Toronto Fire takes 'extreme measure' to shut down 3 short-term rental buildings due to code violations

Toronto Fire has shut down 28 short-term rental units in a row of buildings near Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street due to fire code violations.

The 3 buildings are at 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. West

Toronto Fire has shut down 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. West because of recurring fire code violations. (CBC/Grant Linton)

Toronto Fire has shut down 28 short-term rental units in a row of buildings near Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street due to fire code violations. 

The department applied for a permit from the province to take action against a slew of violations at 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. West after receiving complaints in the fall of 2016.

"Occupants were removed, notices were provided to the owner and prosecution was commenced," said Larry Cocco, Division Chief of Fire Investigations Quality Assurance and Engineering with Toronto Fire Service. 

Toronto Fire recently found out that in March the units were reoccupied in a short-term rental capacity and none of the violations were corrected, Coco said. 

Some of the violations were in relation to exiting, door closure requirements and a lack of a fire safety plan, according to Cocco.

Larry Cocco of Toronto Fire Services describes getting the province involved to shut down an operation like this as an 'extreme measure' but says it was necessary due to 'blatant disregard' of the fire code. (CBC/Grant Linton)

"Due to ... a blatant disregard for fire code compliance Toronto Fire took an extreme measure and applied to the province, the office of the Fire Marshall, requesting an authorization to close," said Cocco. 

Toronto Fire removed all occupants of the buildings last Friday and went in to change the locks. 

The department is encouraging members of the public to get in touch if they suspect a building is in violation of a fire code as it is difficult for them to keep track of how a building's use is evolving, which could increase it's fire safety risk.

'Quite outrageous' 

"This is a very serious case that is quite outrageous when it comes to people trying to make money off the short-term rental market, endangering the lives of tourists, guests, neighbours," said Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Fairbnb, a coalition calling for regulations in the short-term rental market. 

"It's not very difficult to find other places like this."

Thorben Wieditz, a researcher with Fairbnb, is outraged that a short-term rental company would operate units that endanger 'the lives of tourists, guests, neighbours.' (CBC/Grant Linton )

Wieditz believes that short-term rental platforms like Airbnb should take some responsibility in situations like this. 

"Platforms should be held accountable and fined if they advertise and make money off death traps like these," said Wieditz. 

Toronto Fire went in last Friday to remove all occupants of the short-term rental units and change the locks. (Grant Linton/CBC)

However, he believes that the city's proposed regulations on short-term rentals are on the right track. 

City council will discuss those regulations in December.

CBC Toronto reached out to the owner of the buildings, Ulto Properties but they have not responded to an interview request.

With files from Nick Boisvert