What is the perfect indoor temperature for some, may be too hot or too cold for others. In Ontario’s “cold in winter hot in summer” climate, maintaining a livable indoor temperature can become a necessity rather than just a preference. Heating or cooling a home is expensive. For these reasons, controlling the temperature in a residential rental can become a touchy subject. Control or restriction of heat often becomes a bargaining chip in landlord and tenant disputes.

If you are a tenant, you may have a different opinion of what is an acceptable temperature versus what your landlord thinks is reasonable. You may have had issues with your landlord cutting off heat or asking the question — does your landlord have to provide air conditioning? The Landlord and Tenant Board provides guidance on a wide range of tenants’ rights.

If you are a landlord in Ontario, you may be wondering what your obligation is to a tenant in terms of temperature control.  Do you have a legal responsibility to provide heating or cooling in rental properties?

Legal Requirements for Heating and Cooling in Ontario

Landlord and tenant rights and obligations for heating and air-conditioning can be found by referring to the following:

  1. The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the “RTA”); and
  2. The Residential Tenancy Agreement or “Standard Lease Agreement” (The RTA requires that most leases signed on or after March 1, 2021 use the current Standard Lease. Most leases signed between April 20, 2018 and February 28 2021 must use an older version of the Standard Lease Agreement. ).

While the RTA sets out the legislation that generally governs the relationship, the standard lease specifies what is included in the lease and the responsibilities of each party. It is important to note as well that while the Standard Lease contains several conditions and clauses of the agreement, landlords and tenants are free to add additional terms as well.

Different municipalities also may have bylaws regarding rental properties. For example, according to Toronto rental bylaws, “if a building has air conditioning provided by the landlord, the bylaw requires that landlords turn it on between June 2 and September 14. The landlord is free to turn it on earlier though as long as the building does not go below 21 Celsius.”

What are the Requirements for Heating under the Residential Tenancies Act

Section 21 of the RTA sets out the “landlord’s responsibilities regarding services” and reads:

(21) A landlord shall not at any time during a tenant’s occupancy of a rental unit and before the day on which an order evicting the tenant is executed, withhold the reasonable supply of any vital service, care service or food that it is the landlord’s obligation to supply under the tenancy agreement or deliberately interfere with the reasonable supply of any vital service, care service or food.

A “Vital service” includes:

  • heat;
  • fuel;
  • gas;
  • electricity; and
  • hot or cold water.

A tenant must have access to these vital services. A landlord should not turn off or block access to these services, which include heat, even if the tenant has not paid their rent.

In some cases, the landlord may pay for vital services, and in other cases, the tenant may pay for them. Who is responsible for what services, generally is, and should be recorded in your residential tenancy agreement (standard lease).

Do Landlords have to Provide Air Conditioning In Ontario

Under the RTA, landlords do not have to provide air conditioning. Air conditioning is not considered a “vital service”. However, your residential tenancy agreement may include air conditioning. Your lease should be reviewed to see whether air conditioning was included in the contract. If it was, your landlord may be obligated to provide air conditioning. Further, air conditioning can be negotiated with your landlord seasonally, or when signing the lease and obligations may be affected by municipal bylaws.

Apartments with Air conditioning

What is the Exact Legal Temperature For Tenants Ontario Required by Law?

The exact definition of heat in Ontario as a “vital service” requirement is:

  • heating from September 1 to June 15; and
  • in most cases, maintaining a minimum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (as set out in Section 4 of O. Reg. 516/06).

Municipal bylaws should also be taken into consideration and can differ from city to city. In many cases, residential rental bylaws can be found online by visiting your municipality’s website, or by contacting city hall directly.

Are there Exceptions?

There are exceptions. For instance, a landlord may shut off services to make repairs. However, the landlord is obligated to give notice that this will occur (unless it is an emergency situation).

Note that not all residential tenancies are covered under the RTA. There are certain exemptions to this. In fact, the idea that all residential tenancies are covered under the RTA is just one of many common misconceptions about residential rental properties.

Can a Landlord Turn off Heat?

As mentioned above, a landlord should not turn off, or block access to any vital service, including heat. However, just because this shouldn’t happen doesn’t mean it never does.

As a tenant or a landlord, a discussion with legal counsel can assist you fully understand your rights and what is permitted. In Ontario, the Landlord & Tenant Board serves to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.

Communication is Key

No matter if you are the landlord or the tenant, it is best to try to communicate calmly with the other party about the issue before escalating it. Many times, there has simply been a misunderstanding and through respectful discussion, an issue can be resolved.

Whether you communicate verbally or in writing, remember to keep a record of the date and time of the communication. If the matter later escalates and a tribunal or judge becomes involved, you will want to be able to show you have been reasonable and responsible in your actions.

Still have questions? This is a general overview and may not cover special circumstances. If you need clarity about your particular situation, you may want to discuss your issue with a legal professional. Please call RBHF Professional Corporation at 613-546-2147 or contact us for assistance with your specific issue.

This article provides general information and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. It should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. Please contact RBHF Professional Corporation for detailed legal advice should you have questions of any kind.