Why landlords don't want fire-code convictions made public

City politicians will decide if they want to Londoners to be able to find two-years worth of fire-code convictions for rental properties on an easy-to-search database run by the city.

Is it public shaming or public safety? City committee set to debate posting fire code convictions

London's fire chief recommends posting two years worth of fire code convictions on rental properties. The debate is before a city committee today. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Are Londoners entitled to easy access to information about fire code violations and convictions about group homes, hotels and apartment buildings?

A report requested by Coun. Mo Salih and prepared by fire chief John Kobarda recommends adding two years worth of conviction reports to a searchable database which already includes building code and development applications. 

"We know there are certain situations, whether you have a family member that you're placing in a residence, and if you're able to easily access that information, you can make an informed decision," said Salih. 

"And I think it also  it acts as a deterrent so people find themselves in compliance." 

Salih requested the report after the city passed a bylaw to regulate group homes -- residences for people with addictions, mental health problems and developmental disabilities. 

That bylaw was passed after a fatal fire in an Oxford Street unregulated group home run by Keith Charles, who was eventually convicted of several fire code violations. 
Keith Charles was found guilty of 12 fire code violations in the months leading up to the blaze that killed 72-year old David MacPherson in November 2014. He also oversaw the house above, which was later shut down. (Amanda Margison/CBC)

The new policy would apply to hotels, motels, dorms, apartment buildings, lodging houses and group homes. It would also apply to city-run apartments, but not to private homes. 

The idea will be discussed at today's community and protective services committee. 

Information about fire code convictions is available now, but must either be requested through freedom of information requests -- which can take months -- or by obtaining court records. 

Public shaming won't work: landlords

The policy change is being opposed by the London Property Management Association, which represents landlords in the city. 

A lawyer for the association said in a letter to the city that it should focus on inspections and enforcement when there are infractions. 

"The efforts to publicly shame landlords under the proposed policy will do nothing more than misinform the public as to the actual status of a property relative to fire safety; will further increase the inclination of landlords to mistrucst the motivations of both city and fire services staff; and, will do nothing ot increase fire safety in rental housing," the letter states, in part. 

New policy will help vulnerable

That's hogwash, said Jeff Schlemmer, the director of Neighbourhood Legal Services, which advocates for tenants. 

"I think if you're convicted of something then you should be ashamed, so there's nothing wrong with that," said Schlemmer, who pushed for changes to how the city regulates group homes and helps vulnerable people.

"As informed consumers, the more we can know, the better, particularly when we have vulnerable members of our society who may not be able to look out for themselves."