Following the previous 3 articles (Part one, two and three), this article will provide insight into some other frequent issue brought up in our discussion with tenants. It also focuses on the rights of tenants in a long-term residential lease where rent is paid monthly. There are other arrangements such as community housing and where a tenant is the roommate of the landlord. These are not covered here. For more comprehensive information, please refer to the Resources section at the end of this article.
These articles are not meant to construe legal advice but are an attempt to clarify common situations and ensure tenants are aware that they do have rights. The appropriate documents are discussed for reference. Where a dispute or concern arises, it is always best to consult with a legal professional.
- Maintenance & Safety (and the need to periodically renovate)
- Tenant Insurance
Maintenance & Safety
As a tenant, you should expect a reasonable state of repair for the apartment, common area and appliances included in the lease. All health and life safety systems such as fire equipment should be in good working order and regularly inspected. This is true even if the tenant was aware of the problems when they agreed to rent the unit.
Likewise, tenants have a duty to ensure that an apartment does not deteriorate beyond what is considered reasonable wear and tear and must not interfere with any life safety equipment such as a smoke detector. A tenant must keep their rental unit clean, up to the standard that most people would consider ordinary or normal cleanliness. A tenant must repair or pay for the repair of any damage to the rental property caused by the tenant, the tenant’s guest or another person who lives in the rental unit. This includes damage in the tenant’s unit, as well as any common area such as a hallway, elevator, stairway, driveway or parking area. Since accidents can happen, it is good to maintain tenant insurance.
If a maintenance item occurs, tenants should report it to their landlord who should in turn take reasonable action to rectify the situation if warranted. This is an area where both tenants and landlords need to work cooperatively. Landlords do not regularly enter a tenant’s apartment and thus will not have visibility to issues within. They may also not see issues in common areas as readily as a tenant given the tenant is usually more present at the property. Landlords, however, should regularly inspect the property and building and, with proper notice, the apartment itself. An in-apartment inspection annually is not unusual and is normally conducted to ensure life safety systems are all in working order and that the apartment is being well maintained. Certain regulations may require a landlord to inspect apartments more frequently.
Another area of cooperation involves pest control. In truth, some pests can be very difficult to address and requires cooperation of the landlord and all tenants. The primary causes of pest issues are lack of maintenance or cleanliness (by either the landlord or tenants) or when a tenant brings in, say, furniture that may have been infested. A landlord does have a duty to rectify pest issues regardless of the source, but the tenant may also have financial liabilities if it was as a result of their actions or inaction.
If a landlord allows a property to deteriorate beyond a reasonable state of repair, then the tenant can contact the municipality’s property standards department who will usually come to investigate and can order the landlord to rectify the situation. Note, it is illegal for a tenant to withhold rent due to maintenance issues and it can result in a non-payment of rent process putting a tenancy at risk.
By the same token if a tenant causes the property or apartment to deteriorate beyond a reasonable wear and tear, the landlord may request the tenant to rectify the situation or even apply a charge for the landlord to rectify.
In our next section, we will cover the new Ottawa property standards that By-Law has planned to be enacted in 2021.
If required by the landlord, tenants must obtain and provide proof of liability insurance. Often it is a requirement of their underlying building insurance policy. It also protects the tenant in the event they, or a guest, creates a liability event. This could include any situation that creates a trail of negative externalities amongst the other residents of the building, such as a flood or fire. Although contents insurance is at the discretion of the tenant, in our experience, it is highly recommended. See our other article on tenant insurance.
- A landlord is responsible for all health and life safety equipment
- Tenants have a duty to not interfere with the equipment and report any issues with it
- A landlord is required to keep a unit in a reasonable state of repair including the included appliances
- Tenants can assist by reporting any issues that the landlord may not be aware of
- A tenant may contact the city’s property standards enforcement unit in the event of a persistent issue especially where the landlord refuses to remedy, and it threatens the tenant’s safety
- It is illegal for a tenant to withhold rent due to maintenance issues.
- A tenant has a duty to keep a unit in a reasonable state of cleanliness
- Regular inspections by the landlord are normal and are often required due to regulations. For example, annual fire system checks; monthly fire system checks.
- Both landlords and tenants are expected to work together to resolve any pest issues regardless of the source. Proposed Ottawa by-laws will make this a legal requirement for both parties.
- Tenant Insurance is normally a requirement in most leases
- This protects the tenant from liability caused by their actions such as accidental flooding or a kitchen fire. A tenant is wholly liable in these cases and insurance will protect a tenant from significant financial consequences.
- See also our tenant insurance article
Residential Tenancies Act: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/06r17
Ottawa’s property standard by-law proposal: https://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents/files/RAS_FinalLTR_Sept23_En.pdf