Edmonton utility EPCOR will no longer shut off commercial meters that service residential buildings during the winter, the company announced Monday, after some tenants in a northeast Edmonton apartment building went without heat and electricity for 24 hours.
"We had no fire alarms. No lights. No nothing," tenant Linda Danis said.
It was so cold, Danis said she was forced to spend the night at a local hotel.
On Wednesday, EPCOR shut off a commercial meter — one of eight that service the 7-unit building at 82nd Street and 122nd Avenue — because the owner was behind in paying the bills.
The meter in question controls power to the lobby, but the power shutoff also cut power to some suites. The temperature in individual apartments dropped below freezing, said Danis. The low temperatures subsequently caused water pipes to burst.
The power was turned back on Thursday.
Under the province's Utilities Act, residential electricity and gas can't be cut off between Oct. 15 and April 15. But power can be shut off to a commercial building, so EPCOR was within its legal rights, spokesperson Tim LaRiche said.
However, last week's situation caused the utility to alter its policy.
"We have extended our internal winter rules procedures to include commercial meters that may or are indeed servicing residences," LaRiche said.
At least twice this winter, a commercial meter shutoff has affected tenants in an Edmonton apartment building.
In late February, tenants in a downtown highrise were without heat for eight hours after ATCO cut the natural gas supply because the company that owned the building was behind in its payments.
In that case, an employee mistakenly thought the structure was a commercial building, ATCO said.
But Edmonton city councillors say more needs to be done to protect the rights of tenants.
"They've paid their money in good faith. They should have an expectation to heat and power and the fact that they don't and there's nothing we can do to protect them, there's clearly a flaw here and a glitch that needs to be dealt with," Coun. Ben Henderson said.
"You're paying your utility bills on the rent," Coun. Tony Caterina said. "The landlord should be mandated to put that money aside."
Caterina said the province should ensure tenants are protected.