Montreal is cold - Need Compensation
October 27, 2005 7:39 PM   Subscribe

My apartment has had no heat (which is included) since the beginning of the month. Basically the landlord has had no furnace for about a year and has only this past month started installing everything. I'm not sure how to proceed with compensation.

I have talked to him about it and he claims that he has been dealing with the people since May and they have only recently been able to start work on it. He says that there isn't much he can do and though the work is finally finished, they now have to wait for the city to make some modifications on the line as well.

I'm pretty pissed off, it has been very cold (Montreal, Que, Canada) and it's been hard to live. My girlfriend isn't so happy to come by (still does though, whew) and my roomate is more or less irrate. Apparently someone in the building is talking to the Housing people.

My roomate is demanding that I ask for a reduction in rent, I'm having trouble figuring out how much though and how to put it out there; my roomate is more clueless.

Any suggestions on how I can go about this one?
posted by Napierzaza to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
Don't pay him rent until he fixes the heat. Eviction is a lengthy legal process so it'll probably be a lot easier for him just to fix the furnace.
posted by fshgrl at 7:55 PM on October 27, 2005

The Régie des Logements has a fantastic site with answers to all your questions. This section on heating problems covers everything from how to talk to your landlord to how to take an acurate temperature reading to cover your butt when you talk to the Régie for recourse.

By law he's supposed to keep it around 20c when it gets could out. Now smack me up with the best answer ;-)
posted by furtive at 7:58 PM on October 27, 2005

There is no law regulating when the heat should be turned on in Quebec (as opposed to several other provinces), so I'm not sure what remedies you have at your disposal from a legal perspective. I would not count on getting a reduction in rent, at least based on my experiences with the housing tribunal in Ontario, and I don't really see a justification for it at this point. You may want to demand electric heaters from the landlord until the heating is fixed, and then lodge a complaint if he refuses. Good luck!

On preview: DO NOT WITHHOLD RENT IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE LIVING THERE. It is pretty much the one thing that is an evictable offense, and there are no legal grounds for you to do so (AFAIK, little experience in Quebec specifically).
posted by loquax at 8:00 PM on October 27, 2005

BTW, by going through the Régie they will arbitrate a solution. You may think it's bad to go through them, but since the landlord is going to increase the rent at the end of June to make up for the cost of putting in the new furnace you better make sure he knows you know your rights. Trust me on this.
posted by furtive at 8:00 PM on October 27, 2005

McGill's FAQ says the landlord has to maintain 21 Celsius. Here's your government agency.

You should cease paying rent until the condition is corrected. If he were to sue you for the rent or eviction, explain the situation to the judge. You should purchase a thermometer and a logbook, and start recording the temperature.

Landlord excuses are just that, excuses. The furnace could be on, if he wanted it to be on.
posted by jellicle at 8:00 PM on October 27, 2005

BTW, loquax, you can't be evicted between Nov and I think April in Quebec. Hydro can't cut your electricity, etc...
posted by furtive at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2005

Loquax has obviously never lived in a big city. Rent withholding is the proper way to seek recourse when the landlord breaches his side of the contract (generally called the "warranty of habitability" in the U.S.). The landlord PROMISES, automatically and whether it's in the lease or not, to maintain the dwelling in a habitable fashion. This includes heat, hot water, electricity, a roof, four walls, and everything else necessary for tenants in live in comfort. When the landlord fails to provide that, the tenant is released from duty to pay rent for the place.
posted by jellicle at 8:06 PM on October 27, 2005

May the tenant withhold rent for repairs?

The tenant may only withhold rent to cover the cost of repairs if the repairs were urgent and necessary to ensure the preservation or enjoyment of the rental unit and the tenant was not able to reach the landlord in order to inform him or her of the situation. Otherwise the tenant must have the authorization of the Régie du logement, in which case several options are available. The Régie du logement Web site provides more information on withholding rent (see or the provincial contact below).

posted by loquax at 8:06 PM on October 27, 2005

Do you pay for the electricity in your apartment? If not, you could get a bunch of space heaters to use in the meantime.
posted by reverendX at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2005

When the landlord fails to provide that, the tenant is released from duty to pay rent for the place.

This is not true. Technically, the landlord is in breach (although I'm not sure that they are given that there is no statute in Quebec governing when the heat must be turned on, again, ask for space heaters, this is the usual resolution that I've seen in Ontario). The tenant can sue for breach, but it does not entitle them to continue to enjoy the dwelling without paying rent. At most, you can likely unilaterally break the lease without being liable for notice. I know about the clause forbidding landlords to evict tenants during the winter, it exists in Ontario as well, however that is usually enforced only for tenants for whom the choice is paying the heating bill or paying the rent, not for tenants who choose not to pay for any other reason. I am not a lawyer, so don't take anything I say as such, however I do have quite a bit of experience with tenant law in Ontario.
posted by loquax at 8:10 PM on October 27, 2005

Well, I see how not paying the rent until is a good idea. So I reall am not getting a paycheck on this one? Damn, although I guess I can technically have a man-to-man agreement of a settlement.

