As the warm weather approaches, tensions can often heat up between landlords and tenants over the question of air conditioners (ACs). Often landlords try to save money on electricity by either charging a tenant for having an AC, or threatening to remove an AC altogether. The law can be a bit confusing on this issue. Here we will provide you with answers to the questions we hear the most – you should start by looking at your tenancy agreement. Keep in the mind that information below is general information about tenant rights and should not be construed as specific legal advice.
1) Can I have an Air Conditioner? Do I need my landlord’s approval for AC?
Look at your lease. Does it say that you require the landlord's consent to have an AC? If not, the landlord cannot dictate whether you can have an AC in your home. If you don't have a written lease, then the landlord cannot prevent you from having an AC.
You should still be careful to make sure that your AC unit is safely and securely installed, does not damage the windows or the building, that it does not make too much noise, and that it is not causing any damage or interference with other tenants.
Even if your lease says you can't have AC, if you have had your AC unit installed for a long period of time, with the landlord's knowledge, and they have never said anything about it, it may be possible to argue that the landlord has given "implied consent" or that it is too late for them to enforce their rights (this is known as "laches"). Your argument will be much stronger if you can prove that the landlord was aware of your AC unit - such as an old email or a letter where the AC unit is mentioned. The law is not clear on this issue - there are risks involved with trying to make this argument at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
2) Can a landlord take my AC unit?
No. If the AC unit belongs to you, the landlord can never take a tenant’s property. If the AC unit belongs to the landlord, then it is a service included in your tenancy agreement. This would be the same as a landlord taking your fridge or your stove. If your landlord wants to try and make you remove your AC, they must follow the proper LTB process, which includes giving you a notice and making an application to the LTB who will decide if their claim is valid.
Last year there was a tragic incident in Toronto where an AC unit which was not properly secured to the wall fell and killed a child. Many landlords are using this as a reason to try and force tenants to remove their AC units (especially if they are not mounted over a balcony). We believe that this is heavy-handed and excessive. If you own your AC unit, you should ensure that it is securely attached and you may wish to have someone come and check it. If the landlord owns the AC unit, they should be inspecting to ensure it is safe. The landlord may also need to make repairs to ensure that your AC unit can be safely installed. Always put your requests for repairs in writing.
3) Can I be charged for AC at all?
Yes, if you and the landlord have agreed to allow an additional AC charge, then you can be charged. But this should only be the case if the landlord pays for electricity. The AC charge must be approximate to the cost incurred by the landlord (the electricity cost).
If the landlord wishes to charge an additional fee for air conditioning in the summer months, it must be allowed under your tenancy agreement, and tied to your 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.
4) Can the landlord introduce a new AC unit charge all of a sudden?
Possibly. If you pay for electricity yourself, then the landlord cannot charge you extra for AC. If the landlord pays for electricity and the lease doesn’t say anything about additional AC charges, they cannot charge you more.
But, if the landlord pays for electricity, and your lease agreement says there may be an additional charge for using AC, then they may be able to charge you extra – although they cannot impose a one-time charge for the whole season, it must be a monthly charge. You can negotiate the charge with your landlord.
5) Can I be evicted for having an AC unit?
It is very unlikely, but it depends on many different factors. You should follow the terms of your lease. You should make sure that your AC unit is not dangerous or bothering other people. You may have to pay an additional charge if it is in your lease agreement. In the worst case scenario, if your landlord tried to evict you through the LTB, you can tell the LTB that you will remove your AC unit if you are ordered to.
If your landlord serves you with a notice for an AC unit, or applies to the LTB for an eviction order, you should seek advice from a community legal clinic.
6) The landlord has told us that Toronto City Bylaws say we can't have an AC unit, is that true?
No. There is no city by-law that says people cannot have AC units. The by-laws require units to be safely installed and maintained.
7) I have a disability and I need AC. What do I do if the landlord prevents me from having AC?
Under the Human Rights Code, the landlord has a duty to accommodate your disability to the point of undue hardship. This may require them to allow you to have an AC unit. You should speak with your doctor about why you need an AC unit, and ask them to write you a letter outlining your disability-related needs. If the landlord refuses to cooperate with you, you should seek advice from your local community legal clinic.
General Rules to Keep in Mind
- 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 in your lease). This is called a loss of service.
Look at your lease/tenancy agreement
What does your tenancy agreement say about AC or electricity? Your lease agreement will be the starting point for understanding what your rights are. The lease agreement will say who is responsible for paying for electricity, and it may say whether AC is included in the price of rent. The lease agreement may require you to get the landlord’s permission to use an AC. It may allow the landlord to charge extra for the AC. It may not mention AC at all. Look through your lease, including the fine print, for any mention of AC or electricity.
If you do not have a written lease, that's okay. A lease can be oral, implied or written.