Skip to main content

Ombudsman saves Toronto man $20,000 in Hydro dispute

Toronto Ombudsman Kwame Addo says Toronto Hydro acted unfairly by holding a property owner responsible for approximately $20,000 worth of repairs to a hydro vault it never told him he owned.

Ombudsman Addo launched the investigation after receiving a complaint from Mr. A., who purchased a unit in a Toronto plaza in 1980. Unknown to him, there was a transformer on his property supplying electricity to the entire plaza. No one told Mr. A that by purchasing the property, he also assumed ownership of the underground vault that housed the transformer and that responsibility for maintaining the vault itself.

Addo’s report released today, An Investigation into Toronto Hydro’s Process for Customer-Owned Infrastructure, found that Toronto Hydro did not inform Mr. A of the vault’s existence for 35 years, or of his responsibility for the repairs it required. The cost of these repairs totalled half Mr. A.’s annual salary. Ombudsman Addo says that “Mr. A. had no way of knowing prior to buying the unit about the additional obligations that came with the ownership of the property and Toronto Hydro did nothing to inform him until it was much too late. This was unfair.”

The investigation found Toronto Hydro has an inconsistent internal process for the establishment, inspection, maintenance, and enforcement of customer-owned infrastructure, such as hydro vaults. It found several problems with how the process was applied in Mr. A’s case, including that Toronto Hydro:

  • Did not tell Mr. A. about his obligations concerning the vault, resulting in decades of accumulated repair costs.  
  • Did not follow the law and notify Mr. A. before going on his property to inspect the vault, which allowed for Mr. A’s case to fall through the cracks.
  • Inspectors do not refer to the results of previous inspections and provide conflicting directions on what needs to be repaired, which can result in additional costs and unnecessary anxiety for the customer.

Ombudsman Addo made 13 recommendations to ensure, among other things, that Mr. A. is no longer responsible for the $20,000 of repairs. The recommendations will also improve the fairness, consistency, and transparency of how Toronto Hydro manages customer-owned infrastructure such as hydro vaults, so that other property owners don’t get hurt like Mr. A.

These recommendations include that Toronto Hydro should:

  • Cover the cost of maintaining and repairing the vault on Mr. A.’s property.
  • Establish a clearly defined process for customer-owned infrastructure and ensure that it is followed by all divisions and departments that are involved.
  • Provide notice to customers of their ownership and responsibilities for customer-owned infrastructure. Toronto Hydro must also notify customers before any inspections, as is its legal obligation.
  • Review its inspection practice to ensure there is continuity between each inspection and consistency over what is and is not considered a deficiency.

“Despite Toronto Hydro’s assertions,” says Ombudsman Addo, “The adage ‘buyer beware’ is not applicable in the case of Mr. A. He had no ability to protect himself from the unfairness he experienced.”

Toronto Hydro has accepted the Ombudsman’s report and agreed to fully implement 11 of the 13 recommendations.

As for the other 2 recommendations, Toronto Hydro has agreed to pay the existing repair costs of Mr. A.’s vault, but will not commit to paying future costs, only to review them when they occur. It also says there are technical limitations to its system that will not currently allow it to notify customers they own property with hydro vaults, but it acknowledges Ombudsman Addo’s encouragement to develop an alternative method.

“I am disappointed that Toronto Hydro did not agree to fully implement all of my recommendations,” says Ombudsman Addo. “However, I am happy it has agreed to cover the cost of the current repairs to Mr. A.’s vault and will work with him to find a solution moving forward.”

Addo and his office will follow up with Toronto Hydro on its implementation of his recommendations until he is satisfied that they have been successfully carried out.

A backgrounder on Ombudsman Toronto is available at

For more information, contact:

Alex Kruger
Ombudsman Toronto
Tel. 416-338-3023
Cell. 647-472-0873

Ombudsman Toronto listens to and investigates people’s complaints and concerns about City administration and the fairness of City services. We are a free and impartial office that operates independently from the City, holding it accountable to the people it serves.