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Can landlords charge extra hydro fees for using the A/C in hot summer months?

In the midst of a brutal heat wave in much of southern Ontario, many are relying on air-conditioning for relief from the hot temperatures.

CityNews has received several complaints from Toronto tenants claiming landlords are charging added fees to pay for the extra hydro costs associated with air-conditioning units.

This prompted the question, does a landlord have the right to charge you extra for air conditioning, even though your hydro fees are included in your rent?

The short answer is yes, but there are some exceptions.

When can your landlord charge you for A/C?

A landlord is legally entitled to charge you for use of an air-conditioning unit under Section 123 of the Residential Tenancies Act. This section allows for a landlord to increase the rent if the landlord and the tenant both agree to the addition of a “prescribed service”, which includes an air-conditioning unit or extra electricity for a unit.

If a clause about extra charges for air-conditioning is not a clause in your lease, the landlord must get the tenant to agree to the rent increase and they have to go to the Landlord and Tenant Board in order to enforce it

How can a landlord charge you for A/C?

The charge for additional electricity for an A/C unit or the unit itself must be included in the monthly rent cost. It can’t be a lump sum for the entire summer season.

The maximum rent increase should be the actual cost of the landlord providing the specific service. If it can’t be determined, then a reasonable amount will be applied based on the value.

When is it illegal to charge a tenant for use of A/C?

It is illegal to charge a tenant for use of an A/C unit if they previously did not charge for it.

So, for example, if you have lived in an apartment for several years with access to air conditioning at no extra charge, a landlord can’t suddenly and spontaneously decide to charge you extra, unless the tenant has agreed to a “prescribed service” (mentioned above). This is considered an illegal charge.

If you believe that you have been asked to pay an illegal charge, you can may apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board.