City launches Rental Standards Database to assist renters
February 6 2013
"We’re putting this information out there in an easily accessible way, empowering renters to make more informed decisions on where to live." — Mayor Gregor Robertson
The City of Vancouver today launched a new online searchable database of rental buildings to assist renters to make more informed decisions about their housing.
“The City’s new Rental Standards Database is our latest step to help Vancouver renters and motivate property owners and landlords to keep their properties in good condition,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The overwhelming majority of landlords in Vancouver are responsible and treat their tenants with respect, and many of the properties included in the database are for minor infractions.
"We’re putting this information out there in an easily accessible way, empowering renters to make more informed decisions on where to live.”
The Rental Standards Database includes information about all licensed rental buildings in Vancouver with five or more residential units that have any open bylaw issues, or issues that have been addressed and resolved within the past 12 months.
The types of buildings included in the Rental Standards Database are single-room occupancy hotels, private rental housing, social housing and supportive housing units. These make up approximately 2,500 buildings, or 70,000 of Vancouver’s 131,000 rental units. There are 300 buildings in the Rental Standards Database that have open violations or current issues.
The City’s Rental Standards Database was inspired by a similar program in New York City, which provides information online about building violations and landlords. The City of Vancouver worked with the staff in the Office of Bill de Blasio, New York City’s Public Advocate, to help develop Vancouver’s Rental Standards Database.
“Too often, the deck is stacked against renters--but information can level the playing field," said NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. "The City of Vancouver is making big strides to hold landlords accountable. This database will make a real difference for families trying to find safe, decent housing."
In January 2012, Vancouver City Council passed a motion to establish an online searchable database of rental buildings and their history. This initiative helps fulfill Council’s commitment, as outlined in the Affordable Housing and Homelessness Strategy (2012), to provide strong leadership and support to partners to enhance housing stability, including support to renters.
Through coordinated partnerships and initiatives, including the SRO Task Force, City of Vancouver Integrated Enforcement and the Coordinated Working Group for Troubled Buildings, the City is now seeing bylaw compliance for standards of maintenance issues completed in approximately half the time — down from approximately 250 days in 2009 to 125 days in 2011.
“Making sure that existing rental housing is safe for renters is a key priority in our Affordable Housing and Homelessness Strategy,” added Mayor Robertson. “Property owners must make necessary repairs to their buildings, and tenants need tools to be assured that those responsibilities are being met. Making this information open and accessible online will help promote higher standards for rental housing and better protect Vancouver’s existing rental housing stock.”
To learn more, go to Vancouver.ca/SafeRental.
The Rental Standards Database includes information about all licensed rental buildings in Vancouver with five or more residential units that have any open bylaw issues, or issues that have been addressed and resolved within the past 12 months. Approximately 70,000 of Vancouver’s 131,000 rental units are included in the scope of the Rental Standards Database.
There are currently 300 rental buildings listed on the Rental Standards Database.
Rental properties in the database include:
- Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels
- Private rental housing
- Social housing
- Supportive housing units
Both privately and publicly-owned units are included.
Information included in the database
The database includes the property address, the landlord or property owner’s name, and any unresolved issues. Issues that have been resolved within the past 12 months will also be listed.
The database lists issues related to:
- Standards of maintenance Fire safety
- Building safety
- Electrical, plumbing, gas, and sewer
- Tree protection
- Untidy premises
- Zoning use and regulations
The Rental Standards Database can be searched by buildings with open violations, or by address. A Google map is provided to allow people to search by neighbourhood.
The five buildings in the Rental Standards Database with the most issues as of January 31, 2013, are all SROs, namely 561 E Hastings (256), the Wonder Hotel (172), Marble Arch (141), Empress Hotel & Pub (129), and Palace Hotel (123).
Working with landlords and owners
Landlords and owners were given several months’ notice to clear up any outstanding issues and schedule a re-inspection prior to the database being launched in January 2013.
The City mailed notices to buildings with open and closed violations in late August 2012, as well as a follow-up notification as part of a business license renewal mail-out.
The City also held a workshop in September 2012 with not-for-profit providers and tenant associations to provide the opportunity to ask questions and get clarity on the database.
Updating the Database
The Rental Standards Database refreshes daily although it can take from two to six weeks for the issue to appear on the database, depending on when the City official has been able to gain access to the building and determine that there is a bylaw violation.
Property owners should notify the City of Vancouver and/or the Vancouver Fire Department of work that has been done to address any open issues or work orders. The City may send an inspector to confirm the issue has been dealt with. Once an inspector confirms the violation has been addressed, it can take a few days for the database to be updated.
Buildings with unresolved issues – as at January 2013
Through coordinated efforts and partnerships, the City has undertaken a number of initiatives to support improved compliance with and resolution of by law violations.
The initiatives include the SRO Task Force, Healthy City Strategy (e.g., hoarding task force), Tenant Assistance (Carnegie Outreach and Tenant Assistance Program), City of Vancouver Integrated Enforcement and the Coordinated Working Group for Troubled Buildings.
How many inspections does fire and building staff do each year?
- Fire: 20,000 inspections a year
- Building safety: 90,000 inspections a year
Through these programs and activities, we are now seeing bylaw compliance in approximately half the time — down from approximately 250 days in 2009 to 125 days in 2011.
How many injunctions has the City sought since it started using them in 2009?
- There are four buildings that the City is in the process of seeking injunctions.
- The City has sought injunctions from Council to move forward with approximately 21 cases. City staff are working with the property owners, and in some situations legal process, to resolve these matters.