‘Not acceptable’: Tenants at midtown Toronto apartment have been without heat for a week
Published Wednesday, February 1, 2023 7:35PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 1, 2023 7:35PM EST
Hundreds of tenants at a midtown Toronto apartment building have been without heat for a week now, and many are worried with the arrival of bitter-cold temperatures.
Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday, one of the 200 tenants living at The Fleetwood on St. Clair Avenue West said no concrete timeline had been given by the property management on when heat will return in the building.
"They are just basically not really taking it seriously," Darren Driver said. "They weren't treating this (as an) outright emergency."
He noted tenants faced the same heating problems during previous winters, and nothing is being done to pre-empt it. On Friday, temperatures are expected to dip below -20 C, and Driver said some tenants might need to find a temporary place if the issue isn't fixed by then.
"It's going to be brutal," he said. "There are others in the building with children and pregnant women and retirees and senior citizens that need to be evacuated to a hotel."
Driver, a member of the tenant association, said due to the lack of communication from the management on what it was doing to fix the heat, he and other tenants reached out to elected officials asking for assistance. That included Coun. Josh Matlow, Mayor John Tory and MPP Jill Andrews.
He said they received prompt responses from officials who took immediate action. City bylaw officers have been in the building to check on tenants and ensure that Briarlane Rental Property Management is making the necessary repairs.
Driver noted that Briarlane took over the building approximately more than a year ago. He said since the city got involved, management has been providing updates to tenants about the status of repairs.
In a notice dated Jan. 30 shared with CP24, management said it has been working on repairs to the building's boiler system.
"There will be a system audit to cover off any items that need attention to ensure we can maintain integrity with the heating going forward. This is independent of the contractor we have working on the day to day operations," the notice read.
Driver said the latest update from management is that parts needed for the boiler repair will arrive on Friday.
Meanwhile, tenants have been given space heaters. But Driver said this action is insufficient given how old the building is. Some of the space heaters also do not work.
There may also be tenants who cannot afford to use a space heater.
"You're walking home, and it's -20 C out and then you come home, it's like 10 or 12 degrees or worse in your apartment," he said. "It is just uncomfortable."
A CP24 reporter went to the building on Wednesday evening and said heaters in the hallways were working and some units have intermittent heat.
City issues notices to landlord
The city has confirmed they received five complaints of low heat and two complaints about property standards from The Fleetwood tenants this month.
Investigations into the complaints are ongoing, but the city has issued two Notices of Violation and two Property Standards Orders.
"Bylaw enforcement officers from the City's RentSafeTO program are actively working with the property owner, management company, tenants and the tenant association group to resolve the issues with low heat. Staff have been on site, door knocking to check in on tenants in all the units and engaging with tenants," the city said in a statement to CP24.
"The city is aware that the property owner and management company continue to work with a technician to fix the heat issue and ensure compliance with the bylaws, and staff continue to actively monitor the situation at 64 St Clair Ave West as a priority."
Matlow said he finds it "deplorable" and "inhumane" that management did not promptly ensure that tenants had a safe and warm place to be while the issue is being fixed. He said it shouldn't have taken a city intervention to act.
He said he reached out to RentSafeTO staff and relayed the complaints after speaking to tenants. RentSafeTO is a bylaw enforcement program that ensures apartment building owners and operators comply with building maintenance standards.
While he is satisfied with the actions by bylaw officials to ensure that the issue is being adequately taken care of, Matlow said he still has some concerns. Matlow added that the landlord needs to step up and support the tenants, including covering hydro costs for those using space heaters and finding a unit in their inventory to make sure that those who cannot accommodate space heaters can have a heated place to stay.
"Nobody should be living in those conditions," Matlow told CP24. "They can't allow their tenants to be freezing in sub-zero temperatures. That's just not acceptable. It's not healthy and safe."
In a notice posted in the hallway, the management said it will "look to reimburse for hydro usage during the down time." CP24 has reached out to the property management for comment but has not received a reply.
- with files from Joshua Freeman and Cristina Tenaglia