Tenant says Calgary Housing left her with broken furnace in –29 C weather over weekend

A woman living in a townhouse managed by Calgary Housing says she was left all weekend without a working furnace, forced to huddle up under blankets with the oven open, unable to sleep in the freezing cold.

'It's freezing cold and I don't really have anywhere else to go,' said Karla Morton

Karla Morton huddles up under blankets near one of the small space heaters provided by Calgary Housing after her furnace went out, as the temperature outside dipped as low as –29 C. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

A woman living in a townhouse managed by Calgary Housing Company (CHC) says she was left without a working furnace over the weekend as the temperature dipped as low as –29 C.

"I could see my breath," said Karla Morton. "It's freezing cold and I don't really have anywhere else to go."

Morton said the heat went out on Friday, and when CHC sent out a furnace worker, he said the secondary heat exchanger was broken and it couldn't be turned on without risking carbon monoxide poisoning — and that he couldn't fix it until Monday.

Calgary Housing sent her two small space heaters, but it just wasn't enough to warm the three-bedroom townhouse, leaving Morton huddled up under blankets with the oven open, unable to sleep in the freezing cold. 

According to Alberta Health's Minimum Housing and Health Standards, the furnace must be able to maintain a temperature in the winter of at least 16 C, and cooking appliances and portable space heaters shall not be used as the primary source of heat for a room.

She said she followed up with calls to Calgary Housing on Friday night and Saturday morning, telling them her place was uninhabitable. 

"The lady I spoke with told me, 'I'm sorry, hon. There's not a lot I can do. You have space heaters. Open your oven,'" Morton said.

Calgary Housing says it was 'unaware' of issues

CHC's manager of housing services Greg Wilkes told CBC News that they didn't receive the followup calls and were "unaware" of Morton's plight. Wilkes said if they had known, they would have supplied more heat or moved her into a different unit.

"Our priority is to make sure that our tenants are safe, our tenants are warm," he said. "This is not what Calgary Housing is. I'm very concerned about stuff like this that happens that may have fallen below our policy."

Wilkes also said telling tenants to open their ovens for more heat is against their policies.

However, Morton provided call logs to CBC News to show that she did indeed call Calgary Housing twice, staying on the line for seven minutes the first time and 13 minutes the second.

  When CBC News pointed out the discrepancy to Calgary Housing, Wilkes reiterated that the company has no record of those calls, but that he is still looking into it. 
Karla Morton provided screenshots of her calls to Calgary Housing, asking for help as her home was too cold. (Supplied)

Morton said she felt "shoved aside," unable to sleep in her home. She said she was worried to have her two children over because it wouldn't have been safe for them.

Her furnace was finally fixed on Monday night.

With files from Andrew Brown, Lucie Edwardson


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