Three weeks after a cobra went missing in a Toronto home, there are worries the venomous snake has either died or escaped.

And until the snake is found, the residents of the building can't go home.

The cobra, a pet of one of the residents of the west-end rooming house, has been living in the walls of the three-storey building since itescapedfrom the man's apartmenton Sept. 27.

Concerns about the snake's whereabouts recently arose after a search team sent in tofind the poisonous snake said they hadn't heard any noises in the house for over a week.

But the owner of the house on Lawrence Avenue and Weston Roadsays it's unlikely the cobra escaped into the chilly outdoors, and has either died or is relaxing somewhere in house.

Regardless, Toronto public health officials say the house is off limits to people until the snake is found, dead or alive.

Six residents of the building have been displaced and livingelsewheresince the cobra first escaped.

A notice posted on the house door reads, "Occupancy of this premises is prohibited by order of the Medical Officer of Health."

Area residents worried

But area residents continue to worry whether the snake will slither into their homes.

"I have to close my bathroom lids when I go to the washroom because it's in your mind that snakes can get through any little cracks," said Olga Medovaraski, who lives next door.

Medovaraski says she's moving in several days and is relieved to be leaving the area.

The decision to relocate was made well before the cobra's escape, butthe incident has made her question why anyone is allowed to keep such exotic pets in an apartment.

One neighbour says landlords in the area have had difficulty renting out rooms since the story hit the papers.

"And there is a house right over here that is for sale," said Tony Flynn, who lives across the street. "Is that going to reduce the value?"