Heating in a rental unit is considered a vital service under the Residential Tenancies Act. Every residential unit must have a heating system. The landlord is obligated to maintain and repair a heating system for every part of the building being used as a residence.
Where a landlord provides heating service to a tenant, it must be kept at a minimum temperature during certain months of the year. The landlord cannot withhold a vital service, including heat during certain months, for any reason.
The City of London has a by-law that sets out specific requirements with respect to the provision of heat in rental units. The heat must be maintained at (at least) 20 degrees celsius (68 degrees fahrenheit) from September 15 to June 15. This heating requirement applies from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. each day. Between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., the temperature need only be maintained at 18 degree celsius (65 degrees fahrenheit).
These heating requirements do not apply in circumstances in which the tenant has expressly agreed to provide his or her own heating services. In those circumstances, the landlord is not obligated to maintain the temperature in the unit as set out in the by-law. However, the landlord cannot deliberately interfere with the supply of heating services that the tenant has arranged. The landlord must also ensure there is a heating unit available to the unit and it is in proper working order.
If heat is not provided as set out in the by-law or the landlord is otherwise interfering with the tenant’s heating services, the tenant may have a remedy. The first thing the tenant should do is make a written request to the landlord asking the landlord to fix the heating issue. This may be done by a letter or by a maintenance request or work order.
If the landlord does not resolve the problem within a reasonable time, the tenant may contact the municipality, specifically the Director of Building Controls in the City of London. The municipality will likely have to inspect the unit before moving forward. The municipality has the power to direct the landlord to provide heating services to the unit. The municipality may also fine the landlord.
Both landlords and tenants should be aware of the heating requirements set out above. When entering into a new residential tenancy, ensure that the terms of the lease clearly set out who is responsible for the payment of heating services in the unit. Once this is set out, your rights and obligations under the Vital Services By-Law will be clear as well.