Why is this man dressed for winter indoors? His Toronto building's had no heat for a week

Darren Driver has been wearing many layers to stay warn in his St. Clair Avenue West apartment since the heat stopped. (Submitted by: Darren Driver - image credit)
Darren Driver has been wearing many layers to stay warn in his St. Clair Avenue West apartment since the heat stopped. (Submitted by: Darren Driver - image credit)
  • UPDATE: The City of Toronto confirmed on Thursday that the heat is back on in parts of this building. On Friday, the city said heat has been restored to the entire building.

Darren Driver just wants the heat in his midtown Toronto apartment back on.

Driver and several of his neighbours have been shivering for about a week at 64 St. Clair W., a building located just a few blocks west of Yonge Street managed by Briarlane Rental Property Management Inc.

Even with a space heater, his apartment has only reached 12 C and with even more frigid temperatures in the forecast, he's worried about how long this is taking to resolve.

"There's a feeling of powerlessness," said Driver. "The space heaters will blow the circuits ….We have to run the oven all the time."

Members of his household and others in the building are wearing multiple layers trying to stay warm but it's "very, very uncomfortable," he says.

"When you're in the cold like this for this long, you sort of start feeling sick," he said.

City issues violation notices

CBC Toronto reached out to Briarlane for comment Wednesday. But so far, there's been no response.

Driver and several of his neighbours contacted the city, which sent bylaw enforcement officers to investigate. The city's Municipal Licensing and Standards department confirms issues exist at the building.

On Thursday, a City of Toronto spokesperson confirmed Thursday morning the heat was back on in the west side of the building and its common areas, however the problems continue on the east side.

The spokesperson said the city has an ongoing investigation into property standards at the building.

Janet Stoeckl, a district manager with the city, told CBC Toronto in an emailed statement the department has recently "received five complaints about low heat and two complaints about property standards from tenants at 64 St Clair Ave. West."

Staff from RentSafeTO, a bylaw enforcement program that ensures apartment building's comply with maintenance standards, have been checking in with tenants at the building and distributing space heaters as a temporary measure, Stoeckl says.

She says staff are continuing to monitor the situation as the company works with a technician to address the situation.

As of Wednesday, Stoeckl told CBC News, "the city has issued two notices of violation and two property standards orders."

In an email, she explained that if the city issues the company a ticket, it could end up paying a $1,000 fine if convicted. A summons to court and a subsequent conviction could mean a fine as high as $100,000 or $10,000 a day "for each day the violation continues," the email reads.

Submitted by Jean Wilkinson
Submitted by Jean Wilkinson

Jean Wilkinson, who has lived in the building for close to two decades, says similar problems have been pervasive and people are losing faith that management can handle repairs well on their own.

"Since they turned the heat on in October 2022, the heat's been off at least three times," she said. In the past there were short periods with issues involving the heating, but she says they were more quickly resolved.

After days of silence from the building about the situation, on Tuesday a notice was finally posted, but nothing about an expected resolution date, she says.

"It's a really nice place to live, but unfortunately, it's gone downhill the last few years, terribly," Wilkinson said.

'Deplorable and shameful'

Coun. Josh Matlow represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul's where the building is located. Matlow calls Briarlane's behaviour "deplorable and shameful." He says the company should have offered the tenants somewhere warm to stay like a hotel or other solutions as soon as the problem arose.

However, he says he's hopeful financial penalties could light a fire under the landlord.

"In extreme cases RentSafe inspectors can actually … just go and hire contractors themselves, and then just give the landlord the bill," Matlow said.

But he says RentSafeTO tries to work with landlords to resolve problems first, something he says he's hopeful is happening in this case.

Michael Wilson/CBC
Michael Wilson/CBC

Jessica Bell, the Ontario NDP's housing critic, says RentSafeTO is a great resource, but in practice working with building management to get them to do the right thing may not be what would help tenants most.

"It can lead to very long delays of months or years before these repairs are done," she said.

Getting compensation

Geordie Dent,  the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, says residents can apply to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board for what's called "rent abatement." That means tenants in buildings where problems exist can potentially pay less than their full rent, or receive compensation.

But Dent says the process can be long and complicated.

"We've been calling for an easy way that tenants get compensated when they don't get 100 per cent of the value from their rent," he said.

"Tenants have to pay 100 per cent of their rent and that's supposed to mean landlords are supposed to do 100 per cent of the maintenance. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way."

Lauren Pelley/CBC News
Lauren Pelley/CBC News

As for Driver, he is looking into getting financial compensation. But most of all he just wants his heat fixed.

He says he's not going to let the situation force him to leave the home and community he loves.

"We'll fight for it. I'll sit in the cold as long as I have to."