Ontario tenants could soon be given the right to install air conditioner (AC) units in their homes without their landlord’s consent.
At the moment, AC provision is the landlord’s decision and should be spelled out in the lease. Some landlords supply AC units or air condition the whole building. Others allow tenants to install their own AC units, while some do not allow AC at all. Landlords can charge tenants extra rent for AC when electricity is included in the rent, but only to cover the actual cost of the extra electricity used – or a “reasonable amount” where this can’t be calculated.
But under Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act, renters will be given the right to install AC units at their own expense so long as they comply with any municipal by-laws.
Landlords will still be allowed to charge additional rent, but only if electricity is included in the rent and only during the season that the AC will be used. To help landlords calculate bills accurately, tenants who install an AC unit will have to notify the landlord of its energy efficiency and their expected use of it.
Making it work
Some industry professionals expect billing to be an administrative headache for landlords under the incoming system. While the extra cost for single-family rentals and sub-metered units should be easy to calculate, billing tenants in multi-unit buildings with bulk metering will require landlords to estimate how much electricity each unit is using. Industry experts say that applying a set amount to every unit with AC wouldn’t count as a “reasonable amount” as the actual running cost will depend on the type of AC unit, the set temperature in the unit, the unit’s position in the building and other factors.
If Bill 97 passes, property managers should brace themselves for more requests to install window AC units. Tenants are still required to install AC units securely without damaging the rental property, so many will want professional help, and this may be required by their lease. Landlords may also need property managers to help them figure out a fair billing structure for tenants who install AC units.
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