When Mark Legate noticed what looked like a fire code violation — an exit blocked by construction in his North York building — back in April 2016, he called the fire department.
But after fighting through red tape for more than a year, he’s still in the dark about the results of that inspection, and another one carried out months later.
“I have no idea what was issued,” Legate said. “No clue at all.”
Legate followed up with both the fire department and the city of Toronto but was told that, as a tenant, he had to make a formal freedom of information request to learn what happened. Because of the time and money involved in the cumbersome process, Legate called it quits.
“The more I dug into it, the more it didn’t make sense,” said Legate, who shared with Metro his email chain with the city and Toronto Fire Services.
Legate has lived for two years in the eight-storey building at 1 Deauville Lane, near the Don Valley Parkway and Eglinton Ave. E. He initially called the fire department for his own peace of mind, and to see if he should increase his insurance coverage.
But after a long struggle for information, he’s now calling for more transparency on fire inspections so tenants know what’s going on in their own homes.
“Most tenants will have no idea if there are safety issues in their building,” Legate said.
Many tenants in his building speak English as a second language, he noted, and would find it difficult to make a freedom of information request.
The city confirmed that fire inspection reports fall under privacy legislation and are available only through freedom of information requests.
Pat Brawn, vice-president and general manager of Briarlane Rental Property Management Inc., which runs Legate’s building, wrote in an email to Metro that the fire department “found minor issues which were rectified immediately” during both inspections.
Brawn added that there were no orders issued and no current fire code violations.
Toronto fire Deputy Chief Jim Jessop said that under provincial law, fire officials are required to post notices when they issue violation orders.
“Usually these orders, when we post them in apartment buildings, are ripped down the same night because some teenagers will go through,” Jessop said. “We do not go back and check and repost because we don’t have time.”
Posting is required only for serious violations, not for minor issues that still require corrective action, according to the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.
Jessop said that Toronto Fire Services would shut down any unsafe building and deal with the risk immediately. If tenants want to know whether their building is up to code, he said, the fire department would release that information over the phone — but not details such as the number of recent violations or a timeline for correction.
He added that Metro would need to file its own information request to obtain more details about Legate’s building.
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