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Victoria targets landlord putting low-income tenants at fire risk

Fire alarms not working while second-floor fire escape removed without replacement
An exterior staircase was removed without permits from a Cook Street building that’s had various fire safety issues in recent years. (Courtesy City of Victoria)

The City of Victoria has deemed a multi-unit home a hazard after its landlord has so far ignored multiple notices to fix the building’s fire alarm and upper-floor escape routes.

The small multi-unit building, which the city said appears to serve very low-income tenants and is owned by Richard Good, has been a consistent source of concern and non-compliance for years.

Council on Thursday (May 4) declared the building a hazard that creates unsafe conditions for occupants and visiting members of the public.

The 2122 Cook St. location has been inspected 75 times in the last five years and has failed to be completely satisfactory in any of those visits, with the city commonly finding the building’s fire protection systems deficient.

Fire prevention officers have escalated their response this year and in February discovered the fire alarm system was in disrepair and wasn’t functioning. Inspectors returned in March and found Good had not complied with an order to fix the alarms, while the officials also found fire extinguishers that were overdue for servicing.

Further inspections in March and April found the alarm issue had not been resolved and an exterior staircase was mostly removed without permits and with no temporary replacement put in place. The city said, in the event of a fire, the building’s occupants are at risk from the absence of detection systems and those on the second floor may not be able to escape after the secondary egress was removed.

“Part of the difficulty is that the building owner will not engage with the fire department on the majority of occasions,” staff said in a report presented to councillors on Thursday. The city has used various methods to contact the owner, but most of those means have gone unanswered or ignored – leading staff and bylaw officers to sit outside the building on a rent day to engage with Good.

The site’s tenants have also filed complaints about rats, an individual with excessive clutter in his unit and water leaks – issues the city said can increase the fire risk and ones that have not been addressed despite attempts from other agencies.

Good has faced $36,000 in penalties from the Residential Tenancy Branch Compliance and Enforcement Unit over the safety issues, while he’s also been ticketed by the city several times.

He now has until May 12 to ensure the fire alarm is working and construct a new fire escape that is up to code.

READ: ‘It’s a big mess”: Displaced Langford residents struggling, insurance claims rejected

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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