Condo tower residents sweat it out as air conditioning failure heads into 2nd month

Hundreds of residents in a downtown Toronto condo tower have been baking in the heat since mid-May, thanks to a broken cooling system that building management says won't be fixed for another two weeks.

Residents given fans to beat the heat, but no air conditioning units

Jake Hamilton stands with one of the fans that were provided to residents at 181 Dundas St. E., which has been without air conditioning since May 20. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Hundreds of residents in a downtown Toronto condo tower have been baking in the heat since mid-May — due to a broken cooling system that building management says won't be fixed for another two weeks.

"The highest we've gotten is probably around 38 Celsius," seventh floor resident Jake Hamilton said. "I'm working from home and I'm sure a lot of people are, and you're sweating from the moment you wake up 'til the moment you go to bed."

Hamilton said he and other affected residents at 181 Dundas St. E — many of whom are renters who live in south-facing units with floor-to-ceiling windows — are frustrated because it's unclear who's responsible for fixing the problem: the unit owners or the condo association.

The problems began at the tower located near Dundas Street East and Jarvis Street in mid-May. The property managers attempted to switch the building's heating system off, and the cooling system on, only to discover that the air conditioning for the 50-storey building's first 23 floors was not working 

Since then, management firm 360 Community Management Ltd. has been attempting to fix the problem, president and CEO Chris Antipas said in a statement to CBC Toronto.

The thermostat inside Hamilton's seventh floor unit read 88 F, or about 32 C, one day last week. (Grant Linton/CBC)

He said the problem comes down to a single part that was held up in Germany, "a situation exacerbated by existing supply chain delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"All focus was on the residents to make them as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible and fans were purchased for every affected unit ... Staff stayed late to call every unit and deliver the fans when they arrived."

Antipas also said in his statement that he brought in condo communications experts DigiNotice, to keep residents abreast of developments.

Even so, Antipas said, it appears the system may not be fixed for another two weeks.

Condo law expert Audrey Loeb says there may be little recourse for the residents at 181 Dundas St. E., who are sweating it out without air conditioning. (Grant Linton/CBC)

And according to condo law expert Audrey Loeb, residents may have no option but to sweat it out.

"There's no evidence that the board isn't doing what it can — it delivered fans, it's trying to get the part," Loeb said.

"This isn't a board that's just sitting on its hands saying, 'Enjoy yourselves. It's hot. Have a good time,'" she added. "This is a board, a property manager, that's trying to do what it should do."

Known as The Grid, the condo tower at 81 Dundas St. E. has only been providing air conditioning to units in the topmost of its 50 storeys since mid-May, due to a broken cooling system. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Even so, Hamilton said he'd like to see the individual condo owners do more for their tenants.

"I'm not unreasonable. I understand that this is a building problem, and they can't hire some sort of magic mechanic to come fix it in a day," he said.

But when he asked the condo board to pitch in and buy portable air conditioners, he was told "we understand your frustration, but this doesn't fall to us."


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