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Rights and obligations for rental repairs

When it comes to repairs in residential rental units, in most provinces and territories the residential tenancy act usually points to the landlord as being the responsible party but as with everything there are exceptions.

When is the tenant responsible for repairs?

A tenant has the responsibility to keep the unit or premises in good condition. However, a landlord cannot ask the tenant to make repairs for normal wear and tear during the tenancy.

If a tenant did damage to the unit or premise or they had visitors who did damage to the premises that go beyond normal wear and tear then the tenant is responsible for repairs and the costs of these repairs.

Another situation where a tenant is responsible for repairs is if the tenant agreed to do said repairs in agreement with the landlord.

However, a tenant should not undertake to make repairs without informing the landlord first.

A tenant should not be responsible for the costs of repairs that the landlord is making to the rental unit or premises.

Landlord’s responsibility for repair

In general, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make repairs to the rental unit or premises that includes general and emergency repairs. The landlord is responsible to make general maintenance repairs, which are repairs made to premises that feature normal wear and tear, as well as appliance repairs.

As a residential tenant it’s very important to pay attention to the lease and see what the unit or premises come with, because if the lease says that appliances are included and they break down, the landlord has to maintain these appliances and fix them when necessary.

In addition to making repairs to the rental unit or premises and appliances (if applicable), the landlord is also required to maintain the common areas and do the necessary repairs.

Landlord’s obligation to make emergency repairs

The landlord also has the responsibility to make emergency repairs. Emergency repairs are repairs when if something breaks within the residential residence the tenants health or life may be at risk.

Contact the landlord right away if an emergency repair is needed. If you can’t reach the landlord then call the emergency contact number you should have been provided with for these situations.

If you have tried contacting the landlord and the emergency contact a few times and there is no answer nor are they getting back to you, then you may have to authorize the emergency repair yourself, especially if the damage requires immediate repair in order to prevent injury or illness to yourself and the people living with you.

You should either ask the repairperson to make the bill out to the landlord, or if you have to pay right away, keep all paperwork, including the receipt and forward it to the landlord. If it’s not a true emergency, don’t order repairs because the landlord may not be willing to pay for them.

Emergency repairs are the responsibility of the landlord, as is paying for them.

Can I withhold rent if the landlord doesn’t do the necessary repairs?

No, you should not withhold rent even if the landlord doesn’t do the required repairs.

If you withhold rent because your landlord doesn’t make repairs it could result in the landlord starting eviction proceedings.

If your landlord is not making repairs, or unwilling to pay for the emergency repairs that were necessary at the time, try to put in a request in writing for the repairs to be made or the money to be paid.

If you still have no result you could call your local tenants board or initiate a dispute resolution process between tenants or landlords.

You may want to contact a lawyer for advise if you are in a situation where repairs are not being made or an emergency repair bill is not being paid.

Read more:

Regular Repairs

Emergencies and Repairs - CMHC