The company that manages an East York apartment building has dropped a demand that tenants pay extra for the right to use their air conditioning units after a CBC Toronto investigation uncovered it is illegal to request annual usage fees, changing some resident's original contracts.
"There will be no change to the status of tenant-owned air conditioning units at this time," said a letter sent to tenants on Thursday from the management company, CAPREIT Limited Partnership.
The move comes two days after CBC Toronto received a complaint from Patricia Steward, who has lived in the apartment building for 49 years. She says her air conditioner has been perched in her window for almost three decades.
"I am ecstatic. I've been celebrating," Steward said after learning the news. "They finally did something right for us."
'You have to stand up to them'
Steward, 76, claimed she was ready to fight the $125 hike.
"You have to stand up to them, otherwise they'll get away with it," she said.
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations — a non-profit group that advocates for tenant's rights — told CBC Toronto on Tuesday he deals with this ever year.
'It's incredible the number of people who don't know their rights and they're told one thing — especially the older ones — and they do it.' - Patricia Steward
"There are literally tens of thousands of tenants getting these notices this summer, and a lot of them are going to be illegal," Dent told CBC Toronto previously.
These fees have a serious impact on tenants, he suggested.
"In our opinion, it's one of the great illegal wealth transfers that happen in the city every year from people who don't make a lot of money to millionaires and billionaires that are gouging them for illegal fees."
'They're in the business of making money'
In the letter distributed Thursday, the landlord assured tenants who had already paid the "seasonal fees" that they would receive a full refund. Those who had removed their air conditioning units may reinstall them, management added.
An indignant Steward, who took issue with the fee from the start, claims this shows the level of fear tenants have when complying with management's demands.
"It's incredible the number of people who don't know their rights and they're told one thing — especially the older ones — and they do it. Anything to avoid being evicted," she said.
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While she can afford the set usage fees, it was the principle of the original letter itself she took issue with.
"We have seniors here and that would be a hardship for them," Steward explained. "They're in the business of making money and not caring for people."
CBC Toronto reached out to the management company to talk about their decision, but has not received a response.