An online database of Vancouver rental properties with bylaw violations is set to go live early next year.
Prompted by a motion approved by city council last January, the initiative is intended to provide renters with more information about properties around the city, according to Vancouver’s director of licences and inspections, Will Johnston.
“There’s two objectives to this: one is to motivate property owners and landlords to keep their properties in good order for renters, and also assist renters by giving them more information so they can make more informed decisions about rental properties in the city,” Johnston told the Straight by phone.
Tenants will be able to search the database by address or by buildings with outstanding bylaw violations. Information that will be listed online will include the property address, the landlord or property owner’s name, and any unresolved violations. Violations that have been resolved within the last 12 months will also be listed.
Johnston noted Vancouver’s database was influenced by models used in both Toronto and New York City.
“Toronto’s focus is providing the public with information on bylaw violations for all rental properties, whereas with New York City their focus seems to be basically identifying landlords who have problem buildings. And we’ve done a combination of both,” he explained.
The database will include about 70,000 of Vancouver’s 131,000 rental units, Johnston noted. That includes licensed residential rental buildings with five or more units, single-room occupancy hotels, purpose-built rental housing, non-marking housing, and supportive housing units. Both privately and publicly-owned units will be incorporated.
The initial phase of the database will not include housing types such as residential rental buildings with fewer than five units, single-family and laneway housing, secondary suites, co-ops, and duplexes.
Johnston said the city did a mail-out to property owners with outstanding violations to inform them of the database, and held a workshop with landlords, owners, not-for-profit providers, and tenant associations.
“What we wanted to do was make sure they were aware of what we were doing, let them know that their building would be identified, and I think more importantly, give them an opportunity to clean up any outstanding violations that they have and schedule re-inspections before the database goes live,” he said.
The city has seen the number of outstanding violations decrease since informing property owners of the launch. As of August 30, the total number of outstanding bylaw violations listed was about 4,300, and 373 buildings were included. As of October 25, the number of buildings listed with outstanding violations was 232, according to Johnston.
Bylaw violations related to standards of maintenance, fire, building, electrical, plumbing, gas, sewer, sign, tree protection, untidy premises, zoning, and development will be included in the database, while violation types such as graffiti and noise will not be included.
Johnston noted the database will measure the number of violations, but will not indicate the severity of the infractions.
The database will go live on January 15, 2013 and will be accessible through the City of Vancouver’s website.