Tenants not allowed to install window AC units after toddler's death, TCHC says

Tenants in Toronto Community Housing Corporation buildings will no longer be allowed to install window air conditioners after a unit fell from an eighth floor balcony in November and killed a toddler.

In a news release on Monday, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) said it has begun to remove window air conditioners from multi-storey buildings where the units are not contained within balconies. The removal is being done in a "phased approach," the corporation said.

"Sadly, we have seen how the risk of a window air conditioner becoming dislodged can have tragic consequences," TCHC president Kevin Marshman said in the release.

"We are taking steps to protect the safety of tenants, staff and visitors to our buildings and are asking for the cooperation of tenants as we implement these measures."

On Remembrance Day, a window air conditioner fell from a building at 3847 Lawrence Ave. E., near Scarborough Golf Club Road, striking Crystal Mirogho, 2, in a stroller. Her mother and siblings were with her when she was hit.

Crystal was rushed to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, where she died that night.

No charges were laid, according to Toronto police, who ruled the incident an accident. Crystal's family has moved out of the building into the bottom floor of a two-storey TCHC townhome and has hired a lawyer to investigate her death.

Slavko Ristich, a personal injury lawyer from Ristich Law hired by the family, said on Monday that the family is pleased with the ban on window air conditioners.

"We're happy that they're taking this step forward. We think it's a good step but ultimately it's too little too late," Ristich told CBC Toronto.

Susan Reid/CBC

Currently, a tenant must get written permission to install a window air conditioner and TCHC said it will no longer provide permission for window air conditioners not contained within balconies.

Tenants who have window air conditioners contained within balconies may continue to use them until further notice, but staff will no longer give permission to tenants to install window air conditioners in their homes.

TCHC hopes to remove all window AC units

TCHC said it has hired Building Up, a non-profit social enterprise, to remove the window air conditioners. Work began in multi-storey buildings on last Thursday and will be completed before Christmas. The removal of air conditioners from TCHC townhouses will begin after Christmas.

About 6,000 air conditioning units will be removed by Christmas at an estimated cost of between $4 million and $5 million, according to Bruce Malloch, director of strategic communications for the TCHC.

TCHC said it will replace each window air conditioner it removes with a new floor model at no charge to the tenant before the weather gets warmer next year, or what the corporation calls the "2020 cooling season." It said it would provide floor-model air conditioners to tenants who have already removed window air conditioners not contained in balconies.

"TCHC's goal is to eventually replace all window air conditioners, including those over a balcony, with floor-model air conditioners. Floor models provide more cooling and are safer, quieter and more energy efficient," the corporation said in the release.

GoFundMe

The cooling season officially starts in June, but the corporation hopes to have the floor units in by the end of May, Malloch added.

"We're aiming to get them in place in time so that people will have the air conditioning when they need it," he said.

In a statement the day after she died, Ristich said: "Ristich Law is actively investigating this matter and we believe this was an entirely preventable incident and hope to seek improvements made at all TCHC buildings, so as to protect all TCHC tenants and visitors in the future."

A GoFundMe page set up to help Crystal's family with funeral expenses, relocation costs and counselling has raised more than $37,000 as of Monday.

"She was the youngest in our family and the light of our lives," a family member said on the GoFundMe page.

In 2007, a report by engineering company Finn Projects, commissioned by the TCHC, alerted the housing corporation to safety issues with window air conditioners. 

The report found that many of the existing window air conditioners in TCHC buildings were not installed properly and posed a "potential safety risk."

More than 12 years ago, it recommended that the TCHC should not allow additional window air conditioners to be installed and that tenants with existing air conditioners be required to remove them and to rent or purchase new AC units from the TCHC to ensure they are properly installed.