Tenants’ rights advocates are raising legal concerns about a Toronto building complex that’s banning electric transportation vehicles from the property, including in units, the garage, parking spaces and lockers.
Notices were posted this week at 110 and 120 Jameson Avenue in Parkdale, owned by Oberon Development Corporation, to alert tenants to the ban.
According to the notice, electric vehicles are not permitted anywhere on the property. Electric bikes and motorbikes, hoverboards, mopeds, segways and skateboard scooters are also part of the ban.
“If you have any of these vehicles, please remove them from the premises immediately,” the notice says, adding lithium batteries, a type of rechargeable battery, could be a “potential fire hazard.”
E-scooters are currently banned in Toronto, though the city is engaged in a process to examine risks and benefits.
Douglas Kwan, the director of advocacy and legal services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, a community legal clinic and advocacy organization, said he’s never seen such a ban in a residential building.
“And these are small devices. A segway is so tiny, it’s smaller than some vacuum cleaners. It seems unreasonable for the landlord to act in this manner,” Kwan said.
CBC Toronto contacted the property manager for comment, but did not receive a response.
Ban could violate tenants’ rights, says advocate
Kwan says such a ban could violate legislation that protects tenants’ rights and could also violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Asked if property managers can implement such a ban, the Landlord and Tenant Board did not respond directly, saying tenants who believe a landlord has breached the Residential Tenancies Act can file an application to the board.
Toronto Fire Services (TFS) told CBC Toronto that it has responded to 47 fires involving lithium ion batteries this year, 10 of which took place in residential high-rises. Parking an electric vehicle in an exit hallway or exit stairway is against the Ontario Fire Code, it said.
“Condo corporations are entitled to implement any condo rules for the operation of their building. That is bound by separate legislation that TFS does not intervene with,” it added.
The Residential Tenancies Act guarantees a tenant’s right to the “reasonable enjoyment” of the premises, Kwan pointed out. That can include everything from having a guest over for a meal, or using a chosen method of transportation and storing it in your unit, he said.
In the act, landlords are afforded certain rights around choosing a tenant, collecting rent, increasing rent and evicting tenants — but there is no specific language around whether they can make rules regarding tenants’ personal property.
Beyond that, said Kwan, if a person has a disability and relies on an electric vehicle due to mobility restrictions, such a ban could infringe on their human rights. According to the human rights code, an individual can’t be discriminated against based on need for accommodation, he said.
As for lithium ion batteries, he said, they’re used in all sorts of personal items. “It’s unusual and unreasonable,” to ban transportation that uses these batteries, said Kwan.
A literature review published by the National Research Council of Canada in June examined potential hazards of parked electric vehicles and whether current fire guidelines and standards were adequate to address any hazards.
The council said in its conclusions that while the fire hazards of electric vehicles are not higher than gas cars, there are concerns about outdated parking structures and more research is needed to understand how to prevent fires, specifically when it comes to electric vehicles.
Renters may not be able to afford a car: lawyer
Samuel Mason, a tenant lawyer at Parkdale Community Legal Services, said the ban is an example of landlords “dictating the minutiae of daily living for tenants.”
Mason, who is not representing the tenants, said he agrees that the ban is contrary to the Residential Tenancies Act.
“The use of electronic transportation devices or vehicles is certainly something that someone has a right to do, in the place where they live, especially living in a city like Toronto, where many people use this type of vehicle to live normal lives,” he said.
He also said that at this particular building complex, the majority of tenants rent.
“It is very likely that they either can’t afford cars or not provided parking spaces for cars or can’t afford the parking spaces for cars even if they are provided,” he said, adding electric vehicles could be a popular alternative for such tenants.
Many may be using this kind of device to get to work, or to do their work, for example if they are delivery drivers, said Mason.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many people use these devices to survive. And that of course, is a class issue. The landlord class aren’t people that have to work these types of jobs,” he said.
Climate agency wants more such devices
The devices are also environmentally friendly, said Mason, adding having more Torontonians rely on alternative transportation is helpful to combat climate change.
Regional climate agency The Atmospheric Fund is currently launching a program with Kite Mobility, a Toronto-based electric rideshare company, to help residents in buildings like condos and apartments gain access to electric mobility devices through renting them. Kite is currently in the implementation process.
“This is a great solution for families who live in the buildings because it makes life more affordable by eliminating the cost of private car ownership,” said Ian Klesmer, the director of strategy and grants at TAF.
For now, Kwan recommends tenants seek advice with a local community legal clinic about filing a tenants’ rights application. That, he says, would force the landlord to prove why the ban is in place in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board.
“They should really challenge the landlord,” he said.
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