12.6 C
Friday, September 22, 2023
HomeCanadaHousing Advocates Call for Heat Limits in Rental Homes as B.C. Anticipates...

Housing Advocates Call for Heat Limits in Rental Homes as B.C. Anticipates High 30s Temperatures


Tenant advocates in British Columbia say it’s time to consider setting a maximum temperature for rental housing to protect vulnerable renters from dangerous heat.

The call comes as a heat wave covers much of the province, sparking memories of the deadly heat dome event of 2021.

Environment Canada has issued heat warnings and special weather statements for much of southern British Columbia this week, saying temperatures are expected to reach highs of up to 34C in the south-west and up to 39C further east.

Soaring temperatures overnight will offer little relief from the heat, the weather agency added.

With provincial officials again warning of the dangers of high temperatures, advocates say municipalities need to make sure tenants don’t face deadly risks of overheating in their homes.

While BC municipalities set statutes mandating the minimum temperatures that rental units must be able to maintain, there are no similar rules for how hot a home is allowed to be heated.

‘reasonable step’

Emily Rogers, director of operations for the Partnership Against Poverty Victoria, says changing property statutes to include a maximum temperature “seems like a very reasonable step.”

“I think that in a time of climate crisis and increasing extreme heat, it is very reasonable to think about maximum temperatures and ensure that tenants are not susceptible to heat-related injuries and potentially death,” he said.

During the summer heat dome of 2021, more than 600 people died as a result of extreme temperatures exceeding 40C in parts of the province. A review by the BC Coroners Service found that the majority were elderly and vulnerable people in buildings without air conditioning.

The province has said the dome heat is not expected to repeat this week, but has warned people to take precautions to stay out of the heat, drink water and limit activity.

Tenant advocates in BC say it’s time to consider setting a maximum allowable temperature in rental units in the province. (Ben Bryant/Shutterstock)

Lasse Hvitved, a legal advocate with the Tenant Resource and Advocacy Center, said that under the province’s Residential Tenancy Law, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide adequate heating and it is up to municipalities to define what those requirements are.

In Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey, statutes say heating systems must be capable of keeping each room at a temperature of 22C, while in Victoria, the minimum is 21C.

Hvitved believes that if the law were written today, similar rules on maximum temperatures would have been included.

“The only reason it’s not included is because at the time it was last rewritten, this kind of heat dome and heat waves weren’t at the forefront of our minds,” he said.

“It’s the landlord’s responsibility for heat. It’s the landlord’s responsibility for mold. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to have water. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to keep the place up to health and safety standards.”

“So it seems an anomaly that, for some reason, tenants are responsible for providing their own air conditioning.”

Vancouver Heat Survey

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says the city has nearly finished “a multi-year indoor heat temperature survey” that could lead to changes to the building code or city charter.

“The data collected will be used to explore ways to achieve cooler indoor temperatures and prevent heat-related illness or death,” Sim said in a statement.

“This could include a variety of measures, such as possible changes to the building code or city charter, among others.”

Hvitved said some flexibility for landlords could be considered, with different rules for buildings with older people or other vulnerable populations. He added that if cooling became the responsibility of the owner, more efficient systems could be put in place.

He said he has heard from renters whose homes have reached 36C inside and facing barriers to getting air conditioning due to landlords.

Last week, Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma recommended that people consider having a digital thermometer to measure indoor temperatures, noting that temperatures of 31C and above can be dangerous, especially for those most vulnerable to the heat.

The province announced in June that it was launching a $10 million fund to purchase and install up to 8,000 air conditioners for low-income and vulnerable people. But advocates have raised concerns that requiring landlord consent to get free air conditioners is an unnecessary barrier for tenants.

Rogers said it would be helpful if the provincial residential leasing branch convened experts to give tenants and landlords guidance on what is reasonable.

“Simply put, renters need to have a safe place to live and being protected from extreme heat is part of that. We know that renters are more likely to be people with disabilities. We know that renters are more likely to be older people with fixed income. We know that renters are more likely to not have access to outdoor spaces or sometimes not even have balconies,” he said.

“…It’s incredibly important that people have access to a safe place to be in times of emergencies.”

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories