Calgary city officials hope a fire code violation conviction stemming from a secondary suite complaint sends a strong message to both property owners and renters.
John Wade Jr. was convicted of four Safety Codes Act offences in provincial court Tuesday, according to City of Calgary prosecutor Paul Frank. Wade was fined $40,000, as well as a $6,000 victim surcharge.
Frank called the conviction “precedent setting” when it comes to fire code violations in Alberta secondary suites, because it will provide future guidance for prosecutors and fire inspectors. Wade was found to have not “provided the minimum life safety standards,” in the suite, due to issues surrounding its bedroom windows, its furnace, as well as fire and carbon dioxide alarms.
“The message that needs to be heard and understood by all owners of secondary suites is that there are a number of requirements that you just do,” Frank said at a press conference Wednesday.
“If you are found not to have met those requirements, the city will look at your situation and you could be charged with offences like this person was in this case,” Frank added, “and significant fines can accrue.”
Global News attempted to contact Wade by phone Wednesday afternoon. He has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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Court documents show that the house where the offences were found is at 216 Mckerrell Way S.E. Frank said the case reaches back to 2015, when a woman and her son were renting the suite.
A woman who identified herself as the renter who was living in the residence told Global News that she was shocked to learn about the violations at the time.
“I consider myself very lucky,” said the woman. Global News has chosen not to reveal her name out of concerns for her safety.
“I didn’t realize how dangerous it was until fire inspectors explained it to me.”
The conviction is “significant” when it comes to public safety, said Jim Robinson, fire marshal for the Calgary Fire Department. He said his department would prefer to educate owners rather than charge them, but “sometimes enforcement is required.”
“I think most of the time they’re just uninformed and they just need that education piece so that they can bring their places up to code,” Robinson said.
Officials at Wednesday’s press conference pointed to a 2009 fatal fire in a secondary suite in Calgary’s Parkdale neighbourhood, as an example of what can happen when residences are not in compliance with the fire code. In that case, three people were killed and another was seriously injured.
Officials said their ultimate message to renters is that they should feel safe in their homes and if they are concerned about possible violations, they can call 311 anonymously for an inspection.