BURNING ISSUE: Toronto landlord prohibits “potential fire hazard” personal EVs on property; tenants’ rights advocates outraged
09/20/2023 // Belle Carter // Views

Tenants' rights advocates are raising legal concerns as they found it unreasonable that a real estate company in Toronto, Canada is banning electric vehicles (EVs) and any electric-powered transportation within its apartment complex.

The notices posted by Oberon Development Corporation earlier in the week at 110 and 120 Jameson Avenue in Parkdale indicated that the EVs are not permitted anywhere in the building. This includes anywhere inside apartment units, garages, or parking spaces and lockers. EVs that are not allowed were specified to be: electric bicycles, motorbikes, unicycles, hoverboards, mopeds, segways, and skateboard scooters.

"If you have any of these vehicles, please remove them from the premises immediately," the notice says, highlighting that lithium batteries, a type of rechargeable battery, could be a "potential fire hazard."

a yellow paper with text about a ban

(Photo credits: Tyler Cheese/CBC News)

Because of this, 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, that it's smaller than some vacuum cleaners. It seems unreasonable for the landlord to act in this manner," he claimed. According to him, a ban could violate legislation that protects tenants' rights and could also violate Ontario's Human Rights Code. Meanwhile, the Landlord and Tenant Board said tenants who believe a landlord has breached the Residential Tenancies Act can file an application to the board.

E-scooters are currently banned in Toronto, though the city is engaged in a process to examine risks and benefits. In connection to this, CBC Toronto reported that Toronto Fire Services (TFS) said it has responded to 47 fires involving lithium-ion batteries this year. Ten of the instances took place in residential high-rise properties. 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," TFS added. (Related: Lithium-ion batteries of e-bikes and e-scooters are causing hundreds of fires in New York and San Francisco.)

But Kwan argued that the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) guarantees a tenant's right to the "reasonable enjoyment" of the premises. With "reasonable enjoyment," it meant everything from having a guest over for a meal, or using a chosen method of transportation and storing it in your unit, he said. As per RTA, landlords bear certain rights in choosing a tenant, collecting rent, increasing rent, and evicting tenants. However, there is no specific "provision" defining whether they can make rules regarding tenants' personal property.

As for lithium-ion batteries, Kwan pointed out they're used in all sorts of personal items. "It's unusual and unreasonable," to ban transportation that uses these batteries, he said.

The National Research Council of Canada in June examined a literature review on the potential hazards of parked electric vehicles and it concluded that while the EV fire hazards are not higher than gas cars, there are concerns about outdated parking structures. It said that more research is needed to understand how to prevent fires, specifically when it comes to "robo cars."

How risky are lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries are found in most consumer electronics, such as EVs as well as cordless drills, smartphones, and video game controllers. According to Transport Canada, they are generally safe to use. However, they warn that these batteries are more prone to damage than other types of batteries and can become hazardous in certain conditions since they are more volatile. A test from the government agency revealed that while recognized brand original equipment manufacturer (OEM) batteries passed all safety tests, lower-cost, third-party batteries can pose an increased fire risk as they “are much more likely to be substandard, counterfeit or poorly manufactured.”

Said 3rd-party batteries are often cheaper than OEM batteries and are obviously manufactured by unrecognized brands. Signs of "fake" brands are misaligned labels or those containing spelling mistakes. They do not come with safety certifications and labels are bought from unverified sources.

The National Post suggested safety tips to minimize risks associated with these types of batteries. These include refraining from using batteries that are swollen or dented or show other signs of wear or damage. It should be noted that the batteries are not to be exposed to the sun for long periods or left in a hot or cold car. Overcharging batteries can also lead to fires, so it’s important to only charge your devices for the recommended charging time. "Some surface areas, like a couch or bed, can also increase the chance of a battery overheating by trapping in the heat. Only use original chargers or chargers that have recognized Canadian certification marks, such as CSA, cUL, or cETL," the website said, adding that it is recommended that batteries that are not in use be stored with about 50 percent charge and between temperatures of five to 20 degrees Celsius.

Check out RoboCars.news for stories about electric vehicles and the disadvantages of lithium batteries.

Sources for this article include:




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