Landlord pleads guilty in fatal rooming-house fire

A Calgary landlord has pleaded guilty to several health and safety violations in connection with a rooming-house fire that killed two tenants.

Yan Teng Li, 42, who owned the house in the northwest community of Tuxedo Park, pleaded guilty in provincial court on Wednesday.

Darrell Wright and Rock Mitchell died in the blaze on July 31, 2008, while five others escaped unharmed.

Investigators believe an electrical overload sparked the fire in the illegal rooming house, which was zoned for a single family dwelling but held eight individual suites, each with its own set of appliances.

Officials found that some windows were nailed shut, and the three-story building had no fire alarm system or smoke detectors.

On Wednesday, Li's lawyer entered a guilty plea in provincial court to 19 violations of the Public Health Act and five violations of the Safety Codes Act.

Li had been charged with 30 public health violations, which carry a maximum fine of $2,000 each, as well as 29 fire code violations, which carry a maximum penalty of $15,000 each.

City lawyers ask for stiff penalty

Lawyers for the City of Calgary asked that Li pay a total fine of almost $90,000

They argued for a harsh penalty so that landlords who violate municipal and provincial legislation know fines aren't simply a cost of doing business.

City lawyer Amanda Hart said Li's illegal rooming house "fell under the radar" because inspectors didn't receive any complaints or building permit applications.

Trevor McDonald, Li's lawyer, said his client is sorry for what happened and had no idea the house was improperly zoned.

Li is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9.

Last year, the landlords of a Calgary rental home where three people died in a basement fire were fined $89,700 for violating several provincial safety and public health laws.

With files from John Spittal