As part of a series, the Star is answering common questions about renting in Toronto. Do you have questions that you want us to answer? Email the Star at renterFAQ@thestar.ca
It’s late October, the weather’s turned colder and it’s time to turn on the heat.
Except there’s a problem.
Maybe the thermostat is under lock and key. Or controlled by another unit in the house. Perhaps it’s set far too low (or far too high) or maybe your landlord has decided you don’t really need it yet.
What rights do tenants have when it comes to the heat in their home?
If it’s late October and your unit is below 21 C, your landlord is “failing to provide a vital service,” said George Brown, paralegal at George Brown Professional Corporation and president of the Ontario Paralegal Association.
According to Toronto’s Heating Bylaw, a landlord is responsible for providing heat to a residential unit at a minimum of 21 C.
“The law doesn’t require anyone to turn heat on or off. What it requires is that the temperature be at a certain level. So, if you got a heat wave in October, the landlord doesn’t have to turn on the heat, if the heat is at 21 degrees Celsius. If it drops below that, then yeah, the landlord has got to turn on the heat,” Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations said.
If your thermostat is under lock and key or out of your reach as a tenant, a landlord is not required to give you access, Brown said.
“The landlord has to ensure that there is no need for the tenant to have access to the thermostat because the heat is maintained at the proper temperature,” Brown said.
Although landlords are not required to give tenants access to the thermostat, Brown says if a tenant would like access they should simply talk to their landlord.
“We represent landlords and we would not advise any of our landlords to take an inflexible position on providing access to the thermostat,” Brown said.
However, tenants are not entitled to the thermostats controlling the temperature in their unit.
“Under the law, tenants do not have access to control their own heat. Again, the law just says that when you have heat, the landlord’s got to maintain it at a certain degree,” Dent said.
If your landlord is failing to maintain your unit’s temperature at 21 C, Brown says tenants have the option of filing a complaint with the Investigation Branch of the Landlord and Tenant Board.
“They will send the landlord a sharp, stern letter. The tenant can also complain to 3-1-1, who may send in a property standard’s officer out to meet with the landlord, to remind him of his obligations. And maybe even document that the heat was not working within the proper requirements of the act. So the tenant does have a lot options,” Brown said.
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If you find yourself dealing with an unresponsive landlord and waiting for action from services like 3-1-1 or the Landlord and Tenant Board, Brown says landlords cannot restrict space heaters in the unit.
“The tenant has to provide heat somehow. So, if the landlord doesn’t provide it, the tenant is actually trying to mitigate by not causing further damage to themselves or to the property, and space heaters would be permitted until the landlord provides the heat that is supposed to be provided under the tenancy agreement,” Brown said.
But be careful, Dent says, some space heaters can be fire hazards.
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