Residents of TMR high-rise struggle through cold snap without heat

This story was updated from the original on January 11, 2018

On a day when temperatures plunged to -25 Celsius, the high-rise apartment complex at 25 Brittany Ave. in Town of Mount Royal, on the fringes of Highway 40, had a broken elevator.

And walking into Loretta Ducharme's second-floor apartment, there was little relief from the cold — a thermometer inside registered just 11 degrees.

Ducharme told CJAD 800 News says she's been living like this for several days.

"I can't do anything in my own home," she says, her voice breaking. "I can't do my housework, I can't do my cooking, I feel like I don't belong anywhere."

After waking up shivering several times in a row, she's been spending nights at her sister's home, or with friends.

Ducharme has lived at 25 Brittany for about 20 years, but she says the heating problem has only been this severe since a new landlord, S.E.C. 25 Brittany, took control of the building in the fall.

She's not the only one suffering, her neighbors across the hall are a family of five, and Tserenbat Erdenezaya says she's had to move her three children into the master bedroom at night to keep warm.

"We've moved the kids into my room," she says, a toddler in a sweater and thick slippers hanging off her leg. "We all stay in the same room."

Their thermostat read 14 degrees Celsius.

Resident Naidan Battsengel says for a few nights during the cold snap the family went to stay with friends.

Since the new landlord took over the building, residents say they have been instructed not to contact them by phone, only by email — which some elderly residents say they struggle to navigate.

Ducharme says she's been given the run-around by the company that brushes off her concerns, or claims to have come to check the apartment when she's not at home, without first giving her notice.

Tenants rights advocate Arnold Bennett says it's illegal to keep the temperature below 21 degrees, but it can be difficult for tenants like those at 25 Brittany to access housing code enforcement over the holidays.

"When you get a situation where the temperature is that low for that long it would be considered urgent," he says. "This isn't something where the power is off for a few hours because a system blows and then they fix it...there's something very, very wrong here."

The building's owners issued a statement on Wednesday, saying they were aware of the situation and had been monitoring it for the past 72 hours. They said the heating is set at maximum capacity for the 4 furnaces but “unfortunately one of the furnaces broke down four days ago and the heating company was notified immediately.”

"The manufacturer reopened for business this morning and the broken furnace was fixed at 8 o'clock [Wednesday] this morning. All furnaces are now operating at full capacity to provide more than suitable heating to all tenants" the statement read.

The landlord also indicated that “the …record breaking cold of the past days combined with the holidays has unfortunately aggravated the situation for this building and many buildings in Montreal.”

The landlord’s representative recently advised that only a small portion of the 74 apartments in the building suffered from insufficient heating.