By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound
Monday, July 8, 2013 5:22:45 EDT PM
Three fires over eight months in 2012 at Grey County-owned housing buildings has prompted the upper-tier government to move to ban smoking inside residential units.
A no-smoking clause will be included in all lease agreements — signed by new tenants and tenants that have transferred to another unit — starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Existing tenants will be “grandfathered” and can continue to smoke in their units for the length of their tenancy, unless they opt to sign a no-smoking policy addendum to their lease, said Grey County housing director Rod Wyatt.
The new policy will also ban smoking outdoors within five metres of any windows, doors, patios or balconies.
“We’ve been considering this for a couple years now,” Wyatt said in a recent interview.
“Certainly the fires gave us the impetus to move forward at this time.”
The county owns 888 residential units. About half are located in Owen Sound, with others in communities like Hanover, Flesherton, Dundalk and Meaford.
One unit was destroyed and two others were heavily damaged after a fire broke out May 25, 2012, at the Alpha St. townhouse complex in Owen Sound. No one was injured in the blaze.
Nearly two months later, fire crews responded to a blaze at county-owned Lemon Court at 85 Lemon St. in Thornbury. One unit was severely damaged. A tenant was taken to hospital as a precaution and two were displaced.
The third fire resulted in the death of an elderly man, which heavily damaged a unit Dec. 15 at the county-owned Maple Villa apartment complex at 81 Bruce St.
Wyatt said the July and December fires were both caused by “careless smoking.” The Alpha St. fire was ignited by a stove, but evidence of “unsafe smoking” was found in the unit, he said.
He said the county has received an increased number of complaints from tenants about the impact of secondhand smoking.
The Smoke Free Ontario Act already bans people from smoking in common areas of multi-unit dwellings, which include hallways, lobbies, elevators and stairways.