Posted January 9, 2018
Tenants of a large East York apartment building say they’re catching colds and wearing parkas to bed because their landlord refuses to keep the heat high enough — an accusation the landlord denies.
About 30 residents of 75 Eastdale Ave. staged a protest in their building lobby Saturday to draw attention to the issue that they say has been chilling their homes for as long as six years.
“Tenants are leaving the stove on — they have no other choice,” said Saiful Haq, a tenant who’s been at the address for five years. “It’s putting the whole building at risk.”
The group of tenants allege CAPREIT, a property management company that owns interests in over 50,000 residential units in Canada according to its website, has been keeping the temperature too cold in the winter months.
But when the city has inspected the building, unit temperatures have been above 21 degrees Celsius throughout the building units, according to the company.
“We’re delivering 27 degrees when it’s minus 27 (degrees) outside so we’re doing an incredibly good job,” said CAPREIT chief operating officer Mark Kenney, referring to high temperature readings in some units. “We’re at a loss as to where we have fallen short.”
Residents report inconsistency in their unit temperatures, alleging that when they call the city at 311 to report the cold, the temperature temporarily gets boosted for a couple of days, only to drop again overnight when the city inspectors are not expected to visit.
One resident, Muhammad Naeem, has collected over 100 signatures from tenants concerned about the heat, security, cleanliness, and pest control in the building.
Coun. Janet Davis, who represents the ward where the building is located, said she was told by CAPREIT management Friday that they had raised the temperature in the building when they heard about the planned protest.
“CAPREIT was very responsive,” Davis said of the weekend’s events. “What has to happen now is that this responsiveness has to continue and there has to be an effort to build a relationship.”
Davis said the problem of temperatures in apartment buildings is not limited to that address — a lack of maintenance in apartment buildings and limited temperature monitoring are partly to blame.
“I think there are a lot of landlords who have made a lot of money over the past 20 years with these high rise buildings that now need significant investment,” she said.
The landlord has offered residents a space heater to use in their units, but that’s small comfort for residents who have to pay their own hydro bills — like Haq. His family is currently using three space heaters to warm their apartment, a cost they absorb even though CAPREIT’s website states heat is included in the rent.
“What worries me is their intention,” Haq said, calling the solutions CAPREIT has come up with a way to “bypass” the building’s problems while hoping the largely immigrant tenant population stays quiet.
The problem began, according to 23-year resident Carol Balenchuk, six years ago, when the heating began to be centrally controlled by the property management company, rather than onsite.
“It used to be lovely and warm,” Balenchuk said, but “the other day I had ice inside my window.”
Kenney said such phenomena are normal in the winter, and that residents should perform best practices like keeping furniture away from radiators and the doors to their units closed.
He said the persistent complaints about heating in the building stem from residents who would rather have very high temperatures in their units — not from the property management company failing to keep the units at 21 degrees Celsius.
“We’re open to meeting with any resident about heat complaints,” Kenney said. “We have heat measuring devices there we’re happy to look at other heat measuring devices.”
Bakenchuk and Susan Latendresse, another longtime resident, say they’ve had multiple meetings with the property management company over the years, where they say they’ve been given “lip service” but no long-term solutions.
Now they’ve formed a larger networks of tenants, and teamed up with ACORN East York chapter, an advocacy group, to try to pressure the landlord into making a written commitment to keep the heat higher, and to upgrade windows to prevent drafts.
Alejandra Ruiz Vargas chair of ACORN East York said her organization has been hearing complaints about the heat at the apartment building for years.
“It’s really a major issue because, of course the weather,” she said.
Temperatures finally climbed above the freezing mark Monday but prior to that, it had been frigid since Christmas Day, including extreme cold warnings in place.
Vargas said the organization will meet with CAPREIT next week to “get results” for the tenants. “The housing crisis is not only the shortage of housing it’s the crisis that tenants suffer too in the city of Toronto from a lack of respect from landlords,” she said.
Article by Alex McKeen for the Toronto Star