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Will issuing $75K fine faze owners of illegal rooming houses?

Last Updated Aug 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm EST

A lack of affordable housing is pushing many Torontonians into dangerously crowded rooming houses – many of them unlicenced.

A rooming house review funded by the city this summer concluded that there’s no clear data on how many illegal rooming houses are operating in the city, but of tenants surveyed, 31.3 per cent said they lived in an unlicenced rooming house. And more than half admitted they didn’t know if the rooming house they lived in was licenced or not.

Cost is the number one reason most people turn to rooming houses, with 74.3 per cent naming affordability as the key factor.

On Wednesday, the owner of an illegal rooming house in Toronto was fined $75,000 after a tenant died in a fire two years ago.

Konstantin Lysenko was convicted of numerous fire code violations after the blaze that killed a 23-year-old woman who rented a basement apartment at the converted home. It was one of seven rooms at the residence.

The city’s rooming house review found that fire hazards are a legitimate worry for neighbours of rooming houses, with 60.1 per cent citing fire as a concern.

Last March, two men died after an illegal rooming house near Kensington Market went up in flames. Ten others were treated for smoke inhalation, including two children. Toronto Fire said 18 people were living at the home.

“The city has received an increasing number of complaints related to impaired life-safety conditions in neighbourhoods where there are illegal room house operations,” the review found.

The city defines a rooming house as a residence where four or more unrelated people share a kitchen and/or washroom and pay individual rent.

According to the city’s website, there are 328 licenced rooming houses in Toronto.

Rooming House Review Consultant's Report June 2015