Tenant rights and responsibilities | emergency situations and repairs

In the event that water starts pouring through your roof or the furnace stops working on a cold winter night, the first thing you will need to do is call your landlord.

People usually respond to emergency situations with panic, and it can be easy to make hasty decisions when their landlord isn’t immediately available to take care of the problem. Before you go ahead and hire a professional to do any major repairs, you will need to understand what constitutes an emergency so that you will know if this type of decision is truly warranted.

NOTE: Getting Insured to Protect against Surprises

If the personal belongings of a tenant are destroyed because of some type of disaster in the property, whether it is a flood, fire, or even earthquake, it is important to have the proper rental unit insurance. By having this coverage, you will be able to get full compensation for any items that may have been damaged due to unavoidable circumstances. After all, you are liable for your own belongings, not your landlord.

What are Emergency Repairs?

Emergency repairs are ones that directly affect the health or safety of the tenant living in the unit/building. The law dictates that the landlord is responsible for handling and paying for any and all emergency repairs.

What if I cannot Reach my Landlord?

In the event of an emergency, you should attempt to contact the landlord or the emergency contact number you have been given a minimum of two times. Make sure to leave a message if you cannot get through to your landlord or maintenance staff, recording the date and time of the calls. Allow for a reasonable amount of time after leaving your messages for your landlord to respond.

There are certain situations in which repairs must be performed immediately in order to minimize personal risk or damage of the rental property. If you absolutely cannot reach the landlord, you will be able to authorize the necessary repair work yourself. Repairs can be authorized by an order from the rental authority in your respective province or territory.

FACT: Emergency Contact

If you need to authorize an emergency repair because you cannot reach your landlord, it will be important to save any and all documentation related to the incident in a safe place. You will also want to ask the repairman to bill the landlord directly for all of the work done, as you are not required to pay for it. If payment is required immediately after the repair work, tenants should keep close track of expenses and immediately notify the landlord to ask for reimbursement.

In the event that the landlord cannot be contacted before the necessary repairs are completed, they may choose to finish the repair work themselves and pay for whatever work has been done up until that point. The landlord may also allow the repair work to be done and choose to reimburse the tenant for the cost of everything.

You will definitely want to avoid paying for anything that is not truly an emergency, as the landlord might deny your request for reimbursement. Use the following chart to decide whether certain repairs are emergencies or if you can put them off a bit longer.

Emergency Repairs

  • Broken or burst pipes flooding the property
  • Heating system broken when it is cold outside
  • Backed up sewage system affecting the property
  • Broken lock allows anyone to enter without the use of a key
  • Short circuit in the wiring is creating a fire or electrocution hazard
  • Broken refrigerator

Non-Emergency Repairs

  • Interior door not closing properly
  • Broken stove element
  • Kitchen sink not draining properly
  • Minor leak on roof
  • Minor leak in household plumbing
  • Garage door opener not working but still able to gain access manually
  • Cracked window pane on upper floor of property
  • Even with non-emergency repairs, the landlord should be notified right away during normal office hours.