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City tells Toronto landlords to turn heat off during soaring temperatures

Last Updated Sep 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm EDT

We are just days away from the start of fall but summer temperatures seem to be lingering, and it’s expected to get even warmer this weekend. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, some buildings across Toronto have already turned the air conditioning off and turned heat on.

That’s because a city bylaw mandates that landlords maintain a minimum temperature of 21 C as of Sept. 15.

On Wednesday, city councillors Josh Matlow and Joe Mihavc held a joint news conference at CityHall urging landlords to turn their heating systems off, after their offices have been inundated with calls from residents saying the conditions were unbearable.

“If your tenants are baking inside and if you have air conditioning turn it on,” Coun. Matlow said. “Turn off the heat and use common sense. You will be in compliance with the bylaw.”

Many landlords across the city turn the heat on, on or before Sept. 15, per the city heat by-law. That bylaw states “A landlord is responsible for providing heat to a residential dwelling that is rented or leased, to a minimum air temperature of 21 degrees Celsius from September 15 to June 1.”

Matlow, who is also the chair of the Tenant Issues Committee, says the bylaw sometimes gets misinterpreted, saying it requires the unit to be no colder than 21 degrees – not that the heating system is on.

“It speaks to the temperature, not when you need to turn on your boilers,” said the St.Paul’s councillor. “There’s nothing in there that says flick the switch.”

One of the buildings in Matlow’s riding is 44 Jackes Ave., located in the Yonge Street and St.Clair Avenue area. There are 274 units in that building, and one woman tells CityNews her apartment hit 31 degrees.

“It’s annoying that they can’t turn it off,” said Geoff, a resident of the building. “I understand they eventually have to turn the heat on, but it’s not appropriate for right now.”

Councillor Mihevc is the chair of the Board of Health, and he says he’s received complaints from tenants at three buildings and at least one person has been hospitalized as a result, but still, not all landlords are complying with their pleas.

“There’s certainly those landlords that are refusing to budge and there are just too many of them in our city,” said the St.Paul’s West Councillor.

Residents at 44 Jackes Ave. say they were told it takes five days for the systems to switch over. On Thursday evening, the Bretton Place Property Management Team told CityNews they are hoping to have the air conditioning system back on by Friday at the latest.

“It has truly been all hands on deck for our team as we worked to prioritize the well-being of our residents and the restoration of air condition to all suites,” spokesperson Rahim Ladha explained in an email.

“We had originally estimated a 3-5 day period to achieve a fix, which is to be expected for a system of such age and design. However, our team made remarkable progress today and achieved a solution that should bring our air condition system back online by later this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest.”

Councillor Matlow says the city is now looking at reviewing the heat by-law, since these pleas to landlords are becoming a biannual event. He says Mayor John Tory is committed to change the bylaw by this spring to accommodate years when the temperatures aren’t seasonal.

“One of the suggestions that we’ve been looking at is perhaps even allowing the Chief Medical Officer of Health to have flexibility to announce to landlords when the date might change to turn the heat on,” Matlow explains.

Any landlords who have concerns or questions about the heat by-law are told to contact the city or their local councillors.