Rooming house landlords convicted of Fire Code offences following tenant death

Rooming house landlords convicted of Fire Code offences following tenant death
By Alex McKeen
Toronto Star
Link to article: Rooming house landlords convicted of Fire Code offences following tenant death

The landlords of a Willowdale rooming house where a 47-year-old woman died in a fire last November pleaded guilty in provincial offences court to Ontario Fire Code violations at three Toronto properties.

The deadly blaze, which occurred at 177 Elmhurst Ave., was ruled an accident by the Ontario Fire Marshall. An investigation into the death led to charges against landlords Thevathurai and Balatharshini Akilan, and AKS Rental Management Inc. for “Fire Code violations related to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire separations, the absence of a fire alarm system, and insufficient exiting, fire extinguishers, fire rated doors and exit signage.”

Thevathurai Akilan received a fine of $22,500 plus a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge and court costs for the offences at 177 Elmhurst Ave. AKS Rental Management was fined $12,500 for additional infractions found at 45 Irvington Ave., and the landlords also pleaded guilty to offences at 57 Farmcrest Dr.

The maximum penalty a corporation can be assigned for each Fire Code violation is $100,000, while individuals can face jail time as well as fines for some serious violations.

In an interview with the Star Thursday, Deputy fire Chief Jim Jessop called unlicensed and illegal rooming houses “a great source of frustration” for Toronto Fire Services.

“They are absolutely the source of our most frequent and serious injury and fatal fire within the city both historically and recently,” Jessop said. “We know anecdotally that there are thousands of these buildings within the city of Toronto . . . Without a complaint or referral we just don’t know where they all are.

“If we know where they were, we would certainly try to initiate a proactive inspection program,” Jessop said.

Local rules prohibit rooming houses in North York, East York and Scarborough, whereas they are permitted in York, and regulated and licensed in the old city of Toronto and Etobicoke.

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