Loud music, bad lawns and lots of rats: Bylaw complaints soar during pandemic

·3 min read
The City of Ottawa's Bylaw Services received more calls during the pandemic, thanks to a spike in complaints about noise and construction.                  (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
The City of Ottawa's Bylaw Services received more calls during the pandemic, thanks to a spike in complaints about noise and construction. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa neighbours got under each other's skin during the long COVID-19 lockdowns of the past year-plus, if the number of calls to the city's bylaw services division is anything to judge by.

Ottawans made more than 11,000 more calls to bylaw between April 2020 and March 2021 than in the previous 12-month period — an increase of 20 per cent — with a good chunk of the increase coming from complaints about noise, pets, property maintenance and construction work.

People were particularly miffed by loud music, registering 1,500 more noise complaints during that stretch of time than in 2019-20, the largest increase of any category.

Complaints about fireworks also nearly doubled during the pandemic, with just under 300 lodged in those 12 months.

Most common calls

Most vocal wards

Residents also made hundreds more complaints about exterior waste, building and street maintenance and construction noise — not necessarily a surprise amid a pandemic-fuelled boom in construction.

Neighbours also apparently took the opportunity to build more fences, with calls to bylaw for information about fences — often a precursor to a complaint — more than doubling.

They also lodged more than 2,000 complaints about grass being left too long, with people in the Barrhaven, College, and Kanata North wards the worst offenders.

The most complaints overall between April 2020 and March 2021 came from the downtown wards of Rideau-Vanier and Somerset, which together registered nearly 30 per cent of complaints about music, waste, shouting, and construction.

Nagging Neighbours

Bad dogs, bountiful rats

Calls to the city's 311 line show that apartment dwellers haven't had it easy during the pandemic.

With more people stuck inside full-time, buildings' garbage output swelled, and not every landlord kept up.

While there were just 709 calls about garbage pickup at apartments between April 2019 and March 2020, the following 12-month stretch saw that number balloon to nearly 4,000 — a 450 per cent increase.

And with waste comes pests, as there were nearly 200 more calls about rats inside and outside buildings, in mostly downtown wards.

But rats weren't the only critters causing confrontations: as young families and new dog owners flocked to public parks to let off steam, complaints about dogs in those parks skyrocketed.

Shutterstock / Stanimir G.Stoev
Shutterstock / Stanimir G.Stoev

Calls about dogs being off-leash or otherwise violating park rules increased by 76 per cent, amounting to nearly 300 more complaints than in 2019-2020, mostly in the west-of-downtown Kitchissippi ward and rural Rideau-Goulbourn.

Cat disturbances also rose by 28 per cent, and calls about exotic pets more than doubled, with many of those calls coming from Kanata.

Despite a well-documented surge in pet ownership during the pandemic, calls for dog and cat licences actually dropped by the thousands, raising questions about whether new owners failed to license their pets.

Calls about injured animals surged 20 per cent, meanwhile, with residents of Rideau-Rockcliffe going above and beyond, accounting for nearly one in 12 calls on the topic.

City Concerns

Drug-related calls on the rise

But a bylaw officer's job is not all wounded critters and grumpy neighbours.

In 2020-2021, public health loomed large in their work. Reflecting a rise in drug use during the pandemic, calls about improperly disposed syringes and needles increased by 54 per cent. Most of the 211 calls came from Somerset or Rideau-Vanier.

The 311 line also fielded some 3,200 calls about the city's mandatory mask bylaw, which is still in effect. Of those calls, just under 140 resulted in charges, a city spokesperson told CBC.

In total, nearly one in four calls to bylaw between April 2020 and March 2021 were about COVID-19 enforcement, with most relating to provincial restrictions.

It's a good thing, then, that many other types of calls plunged to almost nothing during the pandemic.

With most people at home, there were virtually no complaints about taxis. Calls about smoking violations at schools, long-term care facilities, and on city property also plummeted.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting