Toronto is considering an experiment that would give landlords and apartment buildings restaurant-style grades.
LandlordWatch’s list of Toronto’s 100 worst landlords shows that a minority of them have racked up the most violations in the city. For example, the top five worst landlords have just slightly fewer violations (1,075) than the bottom 50 worst landlords combined (1,188, according to data provided by Rentlogic). These data don’t account for the number of buildings that a landlord operates, which skews the data somewhat. Toronto Community Housing, for example, is the largest social-housing provider in Canada; it has by far the most violations (452 from 2014–2016), but it also operates some 2,100 buildings.The top-heavy list of violations might seem to back up the argument that the city should save its resources and just focus on the few bad apples. Then again, among the board of directors for both the Greater Toronto Apartment Association and the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario are companies that make the LandlordWatch worst 100 list, including CapREIT (#28), Morguard (#41), and Timbercreek (#65 in 2014). So when the GTAA argues that Toronto should focus on bad landlords, it’s unclear whether they are counting their own members. (The GTAA did not respond to a request for comment.)“It shouldn’t matter how big of a landlord you are,” Fox says. “Violations are violations. If we weighted [violations] based on portfolio size, it would basically give some of the biggest landlords a pass.”Potentially even more useful, from a public-service perspective, is the list of investigations by building address. A prospective tenant could use the tool to find out how many investigations a particular property has earned in recent months. The apartment building at 104–105 West Lodge Ave., to pick one from the list, saw a spike of 85 investigations in March—well over the typical monthly figure for this building. (A representative from WynnGroup Residential who answered a call about this building declined to talk about the inspections and hung up the phone.)
Fox says that Rentlogic built out LandlordWatch: Toronto quickly in order to show what building and landlord ratings could do for renters in advance of the public debate over landlord licensing. As-is, given some limitations to the availability of public data on violations and inspections and some additional features that Rentlogic intends to build, it is an incomplete tool. But even in its current form, LandlordWatch showcases how hard this information is for most renters to find, and what a difference it makes to put the data front and center—and why a grade for a landlord and for a building is an idea that serves renters’ interests.