Toronto Star: ‘We’re all just so fed up’: Toronto tenants already suffering from the heat because of city bylaw

Posted May 19, 2021

On Monday night, Bretton Place resident Anne Marie MacKenzie slept on her balcony with her dog to escape the baseboard heating inside her apartment — heat she is unable to turn off.
 
“It’s just so hot in here and I don’t think as residents paying such high (rent), with nothing else included, why our hands are so tied,” MacKenzie said. “We’re all just so fed up.”
 
On the same day, management put up a notice informing residents they cannot “readily” switch between heating and cooling systems, and need to legally provide heat to residents until June 15. The notice, seen by the Star, also said they will take the forecast into consideration.
 
Indoor overheating happens every year at Bretton Place, MacKenzie told the Star.
 
With this spring already feeling a lot more like summer, MacKenzie is only one of many tenants across Toronto who are already suffering from too-hot apartments, because of landlords who rigidly enforce what some say is an outdated city bylaw.
 
Despite the law — which says that owners and landlords of residential buildings are responsible for providing heating to a minimum air temperature of 21 degrees, from Sept. 15 to June 1 — the city on Tuesday encouraged landlords to turn off the heat on warm spring days.
 
According to Coun. Josh Matlow, Mother Nature doesn’t always follow city bylaws. He said he has visited residents who live on the tenth floor of a building who have been “boiling in their homes.”
 
A city spokesperson said the fine for failing to maintain the bylaw’s minimum temperature is $500, however educating landlords is preferred to issuing tickets at this time. The spokesperson also said the city is asking landlords to use their judgment during warmer weather.
 
Matlow told the Star landlords will not be fined for using common sense and “doing the right thing” on a hot spring day.
 
“If Mother Nature has different plans than the bylaw’s intentions, then we are telling you clearly and authoritatively that we’d rather you use common sense to protect the health and well-being of the residents who live in your building,” he said.
 
There ultimately needs to be changes made to the heat bylaw to explicitly relieve a landlord from the unrealistic expectations and Matlow said he has repeatedly asked the city to provide clarification.
 
“I have been going to senior staff and the mayor’s office for years asking for clarity in the bylaw,” he said. “That has not been forthcoming.”
 
Climate change has impacted the bylaw as “May is different these days than it was many years ago,” he added.
 
Alejandro Gonzalez-Rendon, a member of ACORN, a union of low-income individuals and families agreed, “We have to be flexible, we have to be adaptable because global warming is happening,”
 
MacKenzie, who has lived at Bretton Place for almost seven years, also believes the bylaw is outdated and needs to be changed. Bretton Place management did not comment in time for publication.
 
Although Matlow believes Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, should be the one to help inform landlords about when to turn off the heat, he said Mayor John Tory will be helping to get the message out this year.
 
If a tenant has a concern about indoor air temperatures, the city encourages them to first speak with their landlord or property manager directly, and if the issue persists, contact 311 for the city to investigate.

 

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Article by Irelyne Lavery for the Toronto Star

 

 

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