Landlords should keep better tabs on electrical systems, St. James Town report says

A new report suggests highrise owners need to do more to ensure their electrical systems are properly maintained and their most vulnerable residents kept informed during emergencies.

Over 2,000 people forced from their homes during electrical failures in 2 buildings in past 9 months

Police officers and Toronto Fire were called to help when water and power were shut off at 260 Wellesley St. E. due to a burst pipe. (John Sandeman/CBC)

A new report suggests high-rise owners need to do more to ensure their electrical systems are properly maintained and their most vulnerable residents kept informed during emergencies.

The report comes just a few months after a flood in a basement electrical room left about 1,000 tenants at 260 Wellesley St. E. without power and heat for more than three days.

The previous August, 1,500 people were displaced by a fire in an electrical room at nearby 650 Parliament St.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who called for the staff investigation back in January, said the report was a good first step, but she added that she's disappointed it didn't go further.

She said she'd hope their report would insist that landlords do a better job of communicating with every tenant, not just those who are physically challenged or elderly.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 13, says a new city report on the power outages at two St. James Town high-rises is only a first step. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

"When a crisis takes place you need to communicate on the various different platforms," she said. "And so, one of the things that was very challenging for the tenants is that they felt that they weren't getting consistent information, nor was it up to date."

At a February meeting of St. James Town tenants, several residents complained they weren't being given timely, accurate information about the extent of the problems caused by the electrical outage, or when they could return.

Although residents at 260 Wellesley St. E. were out for about three days, those who lived at 650 Parliament St. have still not been allowed to return — nine months after the fire that caused the building's electrical problems.

The staff report makes the following four recommendations:

  • Insist that landlords compile a contact list of tenants who may require special help during an emergency.
  • Require that landlords develop an electrical safety plan and be able to show proof that they've stuck to that plan.
  • Require that landlords keep logs of all service done on their electrical systems.
  • Ask the province to mandate regular inspections of every building's electrical system.

The report goes to city council's planning and housing committee on April 30.

CBC Toronto asked a spokesperson for the two St. James Town buildings for his reaction to the city report.

In an email, Danny Roth replied: "The matter below may relate to issues currently before the courts.  As such, at this time I believe it would be inappropriate for me to comment through the media."


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