Visual alarm requested by deaf owner

H.H. writes:

Dear Paul: We have a unit owner who has become totally deaf. As a result of this unfortunate situation, she has asked the Board to install a visual (a light) emergency alarm on her floor and in her suite. Since it is only for one owner, do we have to do this?

Paul replies:

Dear H.H.: The quick answer is yes. The longer answer is it depends. First of all, does your building have a central fire or smoke alarm? Some older buildings may not comply with the latest regulations. If your building is without a central alarm system, I suggest you consult with your local fire department. If your building is equipped with a central alarm, you may be required to accommodate the owner’s request. Once you receive the request, it is important for the Board to do its due diligence and determine the cost and implications of retrofitting the system. A visual alarm in the hallway with an extension into the suite may be sufficient.


The owner herself may want to have an additional visual fire/ smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in the suite. This would be at her expense. If it is going to be hard-wired, as opposed to a plug-in device, it should be done by a professional electrician and comply with your buildings alteration approval rules.

This type of request could be considered an accommodation due to a disability under the Human Rights Code in Manitoba. This means that if the corporation refused to accommodate and she filed a complaint, the corporation would have to show that it would suffer undue hardship to accommodate. A difficult challenge to overcome. Be safe!

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