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House did not need to be registered in system, city says

Site of deadly fire was not part of the city’s two-unit system, despite the split dwelling

The home at 116 Centre Street North was not registered as part of the city’s two-unit registration system as it was classified as a duplex ahead of the system being put in place in 1994/1995.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The home at 116 Centre Street North, the site of a deadly house fire on Jan. 8, had two units, but wasn’t part of the City of Oshawa’s two-unit registration system, precluding it from inspections from city staff that may have identified any issues. Many are now left asking why.

According to the city, the home was registered as a duplex, and not a two-unit home, and the registration took place in 1992, ahead of the city’s two-unit registration system coming into affect in 1994/1995.

“This building does not need to be registered as it is a dual dwelling/duplex and not a single detached dwelling with an accessory apartment,” states Tracy Adams with the city’s corporate communications department. “The house at 116 Centre Street North was originally constructed as a single detached dwelling. In 1992 a minor variance was approved by the Committee of Adjustment to permit the conversion of the building to a dual dwelling or duplex, not a single with an accessory apartment.”

At the time of the variance, Adams states that a building permit was obtained and the home was inspected by city inspectors.

Currently, homes that consist of two units are required to be registered with the City of Oshawa, requiring them to be inspected by city officials to ensure they meet municipal property and fire code standards.

However, even if the home had been registered with the city in 1994, inspections are only done on a complaint basis following the initial inspection.

Two unit registration inspections are a one-time event and are conducted both proactively (upon registration) and upon receiving complaints (if a two unit house is discovered it will be checked to confirm registration and if it is not registered the owner will be directed to do so),” Adams states in an emailed response.

The tragic fire comes at a time when council recently decided to not move ahead with investigations to expand the Residential Rental Housing Licensing system (RRHL) across the entire city. The system requires landlords to be registered, abide by the city’s property standards and other bylaws, and also involves inspections by city staff to ensure things remain up to code.

“I believe that all landlords should be licensed and most importantly, those that live in high priority neighbourhoods,” states Councillor Amy McQuaid-England. “Council’s decision not to move forward with public consultation on licensing in the budget because of the $300,000 price tag, and with no notice to the public was the wrong move,” McQuaid-England says. “I hope council sees the error of their ways and stand up for all tenants in our city. All residents deserve safe and healthy housing.”

At present, the cause of the Jan. 8 fire has yet to be determined, however, it’s known that there were no working smoke alarms in the home. It is unclear whether any charges will be laid in connection to the fire.