Toronto city council has unanimously passed a motion which will require landlords to provide their tenants relief from extreme heat.
During the heat wave last month, the temperature in some apartments surpassed 30 C due to landlords turning on the heat — which they often do in September to make sure they meet the minimum temperature bylaw — and not turning on the air conditioning.
“Councillors across the city have been hearing from tenants who have been telling us that in many cases, when there’s a heat wave in September, their units can be 30 degrees or higher, and they’re boiling in their own homes,” said Coun. Josh Matlow, who introduced the motion.
“We have vulnerable people out there, we have people who are not able to live functional lives because of it, and also there are significant health risks.”
Currently, a city bylaw requires landlords to maintain a minimum temperature of 21 C from on Sept. 15 to June 1.
“The idea behind that is to make sure that over the winter months, landlords [don’t] cheap out and keep the temperature too low,” Matlow said. “The problem is that some landlords either take it as a direction to turn the heat on or turn the AC off the minute we get to September 15, even if outside it’s over 30 degrees, which is just absurd.
“What I’ve been telling landlords across the city to do is, first of all, use common sense — use your heads. If Mother Nature is taking care of the heat, you’ve got to take care of your tenants.”
Matlow said city staff will look at several options, including requiring a maximum temperature in addition to the minimum temperature.
“That takes away the ambiguity of do you turn the heat on or the AC off?” he said. “If there’s a maximum temperature, landlords are expected to do whatever is necessary to protect those tenants.”
He said more than 80 per cent of Toronto apartment buildings have air conditioning, so it shouldn’t be difficult for the rest to be brought up to standard.
The city will get input from landlords and tenants when drawing up the new bylaw, which it hopes to have in place by next spring.
“We cannot have another year like this,” Matlow said. “Our climate is changing and city hall needs to adapt too.”