On Tuesday night, Jun. 21, 2022, members of Kingston City Council voted to approve amendments to the City’s Nuisance Party By-Law, one of which would seek to hold landlords accountable for illegal gatherings on their premises.
According to a report presented to Council in February, last fall Kingston Police spent an estimated $970,000 responding to nuisance parties. Meanwhile, City staff spent approximately $83,000 investigating and enforcing infringements of its Nuisance Party By-Law. “The increasing prevalence of large nuisance parties in Kingston poses a significant risk to health and safety and places a strain on community partners and emergency services, such as Kingston Police, Kingston Fire & Rescue, paramedics and hospital staff,” the report noted.
One of the amendments will create additional fees and charges for partygoers found to be in violation of the by-law, which could now see people charged for the costs associated with sending officers to the scene at a rate of $90 per officer, per hour. “The additional fees that we’re proposing fall under our ability under the Municipal Act to impose fees for services we provide, [which] would be different than being charged through the by-law for an offence of hosting or sponsoring a nuisance party,” said Jenna Morley, Director, Legal Services & City Solicitor.
Members of Council also approved an amendment related to the City’s ability to charge landlords and other property owners who “permit” or “allow” a nuisance party to occur. Currently, the City must issue a “warning notice to the property owner after the occurrence of a nuisance party,” meaning property owners can only be charged once a subsequent party occurs at the same location within two years.
The by-law has now been amended to remove the need for the City to issue a “warning notice,” meaning landlords and other property owners can now be charged immediately, once a gathering is declared a nuisance party in accordance with the by-law.
Council initially deferred the amendments at a meeting in February, in order to allow staff to conduct information and consultation sessions with landlords and landlord associations. During the meeting on Tuesday night, staff updated members of Council on the changes to the by-law, and how landlords and party attendees will be impacted.
“We engaged in some landlord consultation, we held two sessions, with a third session conducted in front of the Kingston Rental Property Owners association. We heard a lot of feedback around the offence that related to ‘permitting’ or ‘allowing’ a nuisance party to occur at a property owner’s premises,” Morley said.
While the City now has the ability to charge landlords and property owners without warning, Morley added there are steps people can take to demonstrate that they have not “permitted” or “allowed” a nuisance party to occur. “This additional language gives landlords some comfort knowing that, under the Residential Tendencies Act, they do have a limited ability to take action against tenants that engage in nuisance parties,” Morley added.
Sydenham District Councillor Peter Stroud, whose district includes many areas where nuisance parties have been declared in the past, spoke in favour of the proposed amendments, in particular the one regarding landlord accountability. “To the suggestion that landlords shouldn’t be held accountable at all because they don’t control the behaviours of their tenants, the solicitor has pointed out that they’ve changed the language, they’ve added language to it that gives comfort to landlords… All of the logical complaints that they may have about not being able to control every aspect of the behaviour of their tenants is taken into account,” he said.
Stroud, who was the only member of Council to speak to the motion, added, “A landlord certainly can select suitable tenants that may be less likely to host nuisance parties, so if we remove accountability completely from landlords, if we took it right out of the by-law as might have been suggested, there wouldn’t be any accountability. I think what you’ve got here is a more nuanced by-law that, with that other language, has a correct amount of accountability to the landlord.”
Both of the proposed amendments to the By-law were approved by Council.
The by-law, which first came into effect in 2018, is part of the City’s attempt to crack down on illegal street parties and other large gatherings, especially those in the University District. Last fall alone, the district saw a number of illegal nuisance parties break out, as thousands of students took to the streets during events like Queen’s Homecoming.