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Opinion: Miserly Burnaby landlord limits heat to ‘punish’ complaining renter

The heat is controlled in one place and the landlord 'wields it like a sword'
New tech, including smart thermostats, can save homebuyers lots of money in the longrun.

There are some weird rental situations out there in Burnaby and beyond.

I remember one time, years ago, I lived in a basement suite in which the heat could only be controlled upstairs where the landlords lived.

That led to some awkward times when I needed to text the landlord to turn the heat up or down. They were always nice about the situation, but sometimes they weren’t home and so I would need to really bundle up.

That did not make me very happy and I ended up moving out as a result.

Kerry doesn’t have that option.

With a tight rental market, Kerry doesn’t have many options for leaving right now, but she’s also being held hostage by a punitive landlord who has control over the heat and “wields it like a sword.”

“My landlord lives upstairs and the only temperature control in this old house is on the main floor,” she said. “I didn’t like that idea when I was looking for a place to live, but he told me it wouldn’t be a problem. Now that I have moved in, he uses it to punish me for perceived transgressions. Earlier this year, I told him that I saw a mouse running across the floor and if he could place a few traps. I thought he’d be happy to do it because he lives in the house too, but nope. Suddenly my heat wasn’t at a reasonable level. The place would get freezing cold and I would text him to turn it up but he would ignore the messages. Things started getting better, but then he complained that I was too noisy and again the heat would drop for days on end. That was back in February. During the summer, he suddenly started turn on the heat and the place was terrible to live in. I begged him to turn it off but he would ignore me. Now that it’s cold again he keeps turning off the heat and is claiming the heater is broken but I know he’s trying to punish me. I think he now wants me to move out so he can bring in someone new at a higher rent. I’m just so fed up. I’m worried about going to the Residential Tenancy Branch because it’s a hard thing to prove.”

According to Section 32 of B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining their residential properties in a state that complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law. In other words, they need to keep your pad pest-free or deal with pest issues as they arise. It also means the landlord needs to keep the heat at a reasonable level.

I've heard from other renters about how landlords get furious if the heat is turned on at all due to the costs associated with it.

Tenants bear a responsibility to uphold the cleanliness of their rental units,. 

The RTA stipulates that a "tenant must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit." 

The BC Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) sees a range of complaints from landlords and tenants.

But as Kerry says, some things are difficult to prove, leaving her literally out in the cold.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.