We were given 1 spaceheater, it is no better than a small base-board heater for an entire apartment (very lame). I think forcing him to pay some hydro is kind of a joke because this thing probably can't make enough heat to cost me anything.

I'm going to read those pages furtive, thanks.

If you WERE to ask for a reduction of a 900$ a month rent though, how much would you ask for?
posted by Napierzaza at 8:25 PM on October 27, 2005

Legally, witholding rent is probably a bad idea but legally the guy is supposed to provide you with heat. It's not like the Rent Police are going to come and haul you away, trust me. Tell him you aren't going to pay any more rent until he fixes it and he'll do it. Especially if he can't evict you till April. Even if he manages to evict you evantually you can at least move to a place with heating!
posted by fshgrl at 8:26 PM on October 27, 2005

If you're asking how to ask, the only success that I've seen is threatening to give notice if an amicable solution can't be agreed to, and being prepared to actually vacate in 2 months if the landlord is unwilling to bend. Finding new, good, tenants (I assume he'd be sorry to lose you) is expensive, especially mid-school year if you're McGill students, and spreading a settlement out over the course of a year, as in a 12 month (or whatever) reduction in rent by 50 dollars is likely your best bet. A landlord will never pay out cash unless a judge tells him to or the alternative is worse. At least in my experience. And above all, follow the law unless you get specific legal advice telling you to do otherwise. You don't want a small claims or housing tribunal summons, believe me. There is a rent police, they're called the Sherrif's office (or something like that in French, anyways).
posted by loquax at 8:34 PM on October 27, 2005

Napierzaza, you should get together with some of the other tenants in the building. There's strength in numbers. Agree on a standard percentage. Think carefully about all the ways the lack of heat has affected you and decreased your quality of life. Perhaps prepare a list. I don't think 10-15% is unreasonable, maybe as high as 25%. Then just approach him and, being very reasonable about it, let him know that because of the situation you think it's very, very unfair to be charged the full rent and the "right thing to do" is to knock off X% of the rent for this month. Frame it in terms of fairness and make it clear you want to do the best thing for everybody. If your landlord's a smart guy he'll want to keep his tenants happy and want to avoid any legal hassles and he'll be up for a deal. You may want to come in a little high and then knock off 5% to make it clear that you're not unreasonable.
posted by nixerman at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2005

If you don't pay a heating bill, your heat is included in what you pay to your landlord, so maybe figure out how much your eating bill would be for the months the heat has been off and ask for that much of a reduction.
posted by Airhen at 9:05 PM on October 27, 2005

In Quebec, for a 5 1/2, electric heating during the winter months is at least $100 a month. Often several times that.
posted by furtive at 3:57 AM on October 28, 2005

In the US, instead of simply withholding rent, you're supposed to pay it into a rent escrow account (scroll down to 14). This keeps your rent out of your landlord's hands, but shows that you're acting in good faith as a tenent, i.e. not just looking for an excuse not to pay. Your landlord is way out of line, but you'll get better results through legal channels if you adhere to the letter of the law.
posted by junkbox at 5:55 AM on October 28, 2005

What junkbox said. Those are US things, and probably not applicable to Canada.

I'd get a lawyer to write a letter and file an official complaint with whatever Housing Authority or whatever it's called up there. There should also be a City Help/Complaint Line to call when stuff like this is happening. There may also be a city regulation that when the temperature is below a certain temp, heat must be provided.
posted by amberglow at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2005

I'd also go to the local community or block association, if there is one. They know how to help and solve stuff like this.
posted by amberglow at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2005

In Ontario minimum temperatures are goverened by By-Law. Generally breaking the By-Law is terms for punishment under the provincial offences act, generating (possibly) a criminal record for the offender.

Perhaps finding your local By-Law (If it is similar in Quebec) and providing it to the landlord highlighting the section about conviction / criminal record might make him more interested in the work.

If not, again, in Ontario, you should apply to the Housing Tribunal for a rent reduction based on the cost of heating the place yourself (Apply for the cost of heating appliances and the cost to run them monthly).

You should also call for a building inspector. The building inspector will, of course, find the building in violation of several codes. You could then phone for the cost of repair under those codes, and apply to the housing tribunal to fund the repairs through a reduction in rent (possibly total reduction in rent if it costs more than a mont's rent).

As long as all your requests to the housing tribunal show that you intend only to avoid paying the rent necessary to complete the obligations in the contract, I would expect them to listen. Don't expect them to give you money for "inconvenience" or "mental anguish" or anything like that. If you want that you'll need to sue the landlord in civil court (good luck, HA).

Wish I spoke French, I'd love to read the Quebec tenant law. All I can find is this in english, though.
posted by shepd at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2005

As unfortunate as it is to our sense of justice, the only likely amount of rent reduction you can probably reasonably expect is what it would cost to purchase some electric heaters and run them. Ask him to show you good faith and buy you some - he can then do whatever voodoo black-market purchasing makes him feel like he's getting a good deal and let him have them back when the problem is resolved.
posted by phearlez at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2005

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