Can I Fight an Inspection Order?
Fire Protection and Prevention Act / Ontario Fire Code
The Fire Code is a regulation made under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, (FPPA) consisting of a set of minimum requirements respecting fire safety within and around existing buildings and facilities. The owner is responsible for complying with the Fire Code (the definition of “owner” in the Fire Code, “means any person firm or corporation having control over any portion of the building or property under consideration and includes the persons in the building or property”). Accordingly, there can be more than one owner responsible for Fire Code compliance in the same building, such as a tenant and an owner in an apartment building.
The municipal fire department enforces the Fire Code by using an “Inspection Order”. An inspection order can be a stressful document to receive as a building owner or manager especially since failing to comply can result in fines up to $20,000 a day. Fines can also be increased to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations that knowingly contravene the fire code and can include imprisonment terms.
A fire inspector may visit a building as part of a general routine inspection, in response to a complaint or to witness construction and repairs as part of the building permit process. The fire inspector may issue an inspection order to correct a fire and life safety issue. Inspection orders are often provided for larger or more complex issues, such as replacing several malfunctioning exit signs or repairing an inoperable fire alarm system. Regardless of the size and type of deficiency, a fire inspector has the ability to issue an inspection order if there is a violation of the Fire Code.
There have been instances when inspection orders have been issued for items that are not considered a violation of the Fire Code (an interpretation error may have been made or the fire department wants to make a political statement). When an inspection order is issued, the order is required to include the reason for the order; an explanation of the action required by the order; the time within which the owner or occupant must comply with the order; and the right to request a review of the order.
The decision to exercise any of the options for Fire Code compliance should be based on an analysis of the circumstances as determined by the attending Municipal Fire Inspector. Action taken by the fire inspector should be based on options available within the FPPA and in the most expeditious manner available.
Inspection Order – Rights of Review or Appeal
Section 23 of the FPPA specifies that an Inspection Order and an Order to Close must contain the right to request a review of the order by the Fire Marshal or designate, or in the case of an order made by the Fire Marshal or designate, the right to appeal to the Fire Safety Commission. The reverse side of the Inspection Order form outlines these rights.
Subsection 25 (1): A person aggrieved by an Inspection Order may request a review within 15 calendar days (not working days) after the service of the Inspection Order by the Fire Marshal and potentially a subsequent appeal to the Fire Safety Commission.
When a review or appeal is requested, it stays the order. The Municipal Dire Service may request the Fire Marshal or Fire Safety Commission to lift the stay if there is a strong belief that the action is necessary in the interest of public safety. An extension of time under Subsection 25 (2) (3) can also be sought.
Subsection 25 (4), ‘ The powers of the Fire Marshal’ may under Clause (a) refuse to consider the substance of the request and refer the matter to the Fire Safety Commission for a hearing or under Clause (b) confirm, amend or rescind the order to make such other order as he or she deems appropriate.
Any person who considers himself or herself aggrieved by an order made by the Fire Marshal may appeal the order to the Fire Safety Commission for a hearing under Section 26.
Most disagreements are resolved at the Fire Safety Commission, but there is one further appeal available under the FPPA. Any party to the hearing of the Fire Safety Commission may appeal that decision to Divisional Court under Section 27. This appeal should not be ignored, especially if there is a common sense solution that has been rejected by the Fire Safety Commission.