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Eye on derelict properties

Eye on derelict properties
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha addresses city council during Monday’s meeting at City Hall. Botha wants to see the city take more aggressive action against absentee landlords. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert is looking at updating the bylaws surround rental properties, with the possibility of creating a licensing agreement.

On Monday, Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha brought forward a motion asking the city to “establish a Rental Property Licensing Program to ensure maintenance and minimum health and safety standards, along with property maintenance standards by individual rental units.”

Evert said derelict and poorly kept properties are a major problem in Prince Albert, and it’s time the city took action.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have good, responsible landlords in Prince Albert, but we also have a number of absentee landlords and, dare I say, slumlords, who really don’t care much for the upkeep of their rental units as we are not holding them accountable,” he said during Monday’s meeting.

Currently, any residents found in violation of the city’s Property Maintenance Bylaw, which covers everything from walls and ceilings to electrical and plumbing facilities, face fines of up to $10,000 for individuals, or $25,000 for corporations.

The city can also fine landlords up to $2,500 per day for continuing offences. Unpaid fines can result in up to a year in prison.

However, Botha said the current laws and penalties aren’t doing enough to dissuade landlords from neglecting their duties.

“Our police and bylaw are called to deal with the same properties on a continual basis, and at great cost to the City of Prince Albert,” he said. “I do feel that an aggressive, progressive, fining process plan should be explored as part of this initiative.”

Botha added that improving the city’s rental market would help with overall quality of life in Prince Albert, while also cutting down on the cost of policing, and potentially creating new job opportunities.

The motion received support from most city councillors, although there were concerns from Mayor Greg Dionne about local landlords whose properties are being destroyed by careless tenants.

“I know some landlords who will get out of the market,” Dionne said. “They’re already thinking about it because of the damage they get.”

Botha acknowledged that landlords do face difficulties of their own, but said the city’s planning department should determine where it would be best to begin tackling the problem.

This isn’t the first time the City of Prince Albert has tried clamping down on derelict or unsightly buildings in the community. In 2015, the city made changes to the property bylaw to make it easier for bylaw officers to deal with vacant and boarded up buildings.

The city’s planning department is currently working on an updated proposal, which should come before city councillors sometime in June.

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca