Area of Law: Landlord and Tenant
Answer # 433
Rights and obligations for repairsRegion: Ontario Answer # 433
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.
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.
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.
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