The Dwelling

Heating problems

Heating provided by the lessor

Are you a lessee in a dwelling where the heating is controlled by the lessor? Is the temperature in your dwelling causing you serious discomfort?

Are you a lessor wondering what date you have to turn the heat on and what temperature you must keep it at to meet your obligations?

In either case, the information below is for you!

What date must the heat be turned on?

There is no date for when the heating in a dwelling must be turned on specified in either the law governing rental housing or most municipal bylaws. The weather in Québec being what it is, it would be arbitrary to pick a specific date – sometimes it can be freezing in May and sweltering in March.

However, the lessor is legally required to maintain an appropriate room temperature regardless of the time of year.

This falls under the lessor’s obligation to maintain the dwelling, warrant that the dwelling may be used for the purpose for which it was leased, and keep the dwelling in good habitable condition.

Thus, any clause in the lease specifying the date on which the lessor will turn on the heat would likely be without effect, because whether the dwelling requires heating or not depends on the temperature indoors.

What temperature should the dwelling be kept at?

Though neither the law nor most municipal bylaws specifically address this, it is generally accepted that, under normal weather conditions, the indoor temperature of a dwelling should be kept at an approximate minimum of 21°C (70°F) in winter.

The lessee, meanwhile, must be careful not to overheat the dwelling, or action may be taken against them at the Tribunal administratif du logement.

How do I talk to my lessor about this?

If there is a heating problem, the lessee must be able to provide solid evidence, supported by witnesses, to show the lessor that the problem is serious enough that steps to correct the situation must be taken immediately.

For example, the lessee can take indoor and outdoor temperature readings at regular times for a few days. The indoor temperature should be recorded in the centre of each room, one metre above the floor.

Temperature
Date Time Outdoor Indoor
Y/M/D 5 p.m. 7° C 14° C

Heating failure

If the heating system fails or breaks down, the lessor is required by law to take immediate corrective steps so that the lessee does not suffer any harm.

If the lessor is unable to restore heating in a timely manner, they must temporarily provide a supplementary source of heating (e.g., a space heater). Living without proper heating – even for 24 hours – can sometimes be unbearable, and the lessee may even need to stay somewhere else until the problem is resolved.

The lessee must let their lessor know if their heat goes out in the middle of winter. If the lessor fails to take action or cannot be reached, the lessee may either repair the heating system or fill the heating oil tank, as this is an urgent situation and the repair or expense is necessary in order to maintain or enjoy the dwelling.

Of course, the lessor can always step in to finish the job.

The lessee is entitled to be reimbursed for any reasonable expenses incurred. If need be, they can deduct these expenses from their rent.

Recourse

You have let your lessor know there is a heating problem, but they still have not done anything to improve the situation. It may not be an emergency, but you consider it unacceptable.

Ask the Tribunal administratif du logement about what recourse you might have.

If you are a sublessee, you must let the lessee of the apartment know about your problem. If they fail to take any action, you can exercise the rights and recourse that they would have asserted to have the lessor fulfill their obligations.