Summer-like conditions have tenants calling for heat relief in condos, apartments

While it is the third day of record-breaking temperatures in Toronto, the heat remains on in most condos and apartment units. Tina Yazdani reports.

By Tina Yazdani and John Marchesan

While the record-breaking temperatures in Toronto were welcomed by some people this past week, a number of residents were left sweltering inside their homes due to the fact air conditioning was unavailable in their condos or apartments.

The summer-like conditions started earlier this week and ramped up on Wednesday with the temperature soaring to 26 C. Thursday was the fourth day in a row that temperatures were into the 20s, reaching a high of 28 – a mark that hadn’t been seen in almost 50 years before an 85-year-old record was eclipsed on Friday.

Environment Canada issued an air quality statement on Friday, noting that some might experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath due to the warm conditions.

“It’s ridiculous, they need to turn it on,” one resident tells CityNews. “It’s way too hot in some places.”

“It’s been difficult, it’s been extra hot so I have the windows open, the fan on,” said another. “It’s difficult but hopefully the air conditioning starts up soon,”

In Toronto, landlords are not required to provide air conditioning to tenants – only heat – to a minimum temperature of 21 C. And if a building is already equipped with air conditioning, landlords are not required to turn it on until June.

“What the city really needs is a maximum room temperature,” said Geordie Dent with the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association. “This really only affects a very small number of units that become like death traps, they’re so hot.”

One mayoral candidate is calling for just that. Josh Matlow says if elected he would enact a maximum temperature bylaw of 26 C in apartment units and allow windows in high rises to open more than 10 centimetres.

“To protect the health and safety of tenants who, on a day like now when we’re getting up to 30 degrees Celsius, they don’t boil in their own homes,” says Matlow.

Another mayoral candidate, Mitzie Hunter, is also promising an extreme heat protection program if elected. It would expand and enhance protections for vulnerable Torontonians including seniors, lower-income people and those with at-risk health conditions during heat waves

About half a million residents in Toronto are living in condominiums or apartments without air conditioning.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission says extreme heat waves disproportionately impact people with disabilities, seniors and low-income, racialized communities. The organization has called on the Ford government to designate air conditioning as a vital service, just like heat, hot and cold water, and electricity.

The province recently introduced new legislation giving all tenants the right to install air condition units but at their own cost.

“Now they’re saying we’re gonna allow tenants to do that but we’re gonna allow landlords to gouge them on the other end,” said Dent.

The above-seasonal temperatures are expected to come to an end this weekend and residents could be opting for the furnace with lows in the single digits as a cold front moves in early next week, possibly bringing with it some rain and wet snow in some areas.

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