Dear Phyllis: It’s Freaking Cold!

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash.

Dear Phyllis,

As you may have noticed, it is cold AF outside. The house I live in was built in like, 1923, and it is FREEZING. I can see my breath in the mornings and there is often ice on my windows. I know that it is an old home so I understand that it is drafty, but I deal with chronic pain and the cold makes it much worse. My landlord controls our heat and even though I have asked them to turn it up, I don’t notice any changes. What can I do? Shouldn’t my landlord keep the place at a reasonable temperature?


Dear Chilled,

I’m so sorry that you have to deal with that! I once lived in what was essentially an unfinished addition and suffered through the winter. I didn’t say anything to my landlord because I didn’t know that I had any rights to do so. You do not have to do this! You have rights!

The first step you should take is to talk to your landlord. Remind them that there is a legal minimum temperature (usually around 20 degrees Celsius in Ontario). You can keep a written log of the temperature at various points in the day to show them if they suggest that it is at the correct temperature. Have some suggestions for repairs that could help with the draftiness. If speaking to them informally doesn’t help, write a (polite!) letter to them outlining the problem and keep a copy for yourself.

From there, you have two options. One is to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board with your case. The Board will schedule a hearing where you and your landlord explain your side of the story. The Peterborough Community Legal Centre can give you some more advice on how best to prepare for a hearing with the board. If you are totally fed up with the house and just want to leave, you can either give 60 days’ notice (using the proper forms from the Landlord and Tenant Board) and start looking for new places for two months from now, or you can find someone else to take over your lease and leave sooner. If you are going this route you will still need your landlord’s permission to sublet or assign your lease, but if they say no you can give them 30 days’ notice instead of 60.

Best of luck, dear reader, and stay warm! A great resource to check out for clarification on any of these points is Community Legal Education Ontario and their Steps to Justice guide.

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