Monday, July 22, 2019

Toronto fire officials close down short-term rental buildings over fire and safety issues

Toronto fire officials have taken the rare step of closing a string of Dundas St. W. buildings after the owners repeatedly ignored orders to fix fire and building safety issues.

At least 28 rooms inside adjoining two-storey buildings were rented on a variety of travel websites, though apparently not on Airbnb.

The “drastic” step is the city’s latest attempt to manage the booming short-term rental market and ensure the safety of guests, Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Jim Jessop said.

“In our minds, this was a necessary and reasonable step to protect the public,” Jessop said.

To get the buildings closed, Toronto Fire Services presented evidence to the province’s Office of the Fire Marshal for permission to change the locks and remove anyone staying inside until the safety problems are fixed.

“This is not a common step,” nor easily approved by the province’s fire marshal, Jessop said. Permission was granted Friday afternoon.

“This step usually is in response to an owner that repeatedly has a history of non-compliance with blatant disregard of violations of the fire code, where there is no attempt to remedy the situation,” Jessop said. “This is something that we don’t take lightly.”

Previous fire code violations for the properties are still before the courts.

The fire department requested the closure saying that 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. W. appear to be of “combustible construction.” The Electrical Safety Authority — a private safety regulator mandated by the province —found “several shock and fire hazards.”

The two-storey buildings have approximately 28 individual rooms, the fire department said in documents submitted to the fire marshal. “They are being utilized by the travelling public and the occupant load varies depending on the day,” the documents said.

Fire officials and police officers were present when the locks were changed Friday at 779, 783 and 787 Dundas St. W., west of Bathurst St. Notices were posted on the doors indicating the premises must remain closed until inspectors are satisfied the safety violations have been fixed.

In addition to having concerns about electrical installations, inspectors identified issues with exit routes and fire safety within stairways, the documents said. As well, there is no supervisory staff trained as required for a hotel, nor is there an approved fire safety plan.

The city’s building department, Toronto Building, has also issued an order prohibiting occupancy. Renters have been removed on three different occasions.

Keep reading in the Toronto Star

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