Rooming houses should be taken seriously and addressed
Rooming houses have been in the news recently due to the
three-alarm fire which broke out in a rooming house in
Toronto's Kensington Market area. The illegal rooming house had
12 tenants on the second floor, four units on the third floor, and
only one exit at the front door. The fire killed two occupants and
sent 10 people to hospital, including two children.
Unlicensed rooming houses are operating in many condominiums in
Ontario. We recently toured a 4-bedroom townhouse which had been
converted into a 12-bedroom rooming house. While a 12-bedroom
condominium unit may be hard to picture, unscrupulous unit owners
with an imagination and a desire to collect large sums of rental
income each month can create rooming houses that shock even the
most seasoned property managers.
As any board member will tell you, boards of directors are busy
dealing with a laundry list of issues. Rooming houses are sometimes
seen as low priority and can end up being ignored or sitting on the
"to do" list for months or even years. Some corporations
do not take steps to deal with possible rooming houses because they
do not know what can be done or they are worried about possible
Rooming houses create health and safety risks for all
corporation residents, not just those residing in the unit. If a
corporation fails to act on a known rooming house, it could expose
the corporation to liability. Rooming houses should be taken
seriously and addressed immediately.
Your corporation may already be aware of illegal rooming houses.
Often corporations regularly inspect units for issues relating to
water leaks or fire safety. In some cases, building superintendents
and contractors are aware of rooming houses but this information is
not passed onto management or board members. If you suspect rooming
houses may be operating in your corporation, ask building staff and
management if they have seen any alterations or noticed anything
suspicious. In some cases a comprehensive inspection of the entire
corporation may be necessary.
If your corporation suspects that some of the units have
been converted to rooming houses, we recommend taking the following
1. Confirm whether rooming houses are permitted in the
Check the corporation's documents to determine requirements
for occupancy and leasing, and review the local municipality's
occupancy standards by-laws. In our experience we have never seen a
situation where rooming houses are permitted. If they are
permitted, make sure they are licensed.
2. Determine what is going on in the unit and gather evidence
of any illegal rooming house.
If enforcement proceedings are necessary, you will need direct
first-hand evidence that a rooming house exists. . The unit should
be inspected, preferably by more than one person. Corporations are
entitled by law to access units and owners cannot deny entry. Look
for rooming house evidence such as locks on bedroom doors, fridges,
or cabinets. Take pictures. Try to identify and interview the
3. Determine whether legal action is necessary.
Have someone speak to the owner to try to eliminate the rooming
house without legal action. Some owners choose to sell their units
when they learn that management has discovered the rooming house
and is contemplating enforcement proceedings.
4. Contact the Owner
Send a formal demand letter asking the owner to dismantle the
rooming house and give 30 days minimum as a time dead line. Letters
can come from the board, management, and or legal counsel and
should include a warning that after the 30 days, inspection of the
unit will take place to ensure compliance.
5. It can't be ignored. Take action.
If the rooming house continues to operate, corporations should
initiate the mediation and arbitration procedures mandated by the
Corporations cannot ignore rooming houses. By taking steps to
eliminate illegal rooming houses, corporations will be protecting
the owners and residents from health and safety risks as well as
from legal liability.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).