Oil heating 'ticking time bomb' for trailer parks

Oil spills can be expensive for trailer park landlords, but at least one owner on P.E.I. will not be going the route of forcing his tenants to switch to electric heat.
Byway Trailer Park in Cornwall is forcing tenants to switch away from oil heating. (CBC)

Oil spills can be expensive for trailer park landlords but at least one owner on P.E.I. will not be going the route of forcing his tenants to switch to electric heat.

Clifford McQuaid, owner of Byway Trailer Park in Cornwall, told his tenants this spring if they don't all switch from oil heat to electric he would close the park down. McQuaid told CBC News tenants can't get proper insurance and he's still paying for a spill that happened last year.

McQuaid also owns the Evergreen Mobile Home Park in Summerside, and has told his tenants he wants them to switch too.

Carl Doucette has a mobile home at Riverview Estates in Charlottetown. He recently invested $1,200 in a new oil tank. He said switching to electric or propane would be too expensive.

"Being ordered to by the land owner, I don't feel he has a right to do that," said Doucette.

"My electrical bill is high enough now without adding another $500 a month onto it."

No ultimatums

Cathy Flanagan, the director of residential rental property, said while there's nothing spelled out in the Rental of Residential Property Act that says owners are not allowed to make changes to the way homes are heated, tenants are in no way powerless. There could be stipulations in the rental agreement.

She said there are also several rules in the act pertaining to mobile homes that could be used by tenants if they wished to apply to the director to contest a change.

But Doucette won't have to make a change. Park owner Wayne Hambly said, while oil spills are a worry, he won't be forcing a change on his residents.

"It's a big concern frankly, in some ways it's a bit of a ticking time bomb," said Hambly, who owns four trailer parks.

"Giving people ultimatums is never a good idea, I don't think, in any business."

Most of the homes in Hambly's parks are heated by oil. He said there have been spills but the costs, which can run into 10s of thousands of dollars, were covered by tenants' insurance.

The province's Office of Energy Efficiency said it has heard from tenants seeking assistance in making a switch but it does not endorse switching to baseboard electric heat, the least expensive option to install.

There is some funding available for newer systems like an air source heat pump but, while they are less expensive to operate, installation costs can put them out of reach for some people.