The $10K Chimney Surprise!
Ontario Building Code Change Request
Updates since January, 2012
FoNTRA (represents 28 member organizations), CORRA (represents 50+ member organizations) , SAHRA (represents 800 households in the South Armour Heights area) as well as a number of the other Associations and a number of members of those Associations submitted Requests to the Ontario MMAH in Jan and Feb, 2012, supporting the original Request submitted by the City of Toronto in 2007. A confirmation letter/email from Alex Antoniuk, Manager, Code Development Unit, MMAH to the submitters stated that the “code change request will be considered at the next opportunity for consultation on code changes to Ontario’s Building Code. Typically there are several opportunities in each Code cycle.”
Brian Abbey, a member of FoNTRA and also a member of the Building Advisory Council (BAC), was advised by the MMAH that it was never included in the Ministry’s round of code consultations in 2011 because the wording in the Ontario Building Code (OBC) is exactly the same as the model National Building Code (mNBC) and would need a change to the mNBC for a change in the OBC. Alek Antoniuk of the MMAH advised FoNTRA on Jan 30, 2012 that the proposed change has been forwarded to the Canadian Codes Centre for consideration as a change to the mNBC and that the request would be considered at the next opportunity for consultation on code changes to the OBC. FoNTRA also received a phone call from Ottawa in Feb, 2012 and an electronic version of the Request was sent to them.
CORRA submitted a Request on Feb 21, 2012 with copies to The Honorable Kathleen Wynne and Ann Borooah, Chief Building Official & Executive Director, City of Toronto pointing out that this has been a longstanding issue; first brought forward by property owners on a site-by-site basis; then as an issue brought forward as a neighbourhood concern; and now it is being raised to resident and ratepayer associations on a city-wide basis. We need a timely resolution to this issue. CORRA asked to be kept informed on progress of this issue being reviewed/resolved.
We hoped that we would now have the attention of both the Ontario and Federal government agencies and that Building Code changes would be forthcoming but that does not appear to be so. Follow-up on March 6, 2012 to the submissions resulted in a response from Ralpha Digaetano, Code Development Advisor, MMAH advising that “at this time no new public consultations on additional proposed code changes for the next edition of the Building Code are planned.” and that “This issue raises questions concerning Zoning By-laws, common law, and TSSA fuels safety enforcement, as well as the need for review of the Building Code. We are still determining how to address your concerns and whether a Building Code amendment will be the most suitable means of addressing your concerns.”
FoNTRA presented the Chimney Issue and the need for a Building Code amendment to The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, then the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing at a Planning Reform Meeting on April 20, 2012. Documents were forwarded to her Office on May 14, 2012. The Honourable Wynne’s response on Oct 25, 2012 stated “…the issue is a complex one, whose implications go beyond the purposes of the Building Code, and affect land use planning, technical standards and common law. However the Code Change Proposal submitted by your member associations during March 2012 was received too late to be considered for a potential next edition of the Building Code. That being said, consultation for potential code changes may happen in future, when this proposal could be considered.”
Actions Required Now
It is now time to follow-up on this issue with the Minister (The Honourable Linda Jeffrey) and Deputy Minister (Laurie LeBlanc) of the MMAH asking for action/progress in 2013 by the consortium of residents’ associations.
MPs and MPPS and City Councillors all need to be made aware of this situation, the impact on their constituents and our requests to the various levels of government.
In the meantime, we also need to continue to educate the unsuspecting ‘existing’ homeowner of this situation so that they have an opportunity to negotiate a financial arrangement with developers before the Committee of Adjustment hearing and/or before development begins. The developers/ architects often say/pretend that they are not even aware of the chimney issue!
We have asked the City of Toronto to review the ‘notes’ on permit drawings that now state “However, please take note that once the authorized construction is completed, the subject building may be in close proximity to the existing chimney on the adjacent property. This may have a negative impact on the operational effectiveness of the said chimney. Please be advised that it is the City’s position that this would be a civil matter between the owners of the two properties which does not involve the City nor fall within the City’s jurisdiction. As such, it is advisable that you confer with the owner of the adjacent property prior to proceeding with the construction”. The City should also state that the ‘existing’ homeowner could be red-tagged and have to replace/remove their boiler/gas fireplaces at a substantial cost. It is not often that the existing homeowner would even see the final permit drawings but at least it does make the developer aware of the situation that he should discuss with the adjacent homeowner.
SAHRA also asked Councillor Karen Stintz in Oct, 2012 to follow-up on the City including a statement on the Notice of a Committee of Adjustment hearing IF there is a chimney problem with the adjacent property, so that the adjacent homeowner as well as the developer are aware of the situation and as such can proceed with negotiating a plan for dealing with the problem and a financial agreement.
The Action Items to be followed up in 2014 are:
- Determine with MMAH officials what the process and timings are for 2014 Building Code changes.
- Resubmit the issue to the Minister and Deputy Minister of the MMAH supported by CORRA, FoNTRA, F.U.N. (Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods), SAHRA and additional GTA residents’ associations.
- Present the issue to all MPs and MPPs.
- Present the issue to all City of Toronto Councillors.
- Present the issue to the City of Toronto Building and Planning Departments.
- Present the issue to the Building Industry and Land Development Association to ask that their members recognize the need to negotiate arrangements with affected adjacent homeowners.
- Present the issue to the Building Advisory Council (BAC) for dissemination to their members.
- Inform the Toronto Real Estate Board of the issue asking them to make their agents aware of the issue and the possible implications to their buying clients.
- Arrange a meeting of all involved parties to determine what actions can/should be taken to resolve this situation.
- Publicize the issue via various techniques/media to the residents of the City of Toronto.
- Follow-up with the Committee of Adjustment request that any chimney issue be noted on the Notices so that the developer and the adjacent homeowner are aware of the situation.
- Follow-up with the City of Toronto Building Department request that the ‘red-tag’ problem is noted on the final building permits so that the developer is aware of the need to discuss the situation with the adjacent homeowner.
We will now re-initiate the campaign for a Building Code change with the hope that we can achieve changes in 2014!
As per the required process, Change Requests were submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in 2012 to be considered in the “next opportunity for consultation on code changes to Ontario’s Building Code”.
SAHRA followed up again in Nov, 2015 as Ontario Building Code News 239 on Oct 20, 2015 stated that Nov 30, 2015 was the cutoff date for Code Change Requests for Net Edition Building Code. The Ministry replied that we did not have to re-submit – our previous submission on file would be considered in this round. They also stated that once a proposal is in their system, they cannot provide information on its status.
SAHRA has followed each Ontario Building Code News Issue as published – still nothing!
Over the years, a number of residents have contacted SAHRA about gas furnace/boiler, gas fireplace as well as wood burning fireplace problems (they actually require more clearance than gas flues – 10′ versus 8′). Our advice to them is to try to negotiate with the developer, before the CofA Hearing.
Eventually the problem will go away but likely not for quite a long time. Keep in mind that this is a provincial/federal issue (it is not just Toronto) and it will take many years before the bungalows and the older 2-storey homes convert to high-performance gas furnaces/boilers or eliminate their wood-burning fireplace or are all eliminated. In Toronto, the bungalow issue will be resolved first as the bungalows are being eliminated rapidly. But not they are also starting to replace 2-storey homes with new buildings that are much higher than the existing 2-storey home(s) beside them, so same problem.