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CBC News: Tenants, landlords call for review of bylaw that mandates heat until mid-June - ACORN Canada

CBC News: Tenants, landlords call for review of bylaw that mandates heat until mid-June

Posted May 24, 2024

In Hamilton, city councillors are considering a maximum heat bylaw.

Louise Beaulieu wishes she could control the temperature in her apartment, which sometimes feels like an oven in May and June and makes some of her health problems worse.

Instead, Beaulieu is forced to go outside for the relief of a cool breeze, until at least June 15. That’s the date London landlords are allowed to let the thermostat fall below 20 C, according to a bylaw some say needs revisiting.

“The heat is getting more intense and I think they should just try to be sensible and set the temperature according to the weather,” said Beaulieu, who has lived in the east London high rise for 10 years. “If it’s 30 degrees out, you don’t need the heat on.”

London’s vital services bylaw states that between September 15 and June 15, landlords “shall provide a continuous supply of heat to a rented residential unit so that a minimum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius will be maintained” between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. A minimum temperature of 18 C has to be in place the rest of the time.

That’s important in the winter, but with hot summer days starting earlier and cooler fall relief arriving later, it can be too warm for tenants in buildings that aren’t retrofitted to allow for easy climate control, said Jordan Smith, the chair of the Carling-Stoneybrook chapter of ACORN, a tenant advocacy group.

Bylaw should be reviewed

“June gets really hot and the reality is, fans can only take you so far,” Smith said.

In Hamilton, tenant groups are calling for a maximum heat bylaw, which would require landlords to ensure apartment units don’t exceed a specified temperature. It would be the first such bylaw in Canada.
Officials with the London Property Management Association, an umbrella group for the city’s landlords, say they’d welcome a review of the current bylaw. “It would definitely be worth looking into,” said Lana MacFarlane, a director with the organization. “A lot of buildings do have climate control but it’s those buildings where there’s no building-automated system that are an issue.”

The “shoulder seasons” of June and September, when temperatures can fluctuate, are particularly difficult to manage for buildings that aren’t retrofitted, MacFarlane said.

London Middlesex Community Housing (LMCH) complies with the bylaw at its more than 3,000 public housing units and agrees it can become warm during “transitional periods,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“However we encourage tenants to let us know if their unit is unusually warm, so we can inspect their system,” the statement said. “Tenants with balconies can open the door to allow for increased airflow, and fans or air conditioners can be used to cool units, making it easier to manage their comfort.”

LMCH said addressing the issue is a top priority in planning for its future 53-unit building, which is set to open in 2025 on Southdale Rd. E.

The idea to review the bylaw got a warm reception from city councillors Shawn Lewis and Elizabeth Peloza.

“I certainly have heard second-hand stories about tenants affected,” Lewis said. “I do think June is kind of pushing it in terms of requiring people to keep the heat on. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a discussion about this.”

Peloza said she’d like to know how the bylaw works and is interpreted by landlords. “We do need to revisit some of these dates,” she said. “What if you’re in a unit where you don’t control the heat, you don’t have air conditioning, and you’re getting heat into your unit? That’s something we need to talk about because it affects people’s health.”

Henry Szymanski also lives in a London high-rise. His wife, from Trinidad, is often cold even on the warmest summer days, while he tends to run cool. “People complain if it’s too cold in winter and too hot in summer,” he said. “My opinion is that they should turn off the heat in the apartments earlier. Enough is enough.”

Article by Kate Dubinski for CBC NEWS