Second suite owners could face fines if apartments are not up to code

As housing affordability and availability continues to be a challenge, secondary suites like basement apartments must be kept up to date.

That was Council’s decision last week, which approved a motion by Councilor Wendy Gaertner calling for existing bylaws on such dwellings to be given “more teeth” to protect tenants.

The motion calls for the bylaw to be updated for safety reasons, including ensuring a home has a working hard-wired fire alarm system and a second means of emergency escape.

Landlords who prevent inspectors from accessing secondary suites should also face fines, Councilor Gaertner suggested.

“It is very clear that a second unit is not permitted in a home unless it has been inspected by the building department and that inspection is in place to ensure safety, as required by the building authorities. building and fire codes,” Councilman Gaertner said. “Once this is confirmed by staff, the secondary accommodation is registered. As it stands, we have hundreds of these second units in town that are unregistered and therefore not inspected for safety. With the cost of housing and the shortfall in rental housing, I think it’s reasonable to expect Aurora to see an increase in this type of housing. The motion I have presented is to address existing units that have been publicly registered with the building department and outstanding building permits for second suites.

“Key to this is the ability for building inspectors to enter a home, a second suite, check the security features and, in particular, most importantly is a second way out of the dwelling in the event of an emergency. ‘fire. and to ensure that the fire alarm was wired so that if there is a fire on the upper floor than on the lower floor, the basement unit is notified of the fire.

But the reality is, she says, sometimes building inspectors are denied entry, a situation she called “problematic”. To fix this, the City must “send a notice to the owner of a home that an inspection is required, including a time frame in which the home is due to be inspected and I don’t believe it is being done at this time.” .

The second option to ensure access is a financial penalty.

“If an inspection is refused by the owner, what recourse do we have at this time? You have to put some bite into it. There must be a financial implication if the owners simply won’t allow entry to check security.

Council members were generally in favor of the motion, but questioned what was already on the books.

Councilor Rachel Gilliland, for example, asked how this will affect secondary suites that aren’t on the City’s radar.

“If anyone suspected there was a secondary suite and yet it was unregistered, provided we had enough evidence to do an inspection, we are required to enter or enter – if [this motion] dealing with something that is public knowledge but may not be on the record, how is this motion going to help you gain entry if you are going to have difficulty obtaining evidence? »

Techa van Leeuwen, director of building and by-law services for the city, said you need permission from the tenant or landlord to enter, but it’s also possible to ask for a search warrant if there is evidence.

“We would have to collect evidence,” she said. “It could be statements from witnesses who observe people living there, or other evidence that would then be submitted to the courts and a justice of the peace would approve the search warrant. This is quite a lengthy process and may require a lot of documentation to support that search warrant.

Councilor Michael Thompson added: “I welcome the idea of ​​bringing it forward and having a thorough conversation about updating it to ensure the tools and resources needed for staff to keep these types of things safe. consequences and/or identify them and remedy them if they are necessary.

If further measures are to be taken, Councilor Gaertner says the idea is to get in touch with landlords and give them notice of entry and a “few weeks” timeframe.

“The odds of inspectors coming in to check safety are improving, but what will really improve is if we impose penalties if landlords don’t allow our inspectors in,” she said. declared. “There are many second suites in Aurora, it’s impossible to try to go to every second suite and check their security, so we go to the ones where neighbors have complained and usually it’s pretty easy to see s there is a second way.

“We have to put some teeth into it. This will become a growing problem. »

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Auroran

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