75 per cent drop in rental building violations following launch of City online database

The City’s searchable database of rental buildings has improved the condition of rental housing available in Vancouver, helping renters make more informed decisions about their housing. In the two years since work on the database began, there has been a 75 per cent drop in rental building violations, from 7,210 violations in 2012 to 1,575 in 2014.

Since it was launched in 2013, the accessible Rental Standards Database has empowered renters and motivated property owners and landlords to provide safer and better housing by keeping properties in good order.

“The City of Vancouver is making big strides in improving safety and ensuring the quality of Vancouver’s rental housing,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “These results are incredibly positive and show a dramatic 75 per cent drop in property violations in licensed rental buildings. It’s our intention that those numbers will continue to drop so that safe and compliant housing is available for all residents.”

In 2013, there were seven rental buildings with over 100 violations. In 2014, there are zero.

The Rental Standards Database includes information about all licensed rental buildings in Vancouver with five or more residential units that have any open property bylaw issues (fire safety, building safety) or maintenance issues that have been addressed and resolved within the past 12 months. Since the program was launched there have been 25,000 visits to the application on the City of Vancouver web-site.

Work started on the database in January 2012, following a Council motion. During the next 12 months, city staff worked across several departments – licenses and inspections, housing, legal, fire, and web teams – to compile all building safety data and identify the worst buildings. Staff contacted hundreds of rental property owners by mail and in person, notifying them of their building violations and that they would appear on the database when it went live. The Rental Standards Database went online in February 2013.

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 rental units. There are about 300 buildings in the Rental Standards Database that have open violations or current issues.

Through coordinated partnerships including the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Task Force and the work of the City of Vancouver’s Integrated Enforcement Team for Troubled Buildings (a partnership of Property Use and Building Inspectors, VPD, Fire Services and Housing staff) the City is now seeing bylaw compliance for standards of maintenance issues improve considerably, for features such as fully functioning washrooms, locks on unit doors, and compliant fire safety standards. Thankfully, these basic necessities are provided by landlords to the vast majority of renters in Vancouver, but there remain some who don’t provide what the rest of us take for granted.

The City’s achievements are reflected in the significant reductions in landlords and owners who had violations for not providing these standard living and safety features from when the program was first introduced. In only two years, there has been a decrease from 7,210 violations in January 2012 to just 1,575 in January 2014.

“Our Rental Standards Database is a valuable resource for Vancouver renters and motivates property owners to make necessary upgrades and repairs to their buildings,” added Mayor Robertson. “We want to continue to encourage landlords to keep their properties in good condition. Well-maintained properties promote higher standards for the future and protect existing rental housing stocks in Vancouver.”

The overwhelming majority of landlords in Vancouver take their responsibility to their tenants seriously, and many of the properties included in the database are for minor infractions. Given heightened public scrutiny for safe housing and clear accountabilities for landlords, property owners realize that it is in both the owners and tenants best interest to improve their buildings.

In January 2012, Vancouver City Council passed a motion to establish this online, searchable database of rental buildings and their history. The initiative helps fulfill Council’s commitment, as outlined in Vancouver's Housing and Homelessness Strategy, 2012-2021, to provide strong leadership and support to partners to enhance housing stability, including support to renters.

To learn more about the Rental Standards Database: Vancouver.ca/SafeRental