Tips for residential tenants as winter approaches: Reasonable doubt

It’s your landlord’s responsibility to ensure the heat in your apartment unit works from now until June 1


Fall has fully arrived in southern Ontario. With temperatures dropping and the holidays just around the corner, there are a few things tenants should keep in mind.

Heat

According to Toronto Bylaws, your landlord must keep the temperature in your unit at 21 degrees Celsius between September 15 and June 1. Your heat must work, and you must be able to make your unit that temperature. If you control your heat, you can keep it at whatever temperature you like, but if it is centrally controlled and you do not have access to it, it should be at 21 degrees.

If your heat is not 21 degrees, ask your landlord to repair it. You can also contact Toronto’s By-law Investigation and Enforcement units to complain and have them investigate if your landlord is not acting on your request. Ultimately its your landlord who is obligated to address any maintenance problem within a reasonable time. If they do not act, or do not act quickly enough, you can file a T6 application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to address the maintenance problem, but you cannot withhold rent. Remember to contact your landlord via email, or take notes about your conversations with dates, times and what was discussed in order to have evidence if it comes to filing an application at the LTB.

Rent Increases

Your rent can increase once each year. It cannot increase during your first 12 months in your rental unit. Your landlord must also give you 90 days notice that your rent will be increasing. Rent can only increase by the guideline amount each year. For 2017, the increase is 1.5 percent. For 2018, it is 1.8 percent.

The only exception to the rule regarding the amount your rent can increase is if the Landlord and Tenant Board approves an Above-Guideline increase for your rental unit. Your landlord must make a special application to the LTB, and it must be approved. Your landlord still must give you notice 90 days notice, but you do not have to pay the increase until it is approved by the Board, which may take longer than 90 days. Above-Guideline increases are not common for rental units in private homes. They usually occur in larger apartment buildings, and only in certain circumstances. The most increase the Board can approve is an additional three percent (above the already approved guideline increase) for three years in a row.

Festive Trees

The Residential Tenancies Act does not say anything about having live or cut trees in rental units. You will have to read your lease to find out what you agreed to when you signed your lease. If your lease does not say anything about the issue, then technically you are allowed to have a tree in your unit.

You should consider how you will dispose of the tree at the end of the season. In Toronto, if you rent in a private home with city garbage pick-up, there are days in January when you can leave trees at the curb. If you are in an apartment building with private garbage pick-up, you may have to take it to a disposal centre yourself, unless you have kind landlords who are okay with you leaving it in the dumpster. You should also check with local charities and not-for-profits in your community, as some will pick your tree up for a fee as a fundraiser for the organization.

As always, if you have questions about any of these issues, contact your local Community Legal Clinic for free advice about your specific situation.

Rachael Lake is a staff lawyer with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, practising in the areas of Disability and Employment Insurance Law. Reasonable Doubt appears on Mondays. 

A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.

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