The property management firm and asset management firm had four years to discuss this. Their representatives told tenants repeatedly to cool their units however we wished.
All the tenants wanted was to know how the owners and the property management wanted the tenants to cool their units.
Instead they ignored and on more than one occasion left meetings about safety. without staying to talk or share best practises or process and potential guidelines or outcomes. All that the Tenants wanted was guidelines on how the owners wanted the units cooled once new windows where install.
Instead they told us "Do what you like" several times from both the property management team and asset manager.
Window Air Conditioners Banned by Great West in a Heat Wave: A Sticky Situation for Tenants (Air Date: May 31, 2006)
Tenants of a North York apartment complex have been ordered not to use their window-mounted air conditioners or face eviction. Why? The owners and managers want them to buy new, approved units that fit in with the new windows being installed. What's the problem? The tenants got less than a month's notice of the new rules, and some just bought new window units. Sean O'Shea and the Global Defenders expose a decision that has left many tenants in a warm sweat.
JUNE 27, 2007
In their third floor apartment in North York, Betty Ann van Gastel and Michael Ballard are trying to keep their cool.
But they're staying comfortable against the strict orders of their landlord, one that's just banned the use of window-mounted air conditioners at the height of a heat wave. It's a decision that has the couple boiling - inside.
And for good reason. Without air conditioning, the temperature in the west-facing apartment can reach 40 degrees Celcius.
"And that's with the blinds closed, and the windows open," said van Gastel.
Just a month ago Minto Management, which operates three buildings in this North York development at Sheppard Avenue East near Bayview, issued an order banning window units immediately. They did so, even though window units have been permitted for many years.
"We shouldn't have to suffer in our own homes," said van Gastel. "We have the right to be comfortable here."
Her partner agrees, infuriated that the decision by Minto was dumped on their laps only 30 days ago.
"We're not children," said Michael Ballard. "We just want equal responsibility back and forth."
What's the reason for the new policy? The answer: new windows.
According to Minto Management, tenants now have to buy special, new air conditioning units that won't protrude through the glass.
"They're worried about damage to the window and the appearance," says van Gastel, who shows the Global Defenders how carefully she and Ballard have installed the Kenmore unit they bought last year, at a cost of almost $600.
But the approved and partially subsidized units just arrived at the development. To this point, even those who've signed up to buy one have been suffering in sweltering heat.
"It's totally unfair, it shows the regressive nature of landlord tenant relations in Ontario," said Dan McIntyre of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations.
The company that owns the apartments is GWL Realty Advisors, a subsidiary of Great West Life, the behemoth Winnipeg-based insurance company which recently merged with Canada Life.
A Great West spokeswoman told the Global Defenders that GWL is being fair to tenants, by offering discounted new air conditioners and by allowing tenants, in some circumstances, permission to pay for the units over time.
But buying a new unit won't be easy for some tenants, who already pay more than $1,200 rent per month on average. And GWL Realty is after even high rents.
"This year, they're applying for another rent increase and if they are successful it will be a 6 per cent increase overall," said McIntrye, noting the company is asking for permission to exceed provincial rent increase guidelines two years in a row.
Back at their apartment, van Gastel and Ballard have been warned:
They show a stern letter telling them to take out their air conditioner or face legal action. Disregarding the order could mean eviction even though van Gastel has lived here 15 years and has been a model tenant.
"It's not right, and I don't like being intimidated," said van Gastel.
Still, neither GWL Realty or Minto Management is backing down. It seems tenants here have a choice. They can abandon their own units, even if they just bought them, and invest in a new approved one. Or, they can roast in the heat of what promises to be a long, hot summer.
SEAN'S FOOTNOTE: MINTO IS EXTENDING THIS SAME POLICY TO AT LEAST ONE OTHER TORONTO BUILDING. IN SOME CASES AT THE SHEPPARD APARTMENTS, SENIOR CITIZENS AND DISABLED RENTERS ARE AFRAID TO COMPLAIN PUBLICLY FOR FEAR THEY WILL FACE RETRIBUTION FROM MANAGEMENT. BETTY ANN AND MICHAEL SAY THERE ARE SEVERAL PERSONS IN THE BUILDING WHO CANNOT AFFORD TO BUY NEW UNITS IN VIEW OF THE ADDITIONAL COST AND THE RECENT RENT INCREASE. BETTY ANN AND MICHAEL SAY THEY WERE NEVER TOLD ABOUT ANY OFFER TO PROVIDE A PAYMENT PLAN FOR NEW AIR CONDITIONERS, EVEN THOUGH GREAT WEST'S SPOKESMAN SAID THIS WAS AVAILABLE TO SOME.
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