With the coldest month of the year just a few days away, a strong case can be made for staying indoors and cranking up the heat. But for those living in rental accommodations, doing so is often not as simple as adjusting a thermostat.

When it comes to maintaining indoor air temperature in rental units in Toronto, the onus is wholeheartedly on the housing provider. According to the City’s website, landlords and property managers are required to maintain a minimum indoor temperature of 21 degrees Celsius between September 15 and June 1. This is per the City’s Vital Services bylaw, created to ensure the maintenance of vital services during a tenancy -- extending to include the provision of fuel, hydro, gas, and water.

Failure to comply with the City’s heat regulations could lead to a fine of $500 for a one-time offence, $10,000 for each day the violation continues, or $100,000 if the offender is summoned to court and convicted.

READ: In Ontario, Who Has To Shovel the Snow: the Tenant or the Landlord?

Although tenants are encouraged to raise concerns about the temperature of their units with their landlord or property manager, doing so certainly doesn’t guarantee remediation. In instances where a housing provider is unresponsive to concerns about minimum indoor temperature -- landlords and property managers are required to respond to such complaints within 24 hours -- tenants are encouraged to report the grievance to 311, and which point the City will assign a bylaw enforcement officer to step in to investigate.

In the meantime, tenants are advised to inform their landlord about any temperature violations in writing, monitor indoor temperature with a thermometer, and keep detailed records of all communications on the matter.

In some cases of non-compliance, tenants can apply for an abatement of rent through the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). However, it's worth noting that, due to a chronic backlog, remediation through the LTB could take upwards of eight months.