Council agenda July 16, 2013 – The property standards by-law (Craig Gammie Commentary 3-22)

I found only one item of concern in the July 16 agenda, but the concern is huge.

On the agenda as item 10.1 for first, second, and third reading is a property standards by-law.

There may be some property standards problems in TSBP. Corrective action may be required. A property standards by-law may be the proper measure. But not the one drafted and in the agenda.

The by-law requires that all properties in TSBP meet much of the current building code, regardless of whether the current code was in effect when a place was built. The building code doesn’t even require old buildings to be upgraded to meet the current code. The by-law is overly-prescriptive.

And while some provisions in the draft by-law seem sensible, many of the provisions are simply ridiculous.

Here are some of the sillier provisions in the draft by-law, just from a cursory reading.

3.4.3 All windows capable of being opened and all exterior doors shall have
hardware so as to be capable of being locked or otherwise secured from inside
the building.

3.8.3 Every roof drain shall discharge onto the ground at least 1 metre (39 inches) from the building or structure, when it is physically possible to do so, providing that it does not adversely affect adjacent properties, or cause erosion.

4.3.2 Where a floor covering has become worn ….. so that it retains dirt …….., the floor covering shall be repaired or replaced.

4.3.4 Every cellar and basement shall have a floor of concrete or other material
acceptable under the provisions of the Building Code, to ensure water drainage
and to guard against the entry of vermin.

4.7.1 Every residential dwelling shall have heating equipment capable of maintaining a temperature of 22°Celsius (72°Fahrenheit) from September 1st to June 15th as per Section 9.33 3.1 of the Ontario Building Code.

4.14.1 Every plumbing fixture in every building shall discharge the water, liquids or sewage into drainage piping, which shall be connected to a municipal sewage
system, or a system approved by the authority having jurisdiction and in
accordance with all applicable law.

5.1.6 The minimum area of a bedroom in a dwelling unit used as a bedroom by two or more persons shall be 4.6 square meters (50 square feet) for each person for multi occupancy.

7.1.1 Vacant land shall be graded, filled or otherwise drained so as to prevent
recurrent ponding of water.

There may be a need for a property standards by-law. But not this ridiculous intrusion into people’s past private decisions. My guess is that many or even most properties in TSBP would fail to meet the proposed standard. Many or most dwellings built as cottages many years ago will fail, not because they are a problem or because they are unsafe, but just because they are cottages.

Some of these standards may be valid for new construction, but there must be some grandfathering of places built in a different time, and approved at that time.

And new construction standards should be enforced through the building code, not a property standards by-law.

The bylaw needs to be sent back to staff for major repair. Actually the situation should be sent back.

The whole exercise should start with a problem definition.

What problem exists or what potential problem could arise such that we are in need of a corrective or preventive measure?

And then go through finding the best solution.

What are the alternative means of addressing the problems and potential problems (including a property standards by-law as one alternative)?

What is the best means?

And if the means chosen is a by-law, the next question is what is a proper by-law.

I would also like to know, from council, whether a lawyer from Millar Thompson was involved in this debacle. Miller Thompson lawyers should not be involved. They are way overpriced to start with. And they cater to their self-interests and the interests of a few of their contacts rather than the interests of the residents. They will always draft by-laws that will give them more work.

People should be aware of the penalties for contravention of the by-law.

The penalties are in section 8.4:

8.4 Non-Compliance
8.4.1 The owner of any property which does not conform to the standards as set out in this by-law shall repair and/or maintain said property to comply with the
standards or the property shall be cleared of all buildings, structures, waste or
refuse and left in a leveled and graded condition.
8.4.2 Where any person fails to comply with an order issued, the municipality may cause the required work to be done at the cost of the person. The cost of such work may be recovered by i n v o i c e , action or by adding the costs to the tax roll and collecting the said costs in the same manner as property taxes.

So if your kids’ bedroom in the old 1950 built cottage is only 98 square feet and you cannot afford to pay for the renovation you could literally lose your home.

Or if your heating equipment can’t maintain 22 degrees on that cold January day you could lose your home (and then really be out in the cold).

How is this by-law in the public interest?

I know that the by-law started with good intentions, but it has gone out-of-control. It needs to be fixed.

Craig Gammie

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1 Response to Council agenda July 16, 2013 – The property standards by-law (Craig Gammie Commentary 3-22)

  1. Zibis says:

    Whoa – what a piece of work! It looks to me like the reason this is being drafted is to ensure that only 4 season occupied residences have even a chance of passing the requirements in the by-law. Certainly no seasonal cottages will. I wonder if this is a way to get rid of us seasonal cottage owners? Sure looks like it.

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