Oshawa looking to create a vacant building registry to force landlords to maintain properties

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Published March 30, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Photo Glenn Hendry

Oshawa is looking to establish a vacant property registry to track vacant buildings and force negligent landlords to clean up their properties or face demolition.

Facilities management staff have been requested to report back to the Safety and Facilities Committee April 24 on the timeline for demolition for non-compliance and the “legislative and legal ramifications” once a set deadline for compliance has passed.

Oshawa does not have registry currently and CAO Tracy Adams said her staff will make the report a “priority” in completing it in time for the next committee meeting.

A preliminary report from staff declared that vacant buildings can “negatively impact the character of a neighbourhood” by becoming dilapidated, hazardous, unsightly, as well as attracting pests and promoting unauthorized entry. “These buildings have the potential to negatively affect the value of surrounding properties, detract from future investments, and become a health and safety hazard.”

Vacant building and land registry or permit by-laws allow municipalities to track vacant buildings and proactively address maintenance issues through scheduled inspections, as well as educate owners on all applicable vacant building standards while reducing risk to emergency services and the public.

During the summer City by-law officers take proactive inspections to identify properties with long grass and weeds; inspections that can identify some vacant properties, but not all, the report noted, adding that Fire Services “generally does not handle files related to vacant buildings.”

Between 2017 and 2022 City staff received 136 complaints that are related to vacant properties or houses, an average of 23 per year. Almost half had violations noted and were either closed with compliance or involved a court process.

The intention of the registry is to charge property owners a registration and annual renewal fee to have their building on the City’s registry and inspected regularly. After a certain amount of time sitting vacant, a building is required to be registered.

Failure to register can result in charges, financial penalties or, eventually, demolition.

Staff looked at other cities who have implemented a registry with varying degrees of compliance, such as Ottawa, Brantford, Hamilton and St. Catharines.

In Hamilton two dedicated ‘Vacant Building Officers’ are assigned to the program, administering four annual inspections on each building. Three-hundred vacant buildings have registered with the City of Hamilton.

Staff offered two options to committee members last week: the status quo or creating and implementing a Vacant Building and Land Registry by-law.

If Council agrees to implement the registry one new by-law officer would have to be hired, with the earliest the registry can be implemented the final quarter of 2023.

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