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Caretakers left out in the cold

Fired for refusing to cut heat, they say

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 
Penny Letourneau and Mike Dent, outside the apartment block, show letters firing and evicting them.

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Penny Letourneau and Mike Dent, outside the apartment block, show letters firing and evicting them. (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

WITH the weather so bitterly cold outside, the last thing you'd want is to make it cold inside.

But that's what caretakers claim the management of an apartment building in the Wolseley area wants them to do in the middle of a Winnipeg winter.

Penny Letourneau and Mike Dent said they were fired as caretakers of 768-770 Preston Ave. on Monday and ordered to leave their suite after repeatedly refusing to turn off the building's boiler every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It gets cold in here," Letourneau said. "When I was doing it, then the tenants would complain.

"It was freezing in here by the end of the day. Even when the boiler is on, there's still such a draft that I have to use an electric heater."

Letourneau, who has been caretaker of the block since being hired in May, said they were first ordered to turn off the boiler during the day in October after the building's new owners, whom she doesn't know, received their first heating bill.

"They thought it was too high and ordered that the boiler be shut off during the day," she said. "There was a baby in here at the time and it was too cold. The baby (and family) have moved out since then."

Letourneau said she was turning the boiler on and off, but since Dec. 6, she has refused to switch it off.

She said a termination letter arrived Monday morning from the property management company, which also ordered them to vacate their suite by the end of the day.

The company, World Wide Management, took a message from the Free Press, but a spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The couple, who were paying half the cost of the suite's monthly rent, said they have already been in contact with the province's residential tenancies branch, which said they could not be evicted that fast.

A spokeswoman for the branch confirmed that once given an eviction notice, the tenants don't have to leave until the end of next month.

The spokeswoman also said the province would only step in if the furnace had broken down and needed to be repaired or replaced, but it is the responsibility of the city's health inspectors when the temperatures are set too low.

Michelle Bailey, a city spokeswoman, said she can't comment on individual situations.

But Bailey said under the city's neighbourhood livability bylaw, apartment temperatures must be kept at a minimum of 21 C from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 18 C from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. year-round.

"It is not uncommon for us to receive complaints for insufficient heat," Bailey said.

"Our bylaw officers work with the people before issuing orders. The compliance rate is pretty high."

But Bailey said a landlord or building owner can be charged and taken to bylaw court if they don't comply.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

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