tenant ‘communities’ that are all too willing to be there for their commrades in a supposed time of need.

‘…A landlord needs to assure against health dangers in his unit!’ … why is she assuming a landlord is a man, isn’t that called ‘discimination’ and what about the tenant’s responsiblity for keeping the unit sanitary, in the first place? Why is that tenant’s and their commrades always think they can excuse themselves of any responsibility? Just makes me sick!

Kenny January 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Will Vancouver maintain a list of bad tenants (list their infractions/decisions against them by the Residential Tenancy Office) to protect those poor Landlords victimized by bad tenants who move from one rental property to another looking for vulnerable Landlords?

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