Property owner fined $40,000 for secondary suite Alberta Fire Code violations
The City of Calgary was successful in prosecuting a local area man and secondary suite owner for violations of the Alberta Fire Code. The conviction handed down in provincial court on October 30th came with a fine of $40,000, plus a $6,000 victim surcharge.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision to convict the property owner and impose a substantial fine for his violations of the Alberta Fire Code,” said Paul Frank, Prosecutor for The City of Calgary. “People need to be safe when living in secondary suites and this conviction and significant fine sends the message that property owners with secondary suites must comply with all requirements of the Alberta Fire Code.”
John Wade JR was convicted of four Safety Codes Act offences pertaining to his residential rental property in McKenzie Lake, south east Calgary. John Wade JR, was found to have failed to provide the minimum life safety standards in a secondary suite as required in the Alberta Fire Code including:
Failing to ensure that each bedroom in the secondary suite had least one outside window that meets the requirements of the Alberta Building Code.
Failing to ensure that smoke alarms are interconnected and are permanently connected to an electrical circuit.
Failing to ensure that carbon monoxide alarms are interconnected and permanently connected to an electrical circuit.
Not having a fire separation for the furnace room that met the requirements as specified in the Alberta Fire Code.
The secondary suite had been occupied by a mother and son for several months.
“The Fire Enforcement Compliance team always prefers to achieve compliance through education, however when that’s not possible, legal action becomes necessary in the interest of public safety,” said Jim Robinson, Fire Marshal for the Calgary Fire Department. “As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 2009 Parkdale basement fire, we’re reminded how important it is to protect the public from injury or even death. We will continue to work with secondary suite owners to make sure they are compliant with the Alberta Fire Code.”
In Calgary, in order to be legal, all secondary suites must have planning approval, meet the minimum life safety standards and be listed on the City’s Secondary Suite Registry. Citizens can verify which secondary suites are legal and access resources to assist with making a secondary suite compliant by visiting Calgary.ca/suites.
“The City has waived development permit and registry fees until June 2020 to help owners bring their existing suites up to the minimum standards.,” says Cliff De Jong, senior special projects officer with Calgary Building Services. “City staff are working with owners through the entire permitting and inspection process and there has never been a better time than now to legalize a suite. Secondary suite owners are encouraged to call 311 to request an inspection of their property. In addition, renters can also place an anonymous call for a City inspection if they are unsure if their suite is safe.”
There are currently more than 1000 legal secondary suites registered in Calgary. The City’s goal is to achieve 2000 registered suites by June 2020.
The Alberta Fire Code and Alberta Building Code are designed to protect the public, create minimum safety standards that all property owners must comply with. For a first-time offence, each offence under the Safety Codes Act could carry a fine of up to $100,000 and up to six months in imprisonment.
In January 2009, there was a fatal fire in a secondary suite in the community of Parkdale that claimed the lives of three young adults and seriously injured a fourth person. Fire investigators determined that the basement fire was caused by a space heater and found there were no proper exit windows. The only smoke alarm in the basement suite was not interconnected between the suites. One of the registered owners of the property plead guilty to violations of the Alberta Fire Code and the Provincial Court Judge imposed significant fines.