Nuisance Party Bylaw decision deferred amidst landlord pushback

Landlords are sounding off against proposed changes to Kingston’s Nuisance Party Bylaws, saying the changes would punish them for something over which they have no control.

Hundreds of young adults flood Aberdeen Street in the University District in downtown Kingston in early July 2021, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed changes to the City of Kingston’s Nuisance Party Bylaw would see stricter penalties for students involved in such parties, as well as penalties for the property owners where such parties take place. Photo by Cris Vilela.

At last Tuesday’s council meeting where discussion on the topic spilled over into a Wednesday night continuation (February 15 and 16, 2022), Kingston City Council heard feedback from multiple delegates who say landlords eating the cost of nuisance party violations would be an unfair solution. 

Alex Legnini, who rents to students, said the changes would simply pass the buck onto a group who has as much incentive as anybody to get rid of these parties, but have no control over them.

“Why is this type of policy even being proposed? To punish a group that has no authority over the actions proposed,” Legnini said.

He continued that Queen’s itself has a responsibility to address the culture issues among their students, comparing the situation to different culture issues that the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) has made efforts to address.

Queen’s University, for its part, contributed $350,000 to help cover increased policing costs and recently announced a task force to help tackle the street parties. 

Legnini added that any clause in a lease banning parties is likely void under the Residential Tenancy Act, and that eviction warnings often don’t act as a deterrent for students who don’t require the accommodations long term. 

With St. Patrick’s Day less than a month away, the City is looking to find some kind of solution for the anticipated increased police presence that will mitigate costs passed to taxpayers. 

Under the current Nuisance Party Bylaw, property owners are given a warning if a nuisance party is hosted at a house they own, and levied a fine if another takes place within two years. The proposed change would remove the warning system, citing that information has been made available over the past four years on how landlords can mitigate these gatherings. 

Robert Melo, President of the Kingstal Rental Properties Association, denies that this information has been given to landlords. He says landlords want to work with the city and all “influential parties” to find a solution to the problem, but that landlords themselves have no power. Melo thinks a working group of influential parties and could come together to create a new vision for the city and student parties. 

“Get these groups together and then say ‘look, how can we turn this around into something that everyone is going to feel great about?'” Melo said.

“Instead of just tackling all the negative stuff, just create what it actually can be.”

Melo added that he understands students’ desire to attend these parties and that they should be able to do so, but in a more sanctioned and better planned capacity. 

“It’s working together that we can crush these things,” Melo said.

“This could be a turning point, it was bound to get worse when COVID came in and everyone’s just bottled up.” 

Last Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, Councillor Wayne Hill proposed to defer a decision on the bylaw until June 21 to allow for further consultation with landlords, saying he doesn’t think the proposed changes would impact landlords the way they seem to be interpreting. (City Council voted in favour of that deferral, asking City Staff to consult with relevant parties, and to report back to Council in approximately four months.)

Last fall after two weekends of Queen’s Homecoming street parties, responding to nuisance parties cost Kingston Police over $1,000,000. The city handed out over $500,000 in Administrative Monetary Penalties at these parties.

This article was written by Owen Fullerton as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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