A landlord, under the Residential Tenancies Act is responsible for providing tenants with "vital services" as defined in section 2 of the Act. Vital services, includes "heat" during the part of the year prescribed by the regulations. The reference to the regulations in the definition of "vital services" requires us to look at Ontario Regulation 516/06 and specifically section 4 thereof.
Section 4 provides that the heating season is from September 1, to June 15 of any given year. This means that between these two dates a landlord is legally obligated to provide a tenant with heat. If the tenant does not have the ability to regulate the temperature, then the landlord is required to provide heat so that the room temperature at 1.5 metres above floor level and one metre from exterior walls in all habitable space and in any area intended for normal use by tenants, including recreation rooms and laundry rooms but excluding locker rooms and garages, is at least 20 degrees Celsius.
If a landlord fails to provide heat in accordance with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act and the Regulations, a tenant may file an application to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board to have the Board determine what the appropriate remedy is. Note that one application the tenant may consider bringing is based on section 29 of the RTA which allows the tenant to seek an Order that the Landlord, Superintendent or agent of the landlord has withheld the reasonable supply of heat (any vital service) ... or deliberately interefered with the reasonable supply of any vital service, ... . For landlord's who are defending any such application you can see from the wording of section 29 that liability is not absolute.
As we start to get into winter and freezing temperatures, tenants should also be reminded that windows should be kept closed or at least not left open and unattended. Central heating systems may not adjust for freezing temperatures inside a rental unit (i.e. no thermostat) and accordingly there is a risk of pipes freezing and bursting. The damage caused by the floods and all of the repairs costs in all of the units affected as well as the cost of the replacement of the property that is damaged will often be the responsibility of the tenant who left the window open.
Michael K. E. Thiele
Landlord and Tenant Lawyer
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, 15 November 2012
More Heat Please--It's Cold in my Apartment!
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