Why is this man dressed for winter indoors? His Toronto building’s had no heat for a week
UPDATE: The City of Toronto confirmed Thursday that the heat is back on in parts of this building.
Darren Driver just wants the heat back on in his downtown Toronto apartment.
The driver and several of his neighbors have been shaking at 64 St. Clair W., a building just a few blocks west of Yonge Street and managed by Briarlane Rental Property Management Inc., for about a week.
Even with space heating, his apartment has only reached 12°C, and with even colder temperatures forecast, he’s worried about how long it will take to fix the problem.
“There’s a sense of powerlessness,” Driver said. “The space heaters are going to blow the circuits…. We have to keep the furnace running all the time.”
Members of his household and others in the building wear multiple layers to stay warm, but it’s “very, very uncomfortable,” he says.
“Being out in the cold for so long makes you kind of nauseous,” he said.
The city issues administrative offences
CBC Toronto reached out to Briarlane for comment on Wednesday. But so far there has been no reaction.
The driver and several of his neighbors contacted the city, which dispatched police officers to investigate. The city’s Municipal Permits and Standards Department confirms that there are problems with the building.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the city of Toronto confirmed that as of Thursday morning, the heat was back on on the west side of the building and its common areas, but problems on the east side persist.
The spokesman said the city has an ongoing investigation into property standards at the building.
Janet Stoeckl, a district manager for the city, told CBC Toronto in an emailed statement that the department recently received “five low heat complaints and two property standards complaints from tenants at 64 St Clair Ave. Get West”.
Employees of RentSafeTO, a regulation enforcement program that ensures residential buildings meet maintenance standards, have been checking with the building’s tenants and handing out heaters as a temporary measure, Stoeckl says.
She says staff are continuing to monitor the situation while the company is working with a technician to rectify the situation.
On Wednesday, Stöckl told CBC News, “The city has issued two violations and two orders of property norms.”
In an email, she explained that if the city issues a ticket to the company, it could pay a $1,000 fine if convicted. A court summons and subsequent conviction could mean a fine of up to $100,000 or $10,000 per day “for each day the violation continues,” the email said.
A thermometer in a condo unit on St. Clair Ave. W. 64 indicates that even with space heaters, the apartments in the building are still too cold to be comfortable. (Submitted by Jean Wilkinson)
Jean Wilkinson, who has lived in the building for nearly two decades, says similar problems are pervasive and people are losing confidence that management can handle repairs well on their own.
“Since they turned the heating on in October 2022, the heating has been off at least three times,” she said. There used to be short periods of heating problems, but they were resolved more quickly, she says.
After days of silence from the building about the situation, a notice was finally posted on Tuesday, but nothing about an expected resolution date, she says.
“It’s a really nice place to live, but unfortunately it’s gone downhill terribly in recent years,” Wilkinson said.
“Regrettable and Shameful”
count. Josh Matlow represents District 12, Toronto-St. Paul where the building is located. Matlow called Briarlane’s behavior “regrettable and shameful”. He says the company should have offered tenants a warm place to stay like a hotel or other solutions as soon as the problem arose.
However, he hopes financial penalties could start a fire under the landlord.
“In extreme cases, RentSafe inspectors can actually … just hire contractors themselves and then just bill the landlord,” Matlow said.
But he says RentSafeTO tries to work with landlords first to resolve issues, something he hopes will happen in this case.
count. Josh Matlow says he is very pleased with the attention city staff has given to tenants in the building. (Michael Wilson/CBC)
Jessica Bell, housing critic for the Ontario NDP, says RentSafeTO is a great resource, but in practice, working with building management to get them to do the right thing might not be what would help renters the most .
“There can be very long delays of months or years before these repairs are made,” she said.
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, says residents can apply to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board for what is known as a “rent reduction.” This means tenants in buildings that are experiencing problems may pay less than their full rent or receive compensation.
But Dent says the process can be long and complicated.
“We’ve called for an easy way for tenants to be compensated if they don’t receive 100 percent of the value of their rent,” he said.
“Tenants have to pay 100 percent of their rent and that means landlords should do 100 percent of the maintenance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.”
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, says it should be easier for tenants to get compensation in situations like the one at 64 St. Clair W. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News).
Driver is seeking monetary compensation. But most of all, he just wants his heat fixed.
He says he will not let the situation force him to leave the home and community he loves.
“We will fight for it. I’ll sit out in the cold as long as I have to.”