Edmonton tenants went without heat during recent cold weather

Grace Ajani had to resort to desperate measures to stay warm in her Edmonton apartment during last week's deep freeze.

"We're left with switching on our oven all night and leaving the door to the oven open to at least heat the house," Ajani said on Wednesday.

She also used a space heater as the temperature dropped to 13 C in her apartment on 10603 107th Ave.

In addition to the on-and-off heat problem over the past two weeks, Ajani said, on some mornings in December she and her husband woke up to no hot water. They had to get up early to boil water in a huge pot.

"That takes up about 30 minutes extra of our time to just get ready to go to work, because the hot water wasn't working," Ajani said.

She was one of a number of residents and business owners frustrated by the lack of heat in their four-storey building as temperatures plunged below –30 C last week.

Abraham Weldmichael, who owns Ramssy Smoke Shop on the main level, said the lack of heat has been bad for business, and some of his neighbours shut down entirely.

Weldmichael, who also does repairs, said it was too cold to work because he had to wear gloves and couldn't fix cellphones.

"We cannot get customers because nobody can come inside because it is extremely cold," he said.

Both Ajani and Weldmichael said the problem continues, despite complaints to the landlord.

Min Dhariwal/CBC

Landlord Van Vuong said the trouble started when the frigid temperatures set in.

"If the weather is normal they are fine," Vuong said in an interview Wednesday. "But starting last Wednesday some tenants called me and I brought a heater to them. When I called [the heating company] last Wednesday, they said they are busy and they cannot come until Monday."

Vuong said the heating issue is now fixed. But a pipe that burst Tuesday has created additional challenges, and he said he is currently pumping out water from the mechanical room.

Vuong shared documents with CBC that he said show a new heating system was installed six years ago.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said public health inspectors are in daily contact with Vuong, and another inspection was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. 

"Whenever possible, we prefer to work with willing owners and landlords to address issues before considering enforcement orders," AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson wrote in an email. "Each situation is different and our EPH staff monitor the progress closely."