Toronto's new DineSafe-style apartment rating system is already stirring up controversy

A new colour-coded apartment building rating system has been in the works in Toronto for quite some time, but some tenant advocates are now expressing concerns over the proposed evaluation methods. 

About two months ago, city council voted to amend the municipal code governing apartment buildings in order to better protect tenant rights.

Among the changes recommended by Toronto's Planning and Housing Committee was the creation of "a rating system similar to the City's 'Dinesafe' program," which requires landlords to post colour-coded signs displaying their city-determined rating in a prominent and visible location, as well as online.

The RentSafe signage program has been largely praised as a step forward for tenants' rights. But, as the plan gets closer to fruition, some are raising concerns over the fine print. 

City councillor Josh Matlow as well as representatives from tenant support groups such as ACORN and the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) are now criticizing the fact that the draft signage program would be based on annual audits instead of regular work orders.

This means ratings would only change every one to three years.

They argue that regular work orders would provide a more up-to-date reflection on the state of a building and give landlords a chance to actually improve living conditions.

"RentSafe signage has the potential to contribute to Toronto’s renters living in homes that are clean, safe, and healthy," Matlow said in a statement.

"The new colour-coded rating system is an important first step, but must be more flexible to reflect residents’ actual day-to-day experience and hopefully the progress made by landlords to improve the quality of life of their tenants."

Matlow is chair of the Tenant Issues Committee and led the creation of the RentSafe program, which resulted in a majority vote in 2017 for stronger legislation to protect renters — of which the colour-coded signage was a key component.

He says the problem with the proposed plan also lies in the fact that the colour received by a building would be based solely on the results of the City's RentSafe audit of common areas.

If, for example, a tenant reports a pest infestation, it wouldn't be factored in to the building's rating.

Instead of the current proposal, Matlow and tenant advocates "are requesting that the rating system is based on current property standards violations in apartment buildings."

"Tenants have been waiting patiently for this initiative for five years," said Geordie Dent, the Executive Director of FMTA, in a statement.

"This proposal falls way short of what tenants expected and deserved."

The City is currently seeking feedback on the proposal through an online survey which closes on March 1. They're also hosting a drop-in consultation session on February 24 for anyone who wants to learn more about the new rating system and provide feedback.

After responses from the public have been collected, the information will be used to inform a staff report expected at the Planning and Housing Committee's meeting on March 23, which will also be made available to the public.

Lead photo by

Lori Whelan

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