TORONTO — Jessica Bell, the Ontario NDP critic for Tenant Rights, is urging the Ford government to take legislative action to protect tenants living in dangerously hot apartments. Bell was joined for a press conference Wednesday by Kiri Vadivelu, Scarborough's ACORN leader; Anna Lippman, a tenant and representative from Friends of Kensington Market; and Summer Leigh, a tenant whose home is too hot.
“While heating is considered a vital service and landlords are mandated to maintain a minimum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius during the cooler months, the Residential Tenancies Act does not put any limits on the maximum temperature allowed within residential units,” said Bell.
“This leaves tenants vulnerable to inside temperatures that exceed what’s comfortable or even safe in the hotter months."
She noted that tenants who try to install AC units are often blocked by their landlord.
“Heat is a serious health issue, and tenants need to be able to stay cool," said Kiri Vadivelu, a leader at Scarborough ACORN. "But many landlords are charging illegal fees and harassing tenants that have window air conditioning units, which is putting people's health at risk. ACORN supports the call from Jessica Bell and the Ontario NDP to make changes to protect tenants and let us stay cool. We hope Minister Steve Clark and Premier Doug Ford take action."
"It's honestly baffling that the province does not have a maximum safe temperature for rental units," said Anna Lippman, a tenant and representative of Friends of Kensington Market.
"This isn't just about comfort, it's about survivability. We have lost too many neighbours due to such a preventable reason. This is a simple, comprehensive, and absolutely essential initiative on the part of MPP Jessica Bell and her team."
“We have done everything in our ability as renters to mitigate the extreme heat in our place, from evaporative coolers to blackout curtains, window fans, buckets of cold water,” said Summer Leigh, a tenant whose apartment unit is frequently above 30 degrees, and who currently has a case before the landlord and tenant board to try to get her building's electricity system updated, in part so they can run an AC unit. "It has been over two-and-a-half years of hearings and delays, with no end in sight."
"With climate change leading to hotter and more frequent heatwaves, it's time to protect tenants who deserve to live in safe and comfortable homes,” said Bell.
MPP Bell, along with NDP MPP Suze Morrison, have sent a public letter to Housing Minister Steve Clark, demanding that the Ford government:
- Work with public health units to establish a provincial maximum temperature to ensure rental units are safe, and a tenants’ right to reasonable enjoyment of their unit is maintained. Many jurisdictions have ruled that 26 degrees is a fair maximum temperature standard, including Toronto, Mississauga, and Ajax.
- Enshrining in the Residential Tenancies Act a tenants’ right to safely use window air conditioning units in accordance with all bylaws.
- Protection for tenants against landlord harassment, including repeated threats to evict tenants for safely using window air conditioning units in accordance with all bylaws.
- Upgrading Ontario’s building code and investing in a green jobs retrofit program to make housing more green and energy-efficient, including community housing and purpose-built rental buildings, while not burdening tenants with unfair rent hikes.
- Partnering with municipalities to grow urban forests to reduce the heat island effect and lower temperatures in towns and cities.
To date, more than 100 organizations and people have signed the letter in support of the cause.
You can watch the full press conference here.