Speeding tickets – a possible new burden for landlords

Don’t pay your speeding tickets? Watch your property tax bill

“If you aren’t an owner, if you are a renter or live out of the province or out of the country, then you won’t be caught,” he said. “If enforcement is a big part of public safety, it has to work.”

May 18, 2010

Tanya Talaga

http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/811089–don-t-pay-your-speeding-tickets-watch-your-property-tax-bill

Ontario drivers who refuse to pay their share of more than $1 billion owed in outstanding speeding tickets had better watch their property tax bills.

The government last year gave municipalities the power to tack unpaid speeding tickets onto property tax bills, says Attorney General Chris Bentley, although he isn’t sure if local governments are pursuing this collection method yet.

Lead-foot drivers, red-light runners and other traffic violators owe taxpayers $1,048,607,020.80 in unpaid traffic fines, according to the Ontario Association of Police Service Boards, which represents the employers of police services.

The Ontario government, facing a $19.7 billion deficit, is now trying to figure out ways to collect from deadbeats who don’t pay. Enhanced collection powers were given to the municipalities last fall, Bentley told reporters on Tuesday.

“Municipalities are the ones that need to collect the fines,” Bentley said. “They now have the ability to put fines on property tax roles.”

This was one of a series of changes made in the fall to give municipalities greater enforcement powers, Bentley said. “It is very early days; we’d like to see how those work,” he said.

But Bentley isn’t holding out hope they’ll be able to collect the outstanding fines. He suspects many fines are longstanding and that “municipalities long ago gave up” on retrieving them.

And money isn’t really the issue here, he added. “It doesn’t matter to me how much it is. The fact that money is outstanding is something that I’m interested in,” he said. “The bottom line is: Obey the law. Then you don’t get stopped and ticketed.”

The police association first brought the unpaid fines to the attention of the government in October, said Fred Kaustinen, executive director of the association of police service boards. He added the story has only gained traction after the media picked up on it Monday.

“We don’t expect overnight solutions,” he said.

Kaustinen called the property tax solution a “good idea” but added the only people who’ll be caught are Ontario property or home owners. Many of the unpaid fines belong to visitors from the United States or other Canadian provinces who simply ignore their tickets and go home.

“If you aren’t an owner, if you are a renter or live out of the province or out of the country, then you won’t be caught,” he said. “If enforcement is a big part of public safety, it has to work.”

NDP MPP Peter Kormos (Welland) said it is disgraceful for the government to suggest municipalities have the necessary tools to collect. “It is people outside a municipality and the province who are the big defaulters,” Kormos said.

The government has to acknowledge the problem by revisiting the municipal, highway traffic and provincial offenses acts to give municipalities the power they need to collect the fines, he said.

And they should enter into talks with U.S. border states and other provinces to work together to get the money owed.

“If we have this problem, others do too,” said Kormos. “It is in everyone’s interests to develop reciprocal agreements.”