Landlords better brace themselves for noise and liquor law fines if more Canadian municipalities decide to pass nuisance bylaws.
Earlier this month, the town council for Wolfville, Nova Scotia, proposed a nuisance bylaw that would see landlords face fines if their tenants routinely ignored noise and liquor laws. The rationale is to keep Acadia University’s off-campus students in check.
“It just comes to a point where somebody has to take charge of a situation if you see it deteriorating or eroding,” said Wolfville mayor, Jeff Cantwell, in a CBC interview after the town’s permanent residence went through a particularly raucous homecoming celebration in October.
But the solution to bad behaviour has upset landlords in Wolfville—and could upset landlords across Canada if the bylaw is adopted in other municipalities.
According to Cantwell, the real problem is with absentee landlords—landlords that own and rent property in Wolfville, but don’t live in the north-eastern Nova Scotian town. Cantwell believes that these absentee landlords aren’t aware of the bad behaviour and a fine would make them pay attention.
It’s the idea that absentee landlords could be financially penalized for their tenants actions that has caused a bit of panic among real estate investors across Canada.
One Toronto investor—who owns property in Hamilton—is concerned that an absentee landlord bylaw could be passed in Hamilton, given the number of rental units in the Southern-Ontario city. “Investing in student housing is about reward and risk,” said the investor, who didn’t want to be named. “The reward is that there is always a steady supply of tenants, the risk is that you’ll pick irresponsible or negligent ones.”
Under present bylaws, police in Hamilton issue a $280 fine for noise to student-tenants. If the same residence receives multiple complaints, the police will issue a notification letter to the landlord. However, under the proposed Wolfville-bylaw the police could bypass the multiple visits and simply issue the fine to the landlord.
Current landlords are already on the hook for quite a lot, says the Toronto-based landlord. “I already use a fairly strict lease that even includes a clause that prevents the tenant from putting the onus of their bad behaviour on me.”
At present there are no bylaws in Canada that would allow police to issue tickets to landlords for tenant behaviour.