Councillor Josh Matlow

Protecting Midtown Tenants from Extreme Heat

Earlier this year, many Midtown tenants suffered during a late September heatwave. Some residents reported temperature readings of over 30 degrees Celsius in their units as a result of their landlords turning on heat and/or not turning on air conditioning.

I first moved a Council motion in 2012 to protect our community’s renters from the health impacts of extreme heat including heat stroke, morbidity and mortality. The health dangers associated with prolonged heat events is increased by the fact that indoor temperatures tend to climb with each hot day. This is significant because populations that are susceptible to extreme heat tend to be more likely to spend time indoors, including the elderly and those who are chronically ill.

Landlords are currently required to ensure that the temperature in a rental unit not be lower than 21 degree Celsius – not that the heating system is on. Unfortunately, some landlords misinterpreted the City by-law and turned on the heat in their buildings. Others reported being concerned that if they turned off their heat and/or turned on their air conditioning that they could be fined should the temperature suddenly drop.

I asked landlords to use common sense when making these decisions and assured them that our by-law officers would do the same. A request was unfortunately the only tool I had available during this Fall’s heatwave. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that my colleagues unanimously supported my motion at the October meeting of City Council to better regulate room temperatures in apartment buildings.

The motion directs City Staff to consult with tenants, landlords and other relevant stakeholders to identify potential solutions, including the possibility of setting a maximum temperature for apartments and adjusting the heat by-law to allow for variable dates that reflect the weather instead of fixed dates that reflect an arbitrary rule.

It is unacceptable that members of our community were baking in their apartments this past Fall – everyone has the right to a comfortable and healthy home. I will continue working to ensure that our City’s laws protect that right.

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