Council has deferred a decision on its Controlled Substance Properties Bylaw.
On Monday, some councillors challenged the bylaw, which would allow city officials to force landlords to renovate rental suites following an eviction under the territory’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods law.
“I’m going to vote against this because I think that we are really overstepping our mandate,” said councillor Florence Roberts.
“I don’t think that we should have a punishment program and I think that other agencies should be taking a larger step here to make it work.”
So council decided to defer the decision for two weeks to give administration more time to address councillors’ concerns.
The bylaw has been in the works for nearly two years now, after six houses in Whitehorse were found to be involved in illegal grow operations in 2005.
Risks from toxic chemicals and mould in these homes can persist even after the home is placed back on the market for resale.
Through the bylaw, RCMP and directors with the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods office could alert bylaw officers about evictions.
Bylaw officers could then conduct tests to make sure that the house is habitable and safe to be put back on the market.
Environmental health services should have some responsibility in the testing of these homes, said Roberts.
“If the message we want to put out is that we don’t want illegal uses of the property in this city, we should really try and educate our landlords more and work alongside other agencies,” she added.
“My biggest problem is that the fees are so extremely punitive for landlords,” said Councillor Doug Graham, who joined Roberts in saying that he would vote no on the bylaw.
Fines levied on landlords could be as high as $5,000.
“It’s not the landlords of 20-unit apartments that I’m worried about,” said Graham.
“I’m talking about a retired person who has purchased a condo and still rents out their house.”
The cost of repairing the home should be borne by the landlord because it’s their property, he added.
“I believe that the city does have a responsibility that the house is brought back up to the appropriate standard.”
Because of these issues, and given that council were unable to study a letter received from the real-estate association that day concerning the issue, councillor Dave Austin moved to defer the vote for two weeks.
“I realize that there are other levels of government that aren’t necessarily doing anything right now,” said Councillor Jan Stick.
“So I do believe that we need something in place along these lines.”
Having not yet heard from a single citizen on the issue, Stick urged people to look at the bylaw on the city’s website, or to contact council by e-mail or phone.
“Frequently we get asked, ‘why don’t you do something?’” said Mayor Bev Buckway.
“Yes, the fines are high, but I think there is a reason why the fines are high.
“It would only take one time to use this bylaw and the landlords would pay attention.”
The city hopes that more vigilant landlords will deter potential drug grow operations and dealers in the future.
“I really believe this a bylaw that can be put to good use in our city,” said Buckway.
“When it comes back in two weeks I will support it.”