June 22nd, 2024

Fire chief touts secondary suite program but says some landlords need to open their doors

By Collin Gallant on June 27, 2018.


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

City fire officials say a voluntary program to get more secondary suites in the city inspected is showing results, but they may need to start compelling landlords to open their doors.

Fire chief Brian Stauth gave Monday’s meeting of the public services committee a one-year update on the city’s secondary suite registry, which offers no-cost inspections and certification that rental suites meet fire code.

Compliant suites are also listed in a public database for renters to examine and search for accommodation, as well as potential homebuyers to investigate.

The department believes there to be about 550 secondary suites currently in the city, but so far only 120 inspections have taken place.

Overall the progress is “positive”, said Stauth, who added that in some cases, landlords had been contacted, but no action has been taken. “For some, we may begin writing orders to those owners to improve their properties.”

Committee members accepted the information this week, agreeing that strong progress has been made.

“I’m a huge supporter of this safety program,” said the committee’s chair, Coun. Julie Friesen. “It seems to be going well and landlords are being asked to be certified.”

Fire officials launched the program in June 2017 after responding to six fires at illegal secondary suites in the previous six months.

The program waives fees for inspection and provides a medallion that’s attached to a suite’s doorway. Adding it to a list of safe suites on a city website would provide some incentive for landlords to advertise their suites, officials said.

About 85 per cent of the suites inspected required some work to bring them in compliance with 2006 building code and 2014 fire code regulations.

Those require structural fire separations between the living quarters, basement windows of certain size, hard-wired smoke alarms and some other requirements.

Last fall, fire officials also said they were battling a persistent misconception that older suites had been grandfathered and wouldn’t need upgrades.

That is not true, said Stauth. Landlords were given a two-year grace period, but that concluded in 2008.

“This has been in place since 2006, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”

Secondary suites are defined as separated living quarters with a kitchen and separate access. Stauth told councillors that renting a room or having a roommate doesn’t qualify as a secondary quite.

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