A group of renters in a downtown Toronto condo tower are upset at what they say are intermittent hot water outages, with one tenant reporting she has now gone 78 days without full hot water service.
Others say they’ve gone without hot water for weeks at a time.
Imran Muhammed has been living with his wife and three kids in a rented two-bedroom unit at 25 Grenville St. for the past year and is among those affected.
“It was a very bad response, to be honest. I did not have any option at the time to move out of the building. But the response, the way they managed this problem, was horrible.”
The condo board hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment from CBC Toronto. But in a letter to tenants Monday, the property management said final repairs have been approved by the condo board.
In the letter, the condo board says it has approved the cost of replacing the problem pipes and will update residents once the work has been scheduled, but provides no timeline on completion. The letter also doesn’t acknowledge how long the problems have been going on.
‘Super stressful,’ says resident
The problem appears to be related to water pipes that need to be replaced in the building, which residents say was built in the early 1990s.
Several residents told CBC Toronto they started having problems accessing hot water in their units in spring.
One of the most severely affected tenants was a 24 year-old-woman, Morgan, who’s on the autism spectrum and who has now had no regular hot water service for 78 days, she says. CBC Toronto agreed not to use her last name because she doesn’t want condo management or her boss to know about her condition.
“It was super stressful,” Morgan said. “I need a lot of routine and predictability. It was not a nice situation at all.”
Morgan said although her bathroom hot water was restored on June 20 — after 48 days without it — the work crew that opened up her bathroom wall has yet to repair it.
But while the affected units now appear to have hot water in their bathrooms, residents such as Morgan still await hot water in their kitchens — a problem the building’s property management acknowledged in its letter to residents.
City staff should be insisting that condo management restores full water service immediately, says Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations.
“The city has a variety of powers here. They have the power of persuasion, but they also have the power of remedial action — the city can actually step in and do the repairs and put it on the landlord’s bill,” he said.
“They probably should be doing something like that in this situation or something stronger than what they’ve been doing; unfortunately the city doesn’t always follow its own standards.”
In a statement to CBC Toronto, city staff maintain “The city is aware that the property management is working to address this issue and have been provided proof of plumbing repairs. However, issues arose again with the hot water in some of the units. The city continues to monitor this situation and take enforcement action as appropriate.”
Condo boards deal only with owners: lawyer
Audrey Loeb, a lawyer who specializes in condo law at Shibley Righton LLP in Toronto, says part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that at least some of those affected rent, rather than own, their units.
Renters don’t have the ability to approach condo boards for help because they deal only with owners.
And in many cases, she says, those owners live outside the province and can be difficult to reach.
Although renters can’t appeal to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board to force the condo board to fix maintenance issues, they could look to the LTB for financial relief.
“You may be able to go to the Landlord and Tenant Board for a rent reduction,” Loeb said. “I’m really sorry for these people. It’s sad.”
Loeb says Ontario should implement the same sort of system that Alberta employs. There, absentee condo owners are required by law to have a representative, in that province, to liaise directly with condo boards when problems arise.
Ontario’s Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery, which oversees the Condominium Act, hasn’t responded to requests for comment from CBC Toronto.
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