Landlord's rights and responsiblities | dealing with problems

It is important to find good tenants for your rental property, but it is also important to avoid problems that can be prevented after a tenant moves in. It is the landlord’s job to ensure that the rental is up to code in terms of health, safety, general maintenance, zoning bylaws and municipal property standards. If the unit you are renting does not meet these official standards, you will have to take the necessary steps to ensure that the property is back up to code.

If a tenant does not pay rent, is disruptive or breaks the lease agreement in any way, it is a problem you will have to deal with. When there is a problem that cannot be resolved, a landlord may have to take legal action. For more information on how to deal with tenant problems, refer to Handling problematic Tenants below.

Emergencies and Repairs

An emergency repair is necessary when something in the rental property is broken, damaged, or threatens the overall safety of a tenant in any way. As per the law, the landlord has to handle and pay for all emergency repairs and do so in a timely manner.

At the start of the tenancy, it is ideal to let the tenant know that it is their responsibility to purchase renter’s insurance. This type of insurance covers damage to the tenant’s belongings that stem from a problem in the residence itself.

There are certain situations where if you are not available to make repairs and they must be done immediately to minimize safety hazards or damage to the property, the tenant can authorize the repair work. Some repairs can be authorized by an order from the rental authority in the province or territory, but the proper procedure must be followed for this to happen.

FACT: Emergency Contact

There are some provinces that legally require emergency contact information be posted in a visible place somewhere in the building. This contact be the landlord or some other person.

If a tenant has already authorized an emergency repair, you will need to get all copies of the paperwork related to the repair. The tenant may tell the person who repairs the damage to bill you directly, or you may want to reimburse the tenant for the full amount of the repair afterwards. In this type of situation, tenants should keep a close account of expenses and notify you as soon as the repair work has been done or as soon as you are available thereafter.

If the tenant contacts you before all of the necessary repairs are completed, you can take over doing the repairs yourself and pay for the work that has been done up to that point. You can also let the repair work continue and choose to fully reimburse the tenant for the cost of everything once all of the work has been done.

Should the tenant authorize repairs are not an emergency in any way, you have every right to refuse to repay the expenses. The following chart will give you a better idea as to which types of repairs are an emergency and which are not.

Emergency Repairs

  • Burst pipes causing flooding
  • Heating system not functioning properly when it is cold outside
  • Sewage system backed up into property
  • Defective lock allowing others to enter property without key
  • Short circuit in the wiring resulting in risk of fore and/or electrocution
  • Refrigerator that came with property not work properly

Non-Emergency Repairs:

  • Interior door not closing properly
  • Stove element burnt out
  • Kitchen sink draining too slowly
  • Minor leak in roof
  • Minor leak or dripping somewhere in household plumbing
  • Garage door opener not working
  • Cracked pane in upper window
  • Even with non-emergency repairs, the landlord should be notified as soon as possible during normal office hours.

Routine Repairs

The landlord is responsible for attending to emergency situations of all kinds as well as dealing with the normal wear and tear of the property and the appliances that came with it. But a regular or minor repair is merely an inconvenience as opposed to an actual emergency. Tenants should not get involved in the repairing of a minor problem, but rather they should wait for the landlord to deal with it.

If whoever is responsible for making repairs fails to fulfill their part, the responsible party has every right to notify the provincial or territorial authorities, which are also sometimes called the residential tenancy office. Filing an official application to the rental authority can lead to a court ruling that the responsible party has to make the necessary repairs.

If for whatever reason you refuse to make reasonable repairs, including fixing a broken door lock or window, the tenant can involve the local rental authority. If this situation occurs, the tenant can and may request an inspection from a city official. If an inspector comes across any repairs that are an absolute necessity, a work order will be issued to you with complete details as to which repairs need to be done and by what date.

FACT: Fixing required

If a tenant pays rent for something, such as a refrigerator, and it stops working, the landlord is responsible for fixing it. This includes all appliances that are included with the rental. If the unit came with a fridge and a stove, the landlord is required to fix both of them if something goes wrong and they stop working. The landlord also has to repair common areas, including lobbies, halls, elevators, stairways, swimming pools, garbage rooms, laundry facilities and security systems.

Handling Problematic Tenants

Problems like excessive noise, especially when it is late at night, as well as unreasonably dirty premises, can sometimes occur over the period of a person’s tenancy. It is important that you know how to go about effectively resolving these problems with the tenant so no further action is required. There can be some problems though, including nonpayment of rent, that can be highly problematic for landlords.

Finding a Resolution with Minimal or no Legal Action

When you are asking a tenant to clean up the premises if it is unacceptably dirty or damaged, simply issue them a verbal or written request, politely worded of course, to take care of the matter. For violations of by-laws, you may have to call the police. The offending tenants may find that a police fine or warning is enough to keep them from breaking the by-laws again, though it is no guarantee.

If your initial attempts to resolve the conflict fail, you may have to make a formal complaint through the proper local rent authority. And when community between a landlord and tenant breaks down, it is sometimes necessary to get proof as well as witnesses that will identify who are really to blame in the situation so that compensation can be received. For example, neighbors of the offending tenant may be helping in establishing their negative character in a legal battle.

What to do when Tenants don’t Pay their Rent

When a tenant does not pay their rent, you will need to act as quickly as possible. In this situation, you can issue them a notice to move. In a majority of provinces, you can give them this notice the day after the rent is due, but in others there is a 3-day grace period.

A notice for non-payment of rent should include the following information:

  • The total amount of rent that the tenant owes
  • The date the tenant must move out by
  • A statement that says the tenant can dispute the landlord’s notice

If a tenant fails to move or pay the rent, you can enlist the help of a provincial or territorial rental authority to order them to move. For more information, call the local office that is in charge for landlord and tenant issues. (See Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets).

It is very important to file all of the necessary paper and follow the proper procedures in the event of non-payment of rent. If the landlord has a completely valid reason to terminate the tenancy but does not complete all of the paperwork, the Tribunal in the province of territory may not validate it.

In certain provinces throughout Canada, the tenant can apply to their provincial authority for a rent reduction in some situations. A tenant can also submit an application if the landlord fails to make necessary repairs or improvements or fails to provides services that are a condition of a rent increase. A rent reduction may also be granted to tenants if municipal taxes have been lowered or in the event that a building service or facility is reduced or removed and the landlord fails to reduce the rent.