Ontario Landlords Association

Tenant Disables Smoke Alarms, House Burns Down, Tenant Charged

January 11th, 2013

OLA smoke alarms 1

Orillia Ontario Tenant Charged With Intentionally Disabling Smoke Alarms

The Ontario Landlords Association has repeatedly emphasized to landlords how important it is to make fire safety a priority in your rental properties.

For example, last October 1st we recommended landlords use the opportunity of collecting October rent to also check the smoke alarms in your rental property.

Fire Safety Should Be a Priority for Small Landlords

Like we said then:

With furnaces and space heaters soon to be turned on as the weather gets cold, it’s also a great opportunity for Ontario Landlords to check that smoke alarms are present and working in your rental properties.

Let your tenants know ahead of time and let them know you are working to protect not only yourself, but your tenants!

Why Does it Matter?

Not having working smoke alarms can lead to fines and even worse.

The Fire in Orillia

On January 2nd, 2013 a huge fire broke out at 11 William Street in Orillia, Ontario. The fire caused over $150,000 in damages.

One of the tenants was charged for disabling a smoke alarm in the property on purpose.

According to Ralph Dominelli who is the Fire Chief in Orillia, it’s a very serious act if you disable a smoke alarm.

Chief Dominelli says that while the fire that broke out in the bedroom on the second upstairs floor was not being considered suspicious, the smoke alarms were not activated.

The Fire Chief said even while his team was fighting the blaze, no smoke alarms went off.

The Tenant Was Charged

The Fire Department charged the tenant under the Provincial Offences Act. While the tenant only faces a fine of $235, the Fire department has the option to raise that up to one year in jail and a $50,000 fine.

The severity of the charge will depend on evidence pointing to why the smoke alarms were disabled.

The Investigation

At this time the Fire Chief cannot say why the smoke alarms were disarmed. However a professional engineering company was hired by the landlords insurance company. They have confirmed the fire began at the edge of a mattress.

One of the possible reasons for the fire was faulty discharge after smoking in the bedroom. This has not been confirmed.

Landlords and Tenants Responsibilities

Dominelli says  it is the tenants responsibility to make sure all smoke alarms are in good working condition.

It is the landlords responsibility to make sure smoke alarms are installed on each level of the property and outside of the bedrooms and other sleeping areas.Smoke alarms ought to be checked to make sure they are working effectively each month.

The Lesson for Landlords

Landlords this is another example of why fire safety is important. Landlords must make sure there are working smoke alarms in their investment properties.

It is also important to find good tenants who will cooperate with you in making sure the smoke alarms are maintained in good working order.

You need to do proper tenant screening to make sure you avoid renting to tenants from hell who do not respect you, your property, or their own safety. If you do rent to bad tenants, be aware of what can happen and make sure you fight for your rights and evict them.

If you hire a property management company, make sure they are professional and know all the rules and respect your concerns and worries at all time. There are lots of bad property management companies out there.

To discuss this and other issues with thousands of other small landlords join the Ontario Landlord Forum

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