It feels like 30 degrees outside, but the heat is on inside — why that may be thanks to a misinterpreted bylaw

City councillors are urging landlords to use common sense after switching on their heat in the midst of unseasonably hot weather.

The bylaw calls for interior temperatures of 21 degrees between Sept. 15 and June 1

A resident at 2 Secord Ave. said her building has been uncomfortably hot after the heat was switched on last week. (Google Maps)

In the midst of an unseasonable September heat wave, some landlords around the city have apparently decided to turn on the heat.

The seemingly inexplicable decision has been caused by landlords misinterpreting a bylaw on apartment temperatures, said city councillors who are urging property owners to use their "common sense" and switch it off.

"It makes no sense for landlords to keep their building's heat on or not turn centralized air conditioning on when tenants are baking in their own homes," said councillor Josh Matlow at a news conference on Wednesday.

Matlow and fellow councillor Joe Mihevc say they've been inundated with calls from constituents in stifling apartment buildings where temperatures have climbed into the high 30s during the current heat wave. One person has even been hospitalized, according to Mihevc.

The bylaw in question mandates that all apartments must be 21 degrees or warmer between Sept. 15 to June 1.

Matlow said some landlords have misinterpreted that to mean the air conditioning must go off and the heat be switched on during those dates.

"There's nothing in the bylaw that says that on September 15th you've got to flick the heat on, we simply expect you to ensure that the heat is at 21 degrees and over and to be compliant," he said.

Residents call for relief

Apartment dwellers in the offending buildings say they were stunned when they realized the heat had been switched on late last week.

Romelda Morson went to speak to her building's manager when she felt the temperature rising.

"I go down to the super and she says 'yeah, it's on,'" Morson recalled.  "I say 'come on guys, let's use some common sense.'"

She said her building at 2 Secord Ave. already gets warm during hot days, "but when you add heat to the 30 degrees outside, it's unpleasant."

Morson said her landlord has indicated concern about the 21 degree bylaw, and that the city might crack down on buildings that don't switch on the heat on September 15th.

She wants the wording to make it clear that heat isn't required if the building is already warm enough.

"I know why the bylaw is written the way it is, but it's more about making the bylaw clearer for landlords ... so that they don't have to worry they're going to get taken to task if they turn the heat off in a heat wave in September," Morson added.

Councillors Joe Mihevic and Josh Matlow said they've received dozens of calls from tenants suffering in overheated apartments. (CBC)

Councillors urge responsibility

Matlow and Mihevc assured landlords that the city would not issue infraction notices, so long as temperatures do not dip below 21 degrees.

It does not matter how that threshold is achieved, they say.

"If mother nature is already taking care of that for you, then your job is to be responsible for your tenants and make sure they're not overheating," Matlow said.

However, they added that most landlords do understand how the bylaw works.

"It really is a few landlords here and there throughout the city that are causing tremendous anxiety amongst residents," said Mihevc. 


Nick Boisvert is a multimedia journalist at the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. He previously covered municipal politics for CBC News in Toronto. You can reach him at