Rentals: Who's responsible for repairs and maintenance?

As you sit back in your lazy boy in your rental apartment, all of the lights go out. Who is responsible for the repairs, the landlord or the tenant? Responsibility for repairs and maintenance of the property is an issue that as usual is not black or white and will depend on the type of repair and maintenance, who caused the damage and whether it was separately dealt with in the lease between the parties.

Repairs

Generally, a landlord must keep a rental property in a good state of repair. This means the landlord must repair anything included in the lease agreement, written or oral and supplied by the landlord to the tenant (a “Landlord Obligation”). These kinds of things include but are not limited to:

  • Electrical, plumbing or heating systems
  • Appliances the landlord agreed to provide in lease agreement
  • Walls, roofs and ceilings
  • Doors, windows, locks.

Property, like everything else, goes through normal wear-and-tear and as a result may break down or wear out. When a landlord’s obligation does not work properly, the landlord must repair it or replace it. Tenants should not be responsible for, or become involved in fixing landlord obligations, even if minor, unless they have agreed to take over these duties or they (or their guests) were the ones responsible for the damage. If a landlord does repair an appliance, or replace a light fixture, he does not have to supply a new or better model. For example, a landlord could replace a broken dishwasher with an older used model, as long as the used model works.

If a landlord refuses to make reasonable repairs such as fixing broken door locks or fixing blocked drains, the tenant should bring an application for maintenance and repairs to the local authority governing landlord and tenant issues. As a tenant, you may be tempted to withhold rent to pay for the repairs. However, if you do this without taking the proper procedural steps, a landlord may apply to have you evicted for non-payment of rent. In residential tenancies there is no right of set off unless specifically in your lease document. An alternative is as part of your application, most jurisdictions provide for the opportunity to pay your rent to the tribunal or court. Try and get that relief and use it as a lever to get the job done.

Remember to put all of your requests for maintenance and repairs, in writing to your landlord if possible, because by doing so, you will be able to prove you made these requests. This will become important to a tribunal or court later, to show the landlord’s conduct should you make an application to the local authorities. If the landlord fails to make the promised repairs, or does not respond after multiple requests, then, an application to your local authorities governing landlord and tenant issues is necessary.

Maintenance

The landlord must also keep the rental property clean. This would in include the common areas such as the lobby area, halls, elevator, laundry room, pool or parking garage.

Property Standards

A landlord must make sure that rental property meets health, safety, housing and maintenance standards which are set out in municipal bylaws or provincial maintenance standards, such as the building code or fire code. For example, bedrooms must contain a window and rental units must contain a working smoke alarm. If you feel something in your rental unit is unsafe, notify the landlord. If he does not fix the problem, call your local municipality property standards office, or Provincial Health and Safety departments, or even your local fire station and request an inspection of your unit. If the inspector finds something wrong, a work order will be issued to the landlord requiring the repair to be made by a specified date.

When does the landlord have to turn the heat on?

Heat is considered a vital services and the landlord is responsible to provide heat. If heating is not up to standard, he may be committing an offence. Generally, the landlord must keep the heat to at least 20 degrees Celsius during the fall and winter. The exact dates will be set out in your local Landlord and Tenant Act or the Regulations thereto. You may also contact your local municipal government to find out if your community has bylaws which set the minimum standard for heat.

When can the landlord enter the property to make these repairs?

Generally, the Landlord can only enter your property if written notice is given. However, if there needs to be an emergency repair, the Landlord can enter without written notice. Examples of emergency repairs would be flooding or a short circuit in the wiring that creates a fire or electrical risk. Non-emergency repairs include minor leaks in roof or cracked windows. Remember, a regular or minor repair is merely an inconvenience, not an emergency. For more information on when a Landlord can enter your property, see our articles online at www.schwarzlaw.ca.

Authorities

  1. Residential Tenancies Act
  2. “Issue During Tenancy”
  3. Landlord and Tenant Board. “Maintenance and Repairs”
  4. “BC Fire Code Requirements for Smoke Alarms”

The articles provided herein are for general information purposes only and not intended as or to be relied upon for legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for your unique situation.

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