Fire Inspections & Illegal Rooming Houses

On February 11, 2017, Sherry Reich, Senior Fire Prevention Officer for the City of Winnipeg, presented an information session on Winnipeg Fire Codes related to legal and illegal rooming houses.  Community residents in attendance learned many important takeaways in the informative presentation.

If I were to summarize the key points, they would be as follows:


If you suspect multiple tenants, and are uncertain if the home has smoke detectors:

  • Phone 311 or E-mail  to file a service request.  I suggest you E-mail 311 rather than phoning them. Winnipeg’s 311 Service Centre receives over 1.5 million requests each year. Using E-mail allows you to report an issue and then follow up at your convenience.
  • Advise 311 that ‘You suspect there may be LIFE SAFETY issues at xxx Street, as you believe it is an illegal rooming house.’
    • Report if you suspect someone is living in the basement.
    • Report if you see basement lights on frequently
    • And above all, report if the window is a small narrow window that does not comply to the new larger sizes.
    • Report if there is a low metal window well around the basement window. This is an almost positive indicator that the basement window does not meet Manitoba Building Code. This is a fire hazard and life/safety issue for the people living in the basement.
  • Tell 311 you are concerned about LIFE SAFETY issues and you think a Fire Inspector should come out and investigate.
  • Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service will follow up within 2 business days and conduct a full fire inspection. Life safety issues receive a high level of priority.


Key Facts and Definitions

  • The ‘proper term’ for rooming houses is Converted Residential Dwelling (CRD).  However, most people refer to them as rooming houses.
  • There are licensed and illegal rooming houses in the City of Winnipeg.
    • Licensed rooming houses meet all building codes, and now receive annual fire inspections (due in part to a motion which Councillor Eadie and I brought forward in July, 2016)
    • Illegal rooming houses receive no fire inspections UNLESS they are reported.
  • As of 2016, there were 219 licensed rooming houses in Winnipeg.  There are TWO licensed rooming houses in Fort Richmond, both of which were grandfathered in when the rules governing rooming house eligibility changed in 2003.
  • It is extremely costly to convert an existing home to a licensed rooming houses; meeting building code in older homes makes it virtually cost prohibitive. In an area which is zoned for “single family dwellings” (ie: University heights and Ft Richmond), licensed rooming houses would not be approved.
  • In the recently approved 2017 City Budget, three ADDITIONAL fire inspectors were hired.


The shortage of affordable housing is at a crisis stage around the University of Manitoba. My biggest fear is for a fire to occur with students residing in a basement suite.  If you suspect multiple tenants and the home has no smoke detectors, please contact 311 and report.