Scarborough rooming house operator convicted over fire code violations

Scarborough rooming house operator convicted over fire code violations

A City of Toronto investigation has led to convictions against a man over the operation of unsafe rooming houses in Scarborough.

Comfort Residential Group Home Inc. and Winston Manning, a company director, pleaded guilty to multiple violations of the Ontario Fire Code and Planning Act at a provincial offences court.

The group was found to be operating six rooming houses after an investigation involving the city, Toronto fire and Toronto police in July 2017.

Manning has been fined $73,000 for the numerous fire code violations — plus a 25 per cent surcharge — and an additional $4,000 for using a building for a "non-permitted purpose."

He will be placed on probation for two years.

Manning said he pleaded guilty because he couldn't afford to fight the charges. "I was backed in a corner and couldn't defend myself," he told CBC Toronto. "I just listened to the prosecutor and accepted what she had to offer."

Manning maintains that the homes were not unsafe, but said there were "some things that needed to be altered or changed."

'Shelters don't want them'

In 2016, Manning defended his operation of rooming houses to CBC Toronto, saying that he moved his residents multiple times that year to avoid being charged.

He said that without his services, many of his residents would have no other housing options.

"Shelters don't want them, hospitals are pushing them out, nursing homes don't want them," Manning said. "Some of the people don't fit the criteria for those places so they will be left on their own."

In addition to the convictions against Manning, Comfort Residential Group Home Inc. was also fined $7,500 for the fire code violations.