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Problematic properties: What are they and what can you do about them?

An example of a problematic property, as seen on the City of Ottawa's problematic properties page. (City of Ottawa/Ottawa.ca) An example of a problematic property, as seen on the City of Ottawa's problematic properties page. (City of Ottawa/Ottawa.ca)
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The City of Ottawa has a launched a new webpage to give residents advice on how to recognize and report problematic properties in their neighbourhoods.

The page on Ottawa.ca does not contain a listing of all problem properties in the city, but rather explains what they are and what they are not.

"A problem property is a specific occupied or unoccupied address which is the location of ongoing nuisances and disturbances to neighbours and has a history of complaints related to crime and disorder, which affect ongoing community wellbeing," the City says. "These properties often pose health, safety or fire risks and concerns to the surrounding community."

They are not simply homes that are considered ugly or that have some occasional issues. The properties the City is focused on are ones that are frequently causing actual safety, health or crime problems.

Problem properties include:

  • History of repeated violations and/or deliberate non-compliance by property owners or tenants including neglect, disrepair, or safety concerns
  • Properties posing an immediate health or fire risk
  • Unsecured vacant or abandoned properties
  • Known ongoing criminal activities taking place at the property
  • Properties requiring a coordinated response from several agencies (By-law and Regulatory Services, Ottawa Fire Services, Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Police Services, Building Code Services, Community and Social Services, Solid Waste Services)

Problem properties do not include:

  • Properties with simple nuisances and occasional or “one-off” by-law violations (for example, long grass, garbage out too early, etc.)
  • Properties which may have had a violation but complied once made aware of the violation
  • Properties in good condition but may be considered “unattractive”
  • Properties that are in compliance with all City by-laws but are simply vacant

Ottawa Bylaw says the website is meant for information purposes to help direct residents on how to report problematic properties to the city, so they can be monitored and dealt with accordingly.

The site came about after Rideau-Vanier Ward Coun. Stéphanie Plante moved a motion at an Emergency Preparedness and Protective Services Committee meeting in March, asking City staff to look at creating a page that can help residents deal with problem homes in their neighbourhoods.

"We have bylaw and we have property standards, but there's no coordinate response at the city and that's what I'm hoping to get off the ground," Plante told Newstalk 580 CFRA earlier this year.

Representatives from several community associations spoke in favour of the motion.

"This proposed website would be just the first step in helping neighbours figure out where to start in identifying problem properties to the city and which departments can help because many residents don't know," said Cheryl Parrott, of the Hintonburg Community Association.

The page is now live and includes links for online reporting of accumulation of junk or debris around a property, the uncontrolled growth of grass, a derelict vehicle, or an issue with a building's exterior. You can also call 3-1-1 to report problem properties. If you're witnessing a crime or are aware of criminal activity at a property, there are contact numbers and links for online reporting to police.

Further, the page offers advice for other types of issues that might not necessarily rise to the level of a problem property, including how to deal with rats, graffiti, noise, discarded needles, and encampments on public property.

Finally, it also has information about contacting the Landlord and Tenant Board and links to resources and supports for both tenants and landlords.

In a memo to city councillors on Friday, Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services (BLRS) Director Roger Chapman said the department would work closely with municipal partners to deal with identified problematic properties.

"The website will be updated on an as need basis. BLRS will also work with Service Ottawa to determine the feasibility of creating a dedicated mechanism to report problematic properties online," Chapman wrote.

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