Overcrowded Brio home prompts investigation 

Assistant Fire Chief said problem is ‘widespread’ in Whistler

A Brio homeowner is under investigation for renting his home out to 23 people at a time.

"It’s against the current level of bylaw and zoning and for the type of operation, it’s in contravention of the B.C. Fire Code," said Assistant Fire Chief Rob Whitton, who investigated the home last Friday.

The home on Juniper Place has three floors. The owner lives in a one-bedroom suite upstairs and the main floor and basement levels each have three bedrooms. Twenty-three people live in those six rooms.

Each bedroom has three to five people sleeping in it. The B.C. Fire Code states that only two people are allowed per sleeping room said Whitton.

"It was not horrendously bad at all," he said.

"(It was) quite neat, orderly, and tidy. It’s just the issue of the amount of people occupying that type of space.

"From this level, the concern is the safety of the occupants of the building, making sure that they are living in a safe and relatively hazard-free environment."

The major issue for the fire department is the overcrowding, which raises safety issues if there was ever a fire.

"The last thing that we want to see is a major fatality," said Whitton.

In November bylaw services received a complaint about the number of people living in the Juniper house. Because the homeowner had no previous violations on record he was given a warning that there would be an investigation.

The home is zoned as a single-family dwelling and as such, it cannot be rented out as a rooming house.

"It’s rented out on a monthly basis to each person and I’m not sure of what the fee per person is," said Whitton.

"There’s speculation on the rates... but it would be a significant amount of money. It’s being run as a boarding house."

But Whitton said it’s certainly not the only place in town that’s breaking the Fire Code.

This time last year the fire department issued a B.C. Fire Commissioner’s order to another Brio home that had the potential to sleep up to 70 people.

When the fire department investigated the home they discovered seven to 10 beds in some rooms and 24 beds in the attic. They estimated 30 people were living there at the time.

Homeowners Lisa and Rico Suchy appealed the order which called for no more than 10 occupants to live within the home.

This matter is still under investigation.

Whitton said this problem is widespread in Whistler, as homeowners stuff people into rooms and cash in on the rent.

"I guess it boils down to how much money people want to make," said Whitton.

"It’s something that we need to get a handle on. We’re putting a lot of people into a position of compromised safety and it’s a liability that once we find out about it, we must act upon it and show due diligence to make sure that we’ve got people coming in, enjoying a safe place to come and visit."

He also encourages the renters to think about the situations they are putting themselves in.

"They should be aware (of safety concerns) when they’re getting into these situations, when they’re noticing three, four and five to a bedroom," said Whitton.

"You’re pushing the limits here of your own safety, even your own privacy. It’s getting to be something that is less than acceptable."

Whitton has made a report on the Juniper house outlining his concerns. That report has been forwarded to an inter-departmental task force that will be reviewing it in the next week. Then the fire department will be working with the owner to see what type of actions need to be taken to fix the situation.

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