A new website, ratethelandlord.org, allows tenants to anonymously rate their landlords. Two Ontario residents spent a year building the site in their spare time. Within a week following the site’s launch, 1,000 reviews had already been uploaded. This platform gives tenants more voice in the midst of a housing crisis.
The housing crisis and lack of accountability to tenants
A combination of factors put tenants at a disadvantage when navigating the rental market. With rental prices rising about 20 percent per year, while wages remain stagnant and inflation makes basic necessities unaffordable, workers continue to be squeezed.
Furthermore, a lack of accountability from authorities allows landlords to get away with unlawful evictions and numerous violations. While there are nominal protections under the law for tenants, in practice landlords routinely violate them. In Ontario, when you call the tenant hotline to report an issue with your landlord, you’ll be told to fill out a T-2 form and then told that it could take nine months to process your complaint.
Comparatively, the interests of landlords are much more privileged. During the pandemic, homeowners were allowed to defer their mortgage payments while tenants had to continue paying rent in full. Despite promises that no one would be evicted during the pandemic, thousands of tenants were subject to an eviction blitz in the middle of winter 2020. The two and a half years that followed have only plunged renters further into crisis.
In these conditions the need for a mechanism to expose bad landlords becomes even more apparent. The creators of the site have remained anonymous for safety reasons, but they shared their intentions in an interview with CTV news. “For every other thing we pay for, we can write a review,” they said.
This new site seeks to level the playing field for tenants. As the founders point out, when a tenant applies for a lease, they have to provide their SIN numbers, pay stubs, credit information, and submit to a full background check. Meanwhile, tenants have no idea whether their new landlord will respect their rights and fulfill their obligations as a landlord or make their tenants’ lives a living hell.
While the founders encourage positive reviews, the site was flooded with horror stories of negligent and disrespectful landlords. These stories were not confined to Canada alone. Shortly after the site’s launch, tenants’ unions in Australia and the United Kingdom reached out and asked to be included. It has also been expanded to cover the U.S.
Legislate landlord licensing
Housing inequality remains a major issue, both in Ontario and on a broader global scale. Ratethelandlord.org provides tenants the opportunity to make their voices heard. Exposing terrible landlords can help tenants fight for real material improvements to their housing.
But ultimately we need to fight for real improvements under the law, such as rental registries. Rent control and a landlord licensing system with strong enforcement and protections against renovictions should be legislated in Ontario.
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