Revisit apartment temperature bylaw to help tenants when it's 'boiling outside,' councillor tells city

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Revisit apartment temperature bylaw to help tenants when it's 'boiling outside,' councillor tells city

Revisit apartment temperature bylaw to help tenants when it's 'boiling outside,' councillor tells city

Inside Dennis Duffy's and Magdalene Redekop's midtown apartment on Friday, the temperature was 26 C and rising.

The couple say they've been forced to run fans and pop over to a nearby library to escape the heat because the building's A/C isn't on — and the windows are shut due to repair work outside.

Still, they consider themselves the "lucky" ones.

"The building is filled with people with disabilities," said 73-year-old Redekop, who has been living in the building with her husband for around four years. One woman down the hall has Parkinson's and mobility issues, for instance, making it difficult for her to leave for a cooler spot.

"We're hoping they'll turn the A/C on," lamented 79-year-old Duffy.

But according to current city bylaws, their building doesn't have to do that. The regulation directs landlords to maintain a minimum temperature of 21 C between Sept. 15 and June 1 — but there's nothing regulating when they can turn on the air conditioning or turn it off. There's also no stipulation about a maximum allowed temperature.

Amid this week's hotter weather, Coun. Josh Matlow is pushing the city to revisit the regulations and ditch the calendar-based approach in favour of dictating a minimum and maximum allowed temperature.

"There needs to be some reasonable ability for landlords to turn off the heat, turn on the A/C when it's boiling outside," said Matlow, chair of the city's tenant issues committee.

City looking into 'heat alert days'

A motion moved by Matlow and adopted by council earlier this week directs the the city's municipal licensing and standards department and Medical Officer of Health to establish "heat alert days" during which landlords can be permitted to turn off the heat and turn on air conditioning. 

The city is also working with landlords of buildings without air conditioning to encourage them to provide dedicated cooling rooms, noted Gayle Bursey, director of healthy public policy for Toronto Public Health (TPH).

TPH and the licensing department are also enhancing access to cool spaces for "heat-vulnerable residents" by promoting air conditioned spaces across the city, and providing access to water on hot days, she added.

But Matlow said the city needs to take this issue "more seriously" and look at revisiting the bylaw itself.

This week alone, he said he's received around a dozen calls from residents concerned about stifling temperatures in their buildings. Landlords also need to step up and use "common sense" when it comes to regulating building temperatures, he said.

However, the spokesperson for an Ontario landlord advocacy group said Matlow's push for a maximum allowed temperature doesn't consider the cost of air conditioning installation and hydro bills for landlords.

"How come it's always about landlords giving to people, without having to raise the rent? That's the problem they're going to face," said Kayla Andrade, founder of Ontario Landlords Watch.

Tenants, she added, should foot the bill for installing air conditioners themselves if they want a cooler climate.

"There are many home owners who don't have the luxury of an air conditioner," she said.