Views / Urban Etiquette


Metro News globe

Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: How do I vanquish my roommate in the thermostat wars?

My roommate thinks 15 C is the ideal temperature for our apartment. I, on the other hand, prefer to keep it at around 23 C.

See more Ani at

Ani Castillo / For Metro

See more Ani at

Dear Ellen,

My roommate thinks 15 C is the ideal temperature for our apartment. I, on the other hand, prefer to keep it at around 23 C. I suggested we meet halfway and keep the temperature at 19 to 20 C but she won’t compromise. How do I make her understand that 15 C is just too cold?


Freezing at night

Dear Freezing,

I don’t know where you’re writing from, and I don’t know whether you’re a tenant, guest or owner, but for reference purposes, Toronto’s Municipal Code is fairly typical in stipulating that tenants are entitled to “a minimum air temperature of 21 degrees Celsius … in all areas of the dwelling unit from the 15th day of September in each year to the 1st day of June in the following year.”

Even the British, who are notorious for lack of central heating and taking baths in rooms where you can see your breath, recommend a minimum temperature of 18 C in sleeping rooms, and 21 C in living rooms when it's -1 C outside.

So while your desire to bake at 23 could be construed as abnormal, your willingness to settle for 19 to 20 is absolutely reasonable.

Alas, it’s when things turn unreasonable that manners are most urgently required.

It sounds as if you’ve already politely broached the matter, with an admirable willingness to compromise, which she has rejected out of hand. The etiquette of the situation now requires you to review your remaining choices, and proceed to do what’s best for you in an open and respectful manner.

If you are the owner, and she is your tenant, you can simply turn up the heat and let her make her own choice about whether to keep living with you. If she’s the landlady and you’re the tenant, you can suss out the local rules on minimum temperatures and potentially take legal recourse to force her to turn up the heat. If that scenario feels too hostile, or awkward, or expensive, you can always move out, either telling the truth about your reasons, or making up some excuse to avoid confrontation — either M.O. is fine as far as proper etiquette goes.

If you want to keep living with her despite the arctic ambience, invest in some serious woollens, thick-soled slippers, hot water bottle, and a space heater for your own room. It all depends on what you value more: a comfy environment or a cozy relationship.

Need advice? Email Ellen:

More on