Residential Rental Licensing Pilot Study

Logo showing a house within a shield with a heart in the house and above the smokestackOn April 25, 2022, Windsor City Council received and approved a framework for regulating residential rental dwelling units in Windsor by requiring owners of rental properties with four or fewer units to secure a licence for each unit. The goal of licensing residential rental units is to:

  • Bring more properties into compliance with applicable laws and safety regulations, such as the Ontario Building Code, the Fire Code and the City's Property Standards By-law 9-2019;
  • Support and improve existing by-law and property standards enforcement mechanisms; and,
  • Improve, understand and preserve Windsor's existing rental housing stock.

The feasibility of this approach will be studied through a two-year pilot in Wards 1 and 2. Once the pilot study is completed, City staff will deliver the pilot study's findings at a future meeting of Windsor City Council. At the end of the pilot study, Council will decide either to require residential rental housing to be licensed in all wards or to discontinue the program.

Key definitions

  • Owner: the registered owner of the property as well as anyone who permits the unit to be occupied.
  • Authorized Agent: a person, authorized in writing by an owner, who can act on their behalf for the purposes of securing or maintaining a licence.
  • Dwelling Unit: a room or suite of rooms in a building that are used, or designed to be used, by one or more individuals as an independent and separate housekeeping unit.
  • Rental Housing Unit: a dwelling unit that is occupied or offered for occupancy in exchange for rent or services in lieu of rent.
  • Operator: any person who operates, maintains, or is otherwise responsible for managing or addressing issues with a rental housing unit but who is not an owner.

Who will be required to get a licence?

The owner of a residential rental unit will need to secure a licence for any units they operate as rental housing units. Owners can apply for a licence themselves or through an authorized agent with written permission to do so on their behalf.

Where in the city is a licence required? Why is a licence only required in certain areas?

Owners of subject properties in Wards 1 and 2 will be required to secure a licence. The pilot study area was determined by Council at its March 8, 2021 meeting in order to evaluate the feasibility of citywide licence. A larger version of this map can be viewed by clicking on the image below:
A map of Windsor with Wards 1 and 2 highlighted.

When will the licensing program come into effect?

Work is currently underway to set up systems, hire staff, and document the processes necessary to deliver the program as approved by Council. This work is anticipated to finish in winter 2022. City staff will return to Council with the final by-law for ratification once this work is completed.

What  is required to get a licence?

Applying for a licence
Owners will need to apply for a licence for each dwelling unit they operate as a rental. To apply, owners will need to provide the following:
  • The name and contact information of each owner, including partnership members or corporate owners
  • Proof of liability insurance of at least $2,000,000 that confirms the property's use as a rental
  • Proof of property ownership
  • A completed police record check for each owner
  • The name and contact information for a local contact if no owners reside in Windsor
  • A list of all operators responsible for the property
  • A completed Property Standards and Safety Checklist
  • Documentation confirming the unit complies with the Electrical Safety Code
Required inspections

Once a complete application is received, City staff will confirm the unit conforms with the City’s Zoning By-law and arrange for inspections of the unit by personnel from Windsor Fire and Rescue Services and the City's Building Division. Any defects identified during these inspections will need to be addressed before a licence is issued.

Licensing fees
The fee for a new licence is $466 with an annual renewal fee of $275. Licensing fees are calculated based on the principle of "full cost recovery" so they cover all costs associated with executing the licensing program. The fee includes administrative costs as well as the costs of the initial inspections performed by staff in Fire and Building for the purposes of issuing the licence. All non-compliant matters, including repeat offences, will be subject to the additional fees as currently prescribed under the City’s User Fee By-law.

How was the licensing framework created?

Beginning in July 2021, City staff undertook extensive research, consulted with internal departments, surveyed other Ontario municipalities, and spoke with representatives from local organizations to develop an initial proposed regulatory framework. Staff presented that framework to the City’s Housing and Homelessness Advisory Committee (HHAC) on September 21, 2021, as well as the Town and Gown Advisory Committee on September 29, 2021. Following these meetings, administration sought further feedback through a public survey available from October 19 to November 9, 2021.

Based on these consultations, City staff revised the initial proposed framework with consideration of stakeholders’ concerns. Administration delivered the revised framework, along with the public survey and its results, to Windsor City Council in Report C 54/2022.

Who is exempt from the licence? Why are these exemptions in place?

All residential rental dwellings in buildings with four or fewer units will be required to secure a licence except for properties meeting one or more of the conditions below:
​Condition ​Reasoning
​A property containing five or more dwelling units ​Under the Ontario Building Code (OBC), buildings larger than 600 square metres and four storeys have more stringent requirements for construction, design, and life safety systems. The minimum unit sizes prescribed in the OBC make it very unlikely that a building with five or more units will be smaller than 600 square metres and/or four storeys tall.
​Occupied by the owner or their immediate family Section 5 of the Residential Tenancies Act exempts living accommodations occupied by an owner or their immediate family (spouse, child, parent, or spouse's child or parent). Dwelling units occupied by the owner or their immediate family were excluded from the Residential Rental Licence By-law to maintain the same parameters as the provincial Act governing residential tenancies.
​A licensed Bed-and-Breakfast, Guest House Establishment, or Lodging Home ​These businesses are already licenced under the City's Licensing By-law. To secure a licence, these properties are already required to submit supporting documentation and undergo regular inspections.
​Already subject to specific provincial Acts These residential properties, such as long-term care homes, are already regulated by the Province.
Social or affordable housing subject to an agreement with the City of Windsor​ ​These properties must meet certain requirements in order to participate in affordable housing programs.

Why is there no exemption for recently constructed units?

New buildings are inspected by building inspectors before being occupied, but this only confirms that work has been completed appropriately up until that point. Interior alterations, such as adding bedrooms to a basement that were not included on the original plans, could be undertaken after the final inspection without the City's knowledge. Because of this, inspections are required for all units applying for a residential rental licence at the time of application in order to confirm the current condition and layout meets the standards prescribed in the Building and Fire Codes.

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