Toronto

Toronto Fire Services crack down on illegal rooming houses

Toronto Fire Services say they are cracking down on illegal rooming houses that are putting the lives of students at risk.

8 fires in illegal rooming houses have claimed 10 lives since 2010, deputy chief Jim Jessop says

A rooming house operator was charged after a fire seriously injured a firefighter last year in this west-end home. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Toronto Fire Services say they are cracking down on illegal rooming houses that are putting the lives of students at risk.

"Illegal rooming houses and rooming houses that are not compliant with the fire code have historically borne witness to some of the worst multi-fatal fires this city has seen," Jim Jessop, Toronto Fire Services's deputy chief of fire prevention and public education, told CBC Toronto.

The houses are predominantly found in York University Village, near Humber College and in certain areas in Scarborough, Jessop says, and in some instances, they're finding 10 to 15 rooms in what used to be single-family homes.

"Since 2010, there have been eight fires in the City of Toronto in illegal rooming houses that have resulted in 10 deaths," he says.

"It's incumbent among us when these are brought to our attention that we act, that we certainly send a message to the owners of these buildings that we're not going to tolerate this, and we're not going to permit them to either knowingly or unintentionally place occupants at risk," said Jessop.

Owners charged

Toronto Fire Services has been actively focusing on rooming houses since 2015 and now those efforts include an operation that actively looks for property owners renting unsafe properties and a public education effort aimed at students so they can ensure the building their renting is safe.

Since then, Jessup says that Toronto Fire Services has been to 38 rooming houses where they have charged owners with multiple fire code violations and issued immediate threat to life notices.

Toronto Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop says he wants landlords and rooming house owners to know that Toronto fire is working to make sure homes are safe for residents. (CBC)

With that, they also ordered the removal of occupants from the basements and third-stories of homes.

"Quite often they're shocked," Jessup says of the students. "They're upset that they have to move."

In some cases, the Red Cross is called in until students can find other places to stay.

For the rooming houses that make up York University Village, the university has made efforts to distance themselves from the homes saying online, "The university has no formal relationship with the Village" and adding that "The City of Toronto has not yet established standards for rooming houses in this area and many in the Village likely do not conform to Provincial building and fire regulations or to the former by-laws prohibiting rooming houses in the former City of North York."

Jessup says, however, that he wants landlords and rooming house owners to know that Toronto Fire Services is acting on making sure homes are safe for residents.

"When we become aware, we will be exercising all of our rights under the Fire Prevention Protection Act," Jessup says. "We are not going to permit these situations to occur anymore within our city."

With files from Salma Ibrahim

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