As a tenant in Ontario, you have the legal right to a home that is in good repair. If your landlord is planning renovations or energy retrofits, that can be very welcome news! Your home can be made more comfortable and you will likely save on energy costs. But, not all landlords or contractors are aware of simple steps that should be taken to protect your family’s health.

If your building manager or landlord is planning energy efficiency upgrades or other renovations to your home, become involved. A good starting point is to give them a copy of the brochure Renovate Right: How to make sure your home repair or energy upgrade is child-healthy. The brochure is available on this website in English and six additional languages.

Some things to keep in mind/questions to ask:

Do you live in an older home?

  • If your home was built before 1990, and especially before 1978, the paint on walls, windows, door frames and other surfaces will contain lead, which is toxic to the brain of a developing fetus or child. If you are not sure about the age of the building, ask the landlord, neighbours, or the City Clerk’s Office of your municipality.

Is there any mould in the house/apartment?

  • Check the kitchen and bathrooms, basements, closets, or other areas where there may be moisture. Since energy efficiency measures seal up drafts, this work can make mould problems worse. Ask your landlord to address mould and ventilation issues as part of any renovation work. Mould problems must be addressed before energy efficiency work is are done to tighten up air flow and cut drafts.

Do you suspect any dangerous work practices?

  •  If you suspect dangerous work practices, such as illegal asbestos removal, immediately call your local public health department. It might be too late if you wait until the work has been completed.

Tenants and landlords need to work together when renovations or energy retrofits are done. As a tenant you can take part in decisions to ensure your rental unit is renovated right to avoid health hazards. It’s your home. Be part of the process of getting the work done right.

Take part in the work and the decision-making:

  • Prepare your family, your living space, and your belongings for dust and dust control.
  • Follow the steps recommended in the Renovate Right brochure. Discuss these steps with your landlord to be sure they are done by any contractors working in your home.
  • Ask about ventilation. After a unit is tightened up for energy efficiency, it is important to get rid of excess moisture and bring in fresh air. 
  • Ask about renovations products to be used.

Protect your rights:

  • Keep written notes of any conversations you have with your landlord about the work.

For more information about your legal rights as a tenant, see the “Housing Law” resources at www.yourlegalrights.on.ca or call the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario at 1-866-245-4182.

ACTO also provides useful FAQs for tenants on-line at: http://www.acto.ca/en/faqs.html

Energy Upgrade Programs for Low-Income Tenants

Programs are available for tenants to obtain energy efficiency upgrades.

 Information about qualifying for these programs is available from the Ontario Energy Board. This OEB guidance on eligibility is the same as what the OEB uses for deciding on eligibility for the Low-Income Emergency Financial Assistance (LEAP) program.

A province-wide effort is rolling out during 2012 to provide energy efficiency upgrades for low-income people in Ontario, including tenants. But, delivery is occurring by LDC’s or Local Delivery Companies. Your LDC could be your gas utility or your local electrical utility.

The following list is not comprehensive but should be a good starting point to find out about local programs:

  • For electricity savings, check out the SaveOnEnergy Home Assistance Program (HAP). As of June 2012, this program is building but is not yet available across the province. Visit: https://saveonenergy.ca/homeassistance or call the Ontario Power Authority for information about local availability. 1-877-797-7534. See also, this useful FAQs page 
  • Eligible upgrades are dependent on the type of home, hot water and heating system, as well as the inefficiency of existing appliances and lights. HAP upgrades are provided and installed at no cost to participants. Typical upgrades include energy-saving light bulbs, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, weather stripping doors and windows, ENERGY STAR appliances (i.e. air conditioner, freezer, dehumidifier, or refrigerator), as well as wall, attic, or basement insulation. GreenSaver has been contracted by many utilities across the province to administer the HAP program.
  • This $84 million program expires on December 31st, 2014 or until funds are depleted. To find out more, you can contact a GreenSaver HAP customer service representative at 1-855-591-0877,or HAP@greensaver.org or visit http://www.greensaver.org/programs/current-programs/home-assistance-program/
  • For Enbridge Gas customers, programs are being delivered by various local champions. For more information, learn about who can apply, and to obtain an application form, for the following regions visit:
  • GTA, York, Peel and Durham Regions – Green$aver website at www.greensaver.org and select Special Programs tab or call 416-203-3106 (1-888-855-3106 toll-free); 
  • Ottawa Area – EnviroCentre at www.envirocentre.ca or call 613-580-2582, ext. 4;
  • Niagara Region – Green Venture at www.greenventure.ca or call 1-866-540-8866;
  • Peterborough Area – Peterborough Green Up at www.greenup.on.ca or call 1-705-745-3238, ext. 202; 
  • Simcoe County – Environment Network at www.environmentnetwork.org or call 1-866-377-0551. 
  • Social housing providers should contact GLOBE (Green Light on a Better Environment), a subsidiary of the Housing Services Corporation (HSC), at www.globeservices.ca or call 1-877-733-7472. 
  • For Union Gas customers, check out their Free Energy Efficiency Upgrade Program

For more information on the above programs and other programs, visit the Energy Assistance page provided by the Low-Income Energy Network.