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Rights and obligations for repairs

Region: Ontario Answer # 433

Most tenants are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, which sets out the rights and obligations of residential landlords and tenants. If you are having trouble with your tenant or your landlord and would like help, ask a lawyer now.

Duties of landlords and tenants

Under the law, landlords are responsible for maintaining their rental premises in a good state of repair. This includes complying with all health, safety and maintenance standards that are usually set by the local municipality. Tenants are responsible for keeping their unit clean and for repairing any damage they or their guests cause to the unit or the premises.

A landlord’s duty to maintain the premises in good repair

A landlord’s obligation to maintain the premises is ongoing, and does not just arise when the tenant complains or when the disrepair becomes severe. Although a tenant has the obligation to keep the premises clean, it is the responsibility of the landlord to repair damage due to reasonable wear and tear over time. This includes: fixing broken appliances, leaking faucets, peeling paint, and clogged pipes, maintaining common areas such as garages and laundry rooms, and ensuring that there is a proper supply of water and other utilities included in the tenancy agreement. A landlord is also responsible for preventing and ridding pests and insects from the tenant’s unit and the entire premises.

Vital services

The landlord cannot interfere with vital services. “Vital services” refer to hot or cold water, fuel, electricity, gas and, during certain months of the year, heat. If a landlord provides any vital service to a tenant, the landlord cannot withhold reasonable supply of services. This rule applies even in such cases as when the tenant’s rent is overdue or if the tenant has damaged the property.

A tenant’s legal options if a landlord is not maintaining the premises

If a landlord is not maintaining the premises properly, a tenant has four legal options.

First, tenants can write a letter to the landlord detailing all repairs that are needed, and should keep a copy of the letter for their records.

Second, if the landlord refuses to address the problems, the tenant can contact the Property Standards department of the local municipality. In areas where there is not a property standards office, the tenant can contact the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Since problems of disrepair, safety, and infestation are usually violations of a by-law, if a tenant calls the municipality, an inspector will normally make an appointment to inspect the premises. If the inspector finds that a by-law has been violated, they will usually write a report ordering that the repairs be completed by a given deadline. The landlord and tenant will both receive copies of the report.

Third, if the landlord does not comply with the order, they may be fined or charged with an offence, and the tenant can use the report as evidence in legal action against the landlord.

Fourth, even if the landlord repairs the problem, a tenant can apply for an abatement of rent to the Landlord and Tenant Board by filing a Tenant Application About Maintenance. An abatement of rent is a reduction in rent for the months that the premises was in disrepair. If an abatement of rent is approved by the Board, the tenant will either receive money back for previous rent paid, or be entitled to hold back all or part of the rent normally paid to the landlord, until the repair is made.

Applying for an abatement of rent involves a hearing in front of a Board member who will review the evidence of disrepair, hear arguments from both sides, and determine if the tenant should receive a deduction from their rent. However, a tenant is only eligible to collect an abatement for up to 12 months before they made their application. Therefore, a tenant should deal with disrepair problems right away.

Applying for an abatement of rent is a complicated procedure that requires formal documents to be filled out. If you want to apply for an abatement, you may want to contact a legal clinic in your area. There may also be a lawyer on duty at the Board office that can assist you with the application.


Withholding rent

It is important to note that a tenant can be evicted if they withhold any or all of the rent without first getting approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board. This applies even if the tenant feels that maintenance is poor or a necessary repair has not been completed.

For additional information on maintenance issues, contact the Landlord and Tenant Board, or visit ontario.ca for more information on how you can make a complaint and get help if a landlord breaks a rule under the Residential Tenancies Act.

Help for Tenants

A criminal record will affect your ability to be approved for a residential lease. To erase your criminal record, learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you are having financial problems, it may be difficult to rent an apartment or condominium. You can get help to clear your debt and repair your credit. For easy-to-understand debt solutions on your terms, contact our preferred experts 4Pillars and rebuild your financial future. With 60 locations across Canada, they will help you design a debt repayment plan and guide you with compassionate advice. No judgment. For help, visit 4Pillars or call toll-free 1-844-888-0442 .

If you are a Tenant, you can add your monthly rent payment to your credit report using FrontLobby. This can:

  • Contribute to improving your credit score (Renters have reported 33pts to 84pts jumps)
  • Help establish a positive credit history with a new rent tradeline
  • Improve your access to credit related rewards (better bank loans, credit cards, mortgage rates)

Help for Landlords & Property Managers

For legal advice and assistance with a residential tenancy and applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board, contact our preferred Landlord and Tenant experts Nicola (Nick) Giannantonio Legal Services .

If you are a Landlord or Property Manager, you can report rent payments to Credit Bureaus and screen Tenants using FrontLobby. This can:

  • Attract financially responsible applicants interested in building credit with their rent
  • Decrease rent delinquencies (Landlords have reported 92% reductions) and recover unpaid rent
  • Reduce Tenant turnover and improve monthly cash flow

Get legal help

If you are having trouble with your tenant or your landlord and would like help, ask a lawyer now.

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