Keeping on top of problem properties

Report small bylaw infractions before they turn into bigger problems

Almost every neighbourhood has homes that have become unkempt eyesores, but often there could be an underlying issue resolved with the right resources. 

That’s where the Residential Living Governance Committee (RLGC) comes into play. 

“Once upon a time, there were a few initiatives, they were all kind of working parallel, but not in synergy, like they are now,” explains Justin Lallemand, specialized program coordinator with the RLGC. “Throughout Alberta, there were numerous folks with Alberta Health Services that were trying to accomplish the same work as the Edmonton Police Service [and the City’s] Community Service branch.”

With everyone having their own chains of command, their own way of reporting issues, and their own databases, necessary information wasn’t always being shared. 

“Then, all the top leaders came together and decided that, ‘Hey, we are all dealing with the same problems anyway. What we should be doing is looking at a better way to integrate our inspections and co-ordinate them accordingly and prioritize them effectively.” 

From there they created the RLGC. A triage network takes complaints from the general enforcement area and bylaw and sends them to their Problem Properties Team. 

“When Problem Properties finds a file that requires a multi-agency approach, they will send it to the RISC (Residential Inspection Safety Compliance) Team with the Residential Living Governance Committee.” 

At that point, they will conduct the assessment, make referrals, and conduct enforcement when needed. 

But they still rely on people making complaints to bylaw. Lallemand suggests paying attention to the small things, such as general bylaw violations. 

“Something can start out small and then eventually it becomes larger and larger. It’s the old broken windows theory, where maybe you have a vacant house and somebody drops off a single couch, because they think, ‘Oh, nobody is going to see me, nobody is going to complain.’ Then a single couch turns into a couch and a mattress. Then it turns into a couch, a mattress, and a barbecue. Then before you know it, citizens in the community start realizing that maybe that house is vacant.” 

This scenario can attract people who may decide to go in and do something illegal. 

“When we do see small bylaw violations, we still treat every violation as important. There is nothing too small. It can be something as simple as long grass,” Lallemand explains. 

As soon as they can engage with the property owners, the better. This communication can involve leaving a business card or a warning letter of the violation. They sometimes discover there are circumstances in a homeowner’s life preventing them from keeping on top of their responsibilities. 

“We can work with them and there are certain referrals and senior centres and community league members that like to help. We can start that going early.” It also helps the homeowner to keep their property maintained. “If we address the small issue, they don’t spiral out of control.”

By doing this, it helps give bylaw officers a sense of what is going on at the property and they can build a history with the homeowner. If the homeowner needs help, the RLGC has external partners with the Government of Alberta and the City where they can refer the homeowners.

“The first contact is the most important because we get a good sense of what is really going on. And from there, we can get the proper services if we have to.”

If you see a bylaw infraction, call 311. For more information, visit the City website at edmonton.ca or call 311.


Featured Image: Report bylaw infractions to keep small problems from snowballing into big ones. | Virginia Potkins

Stephen Strand

Stephen works in broadcasting and writes for fun. He can be seen walking through the neighbourhood.

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