Toronto Fire cracking down on illegal rooming houses
680 News
by Cristina Howorun
05 October 2017

Toronto’s Fire Services has been cracking down on illegal rooming houses scattered predominantly near Humber College, in Scarborough and in the York University area.

In less than two years they’ve issued 38 “immediate threats to life” notices, laid 38 charges against owners and forced dozens of people out of unsafe homes.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop calls the spread of these homes “significant.”

“It’s a problem we’ve been battling for years. Historically they have been the sites of our worst multi-fatal and tragic fires,” Jessop explains.

Since 2010 there have been eight fatal fires at rooming homes in the city, killing ten people. The biggest issue is the lack of secondary exits, leaving people trapped when a fire break out.

In November 2016, a 47-year-old woman died when a fire broke out in the illegal boarding home she lived in on Elmhurst Drive. In October 2016, another fire in a Dufferin Street rooming house left a firefighter with serious injuries. A blaze at an illegal rooming home near Finch and John Garland in 2011 not only cost a man his life — but the owner was charged with criminal negligence causing death, resulting in a three year prison sentence.

“The Fire and Prevention Act says that for individuals it’s up to $50,000 and up to a year in jail per violation, and for corporations, it’s up to a $100,000,” Jessop explains. “We have certainly seen fines in excess of $25,000, $35,000  and $50,000 for multiple violations and the provincial offences court have been sending a relatively strong message to owners.”

Fire Services has also taken a hard stance. Ade, a third year student at York University was recently evicted from his room on Aldwinckle Near York University.

“The Fire Marshall came in two weeks ago and told us to leave the next day. We had to find somewhere else individually (to live) and it was pretty difficult because houses for rent usually start at the end of the month,” he said.

He’s since found another room, at another rooming home, but this time, he says he “made sure there was a second exit.”

Roommates Jessica and Chris are also being forced from their Aldwinkle Heights rooming house in North York over the next month during mid-terms.

“We don’t really want to go house hopping, even though it’s cheaper here (in York Village),” Jessica, a 4th-year psychology student, said.

“We want to avoid this scenario, so we’re going to move to the apartment buildings,” she adds.

Apartments in the area cost about $500 more per month than what Jessica and Chris were paying for a shared room in a boarding house.

Rooming homes are illegal in North York, Scarborough, York and East York. Only Etobicoke and Toronto have rules and regulations governing rooming houses. The City’s Licensing department is expected to table a report to council later this year to address this issue, but Councillor Georgio Mammoliti says he won’t support their licencing.

“I don’t support licencing for rooming houses because single family units are for single families. They’re not set up or equipped for rooming house use,” Mammoliti explains.

“Rooming houses are nothing but death traps,” he adds.

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