Cassidy Wald moved into her apartment on 101 Avenue in August, but didn’t notice her heat wasn’t working until mid-September, when she first tried to turn it on.
“They’ve claimed that they’ve been working on it ever since,” she says of building owner Calgary-based Northern Property Real Estate Initiative Trust. “They keep saying it’ll be done on Friday or early next week, and that’s been going on for three months now.”
Vice President of Residential Operations Lizaine Wheeler says the property owner has been working to have the boiler fully replaced since September.
“There’s been some issues that came up with the contractor and he’s been getting some parts in. We have been working diligently to get it and they’re there now trying to get the heat up an running.”
Wheeler says the work is nearly done and expects the heat to be back on by Thursday. In the meantime, however, Wald claims Northern Property has done little to remedy the situation. Her requests for compensation for a stay in a hotel during the cold snap in November, help moving into another apartment, or a reduction in rent have all been denied.
“It just feels very upsetting and frustrating that they’re just not willing at all to recognize any fault in what’s happened or take any accountability or responsibility for their role in this and the pain and suffering myself and the other tenants in the building have gone through.”
Wald believes many of the tenants have left due to the situation, but feels stuck in her lease and hasn’t had luck looking elsewhere. She and her dog have been provided with two space heaters, but with all of the tenants in the apartment relying on them for warmth, the electrical system seems to be overloaded and Ward’s circuit breakers regularly blow.
In addition to the space heaters, Wheeler says a portion of the tenants’ electricity bills will have a portion paid for the three months, and they will be credited a half month’s rent, likely in January.
“We apologize for the inconvenience to the residents and we’re working hard to get it back up and running for them.”
A dispute application has been filed by Ward with the Residential Tenancy Branch, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for December 20. A spokesperson for the Minister Responsible for Housing explains that while the Residential Tenancy Act requires landlords to “maintain a rental property in a state that is suitable for occupancy by a tenant and meets housing, safety and building standards required by law”, it does not include any specific requirements as to the temperature at which a building must be kept. Local governments can establish those standards, but the City of Fort St. John does not have any bylaws with provisions about maintaining utilities.
While Wald will be happy when she has heating again, that won’t be enough to make up for a chilly three months.
“Myself and the other residents are owed something from them.”