Air-Conditioners and The Law
As the warm weather approaches, tensions can often heat up between landlords and tenants over the question of air conditioners. The law can be a bit confusing on this issue.
Here are the goods.
• A landlord cannot introduce an additional charge for something that has previously been included in your rent. This is an illegal charge.
• A landlord cannot remove something that they have previously provided as a part of your rental agreement (whether or not that particular service is written down). This is called a loss of service.
• If the landlord wishes to charge an additional fee for air conditioning in the summer months, it must be tied to the tenant's monthly rent. It cannot be a one time fee for the whole summer. For example, a charge of $25 per month for the months when an air conditioner is used is legal, whereas a $300 charge for the whole summer is not legal.
The Residential Tenancies Act says:
123. (1) A landlord may increase the rent charged to a tenant for a rental unit as prescribed at any time if the landlord and the tenant agree that the landlord will add any of the following with respect to the tenant's occupancy of the rental unit:
1. A parking space.
2. A prescribed service, facility, privilege, accommodation or thing (THIS INCLUDES AIR CONDITIONERS). 2006, c. 17, s. 123 (1).
• This means that a landlord can introduce fees for additional services if both the tenant and the landlord agree to it, or if it is included as a clause in your original lease.
• If you have in your lease an agreement that you require written permission from your landlord in order to install an air conditioner, or have since then made a written agreement with your landlord about your installation of an air conditioner, your landlord may be able to increase your rent.
• They still have to go to the Landlord and Tenant Board in order to enforce this rental increase!
Other information to consider:
• The 12 Month Rule: If the landlord charged you for an air conditioner last year, they could argue at the Landlord and Tenant Board that they charged you over 12 months ago and therefore that their fee should now be legal.
• The Power of a Signature: If you gave written consent to a new fee for air conditioners, but did not understand what you were signing, the landlord will likely try to hold you to this written agreement in court. Always make sure you know what you are signing!
• Many tenants have called the hotline complaining of letters that their landlord has sent them stating that "new City bylaws" require an "engineering report" and "installment by a licensed professional". The FMTA has not heard of any such bylaw at this time and has not been able to confirm that this is actually correct. If you receive such a letter, you can call 3-1-1 and ask if such a bylaw occurs and also if any orders have been issued against your building regarding air conditioners. If no order or bylaw exists you can likely ignore your landlord's letter.