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No cooling requirement for Kitchener landlords

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

When Behnam Patros’s air conditioning went out in 40-plus degree weather, he moved to his neighbours’ house.

Patros lives at 689 Doon Village Rd., a new upscale brownstone building. He says there have been issues with his air conditioning for a month and the unit has become too hot to live in.

After a visit, his neighbours invited him to live with them until the issue is resolved.
“They came to my unit for like five minutes and they couldn’t even stand it,” said Patros.

He and his girlfriend have placed 17 calls to the property management company and he says they’ve received little response.

But Adam Overing, the property manager with The Madison Group, says they’re doing all they can and have repeatedly sent out technicians to try and fix the difficult problem.

“There’s no doubt it’s been a bit of a frustrating go,” he said, noting that the building is brand new and this is the first summer the air conditioning units have been used.

“It’s frustrating, because they’re sitting there in the heat, and all they know is that their AC is not working. We promise them that it’s going to get fixed.”

Out of the 17 units in the building, three encountered AC problems, according to Overing. One of those issues has been resolved, while Patros and another unit are still having problems.

The air conditioning in Patros’s unit has stopped working periodically in the last month, but hasn’t been out of service the entire time, according to Overing.

Chelsea Vankeulen lives in the second unit that has been facing problems. She and her fiancé had trouble getting their air conditioning going and say they placed several calls. Eventually a friend got the unit going, but now it leaks, requiring buckets to be emptied three times a day.

“They said they would have somebody out shortly, that we were on the maintenance list and they would have somebody call us back, but none of that stuff ever happened,” said Vankeulen.

Overing said technicians have been out more than a half dozen times to fix units, and another appointment was scheduled on Wednesday.

“The equipment is under warranty, so we are somewhat forced to use the people that installed them,” he said. “If I knew how to fix ACs I’d drop what I was doing and go over and try to help.”

While the tenants say air conditioning in this building is part of their contract, many tenants throughout the city have to face the heat without that option.

There are minimum heat requirements for landlords during winter months, but nothing in the provincial residential tenancies act about maximum heat in summertime.

“Considering the fact that we’re seeing these increased temperatures, I think that maybe we need to look into something like that,” said Ward 4 Coun. Yvonne Fernandes. “If we already recognize we need to provide appropriate heating for people, conversely maybe we need to be looking at something like a maximum temperature, especially for people who are compromised — their health is compromised by heat.”

The City of Kitchener runs several housing operations which don’t operate with any maximum heat guidelines.

Residents can install window air conditioning units, but must obtain approval before doing so and have the unit professionally installed. Additionally, residents in Kitchener Housing Inc. (KHI) buildings must use an AC tray provided by KHI, which costs $25. However, if the tray is damaged the tenant must pay $250.

All AC units in KHI buildings must be installed prior to May 1 and removed prior to Sept. 30, and residents who have hydro included in their rent are charged an additional fee.

In the region’s residential buildings, tenants have to request permission to install an air conditioning unit, but don’t have to pay an extra fee for hydro use or to rent any equipment from the region, according to Deb Schlichter, director of housing for the region.

Units in the region’s buildings aren’t air conditioned unless tenants install their own, but there are other options.

“In our apartment buildings, where we have lobbies or lounges, those areas are all air conditioned. So we encourage people to use those if they need to find a cooler place to be during the day,” she said.

“We also encourage our tenants to take other precautions. So, when the heat alerts go out from the region, we would encourage them to follow the same guidelines: watch for the kids, watch for the pets, elderly people, people with compromised health. And make sure they drink lots of water and stay cool.”

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