brick building with multiple window air conditioners installed in old windows

Do landlords have to provide air conditioning in Ontario?

Summer is in full swing in Hamilton, and with it comes high temperatures, humidity, and tenants wondering: do landlords have to provide air conditioning in Ontario? Now is a great time to take a look at your lease and see what your rights are.

A right to heat, but no right to air conditioning

In Ontario, according to the Residential Tenancies Act, your landlord must keep your unit “fit for habitation” and there are rules about how warm your landlord must keep your unit during cooler months, but nothing about how cool it must be during warmer months! For reference, in Hamilton:

Property owners and landlords of residential rental units are required to supply adequate and suitable heat from September 15 to May 15 of each year. Temperatures must be at least 20 C (68F) in all spaces where people live. The heat must be supplied by a safe, operable and permanent heating appliance capable of maintaining these temperatures.

In the winter months, if your landlord fails to keep your unit warm enough, then you can call by-law enforcement, the Residential Housing Enforcement Unit, and/or file a T6 application with the Landlord and Tenant Board. If you have any questions about these processes or need assistance, you can contact one of our Lawyers or Paralegals.

For the summer, however, no such by-laws exist in Hamilton but the rules are still simple. If your unit came with air conditioning, then you have a right to air conditioning. Your landlord is responsible to maintain it and ensure it is functioning like any other appliance. If they refuse to fix it, again you can file a T2/T6 application at the Landlord and Tenant Board. In most cases you cannot, however, force the landlord to install an air conditioning unit.

Can you install an air conditioner anyway?

If your unit did not come with air conditioning, you are not completely out of luck. You need to look at your lease and see what your agreement says you can do. Usually, one of the following circumstances applies:

  1. The lease is silent about air conditioning
  2. The landlord pays utilities and says that if you install an air conditioner you must pay extra
  3. The lease forbids certain types of air conditioners (such as a window air conditioner)
  4. The lease forbids all air conditioners

Depending on the wording in your lease, you may be able to install an air conditioning unit yourself. Your landlord may try to stop you, especially if they pay for utilities. So, make sure you look carefully at your lease. If it does not say anything about charging extra then the landlord cannot ask for more money. If the lease does mention an air conditioning surcharge they can charge you extra for the actual cost of the electricity, or a reasonable amount if they cannot show exactly how much is being consumed by the air conditioner. In these cases, it is a good idea to request copies of the utility bills.

Although you may have a right to install an air conditioner unit, many landlords are trying to ban window air conditioners due to potential hazards should they fall out of the window. Even if your lease may allow you to purchase and install whichever type of air conditioner you want, it may be a good idea to have it professionally installed to reduce any worry about a potentially life-threatening mishap.

Do you have a right to air conditioning based on medical needs or an unusually hot unit?

It is also generally a good idea to let your landlord know if you are planning to install an air conditioner. If your lease prohibits all air conditioners it may be a good idea to discuss the issue with your landlord. Always try to do this in writing or make good notes of your conversations! You may need to send readings of the temperature in your unit, and explain any potential disabilities or conditions you have that require a cooler environment – remember, they have to keep it “fit for habitation”. In short, sometimes special circumstances create a right to air conditioning.

That’s it! What might have seemed like a simple question relies very heavily on the agreement you negotiated when you moved in. For this reason, it is very important you read your lease carefully before signing so that you don’t get stuck in a sticky situation.

If you have any questions about your right to air conditioning, or need legal advice on the temperature of your unit, or want someone to review a lease before you sign it, reach out to one of our Lawyers or Paralegals here.

Stay cool, Hamilton!

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