Repairs and Services When Renting

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Do make sure you have your landlord's name, phone number, and address before you have a problem. Don't expect to be reimbursed for repairs you do yourself unless your landlord agrees to it in writing.

Landlord and tenant responsibilities

The landlord's responsibilities

The law says a landlord must keep a place healthy, safe and "suitable for occupation." Your landlord has to make any repairs that are needed for your health and safety.

Services while renting.png

Your landlord is responsible for repairing:

  • heating,
  • plumbing,
  • electricity,
  • locks,
  • walls, floors and ceilings (including water leaks or holes),
  • fire doors and fire escapes,
  • intercoms, and
  • elevators.

Anything included in your rent must also be maintained. For example, your landlord is responsible for repairing:

  • fridge and stove,
  • laundry facilities,
  • furniture included in your rent, and
  • garages and storage sheds.

If something needs to be repaired, tell your landlord right away even if the repair is not important to you. Do it in writing and keep a copy for yourself. If you don't tell your landlord about the problem and it gets worse, you could be held responsible.

Your responsibilities

As a tenant, you have to keep your place clean and notify the landlord of any repairs that need to be done, or of any other problems such as mice, cockroaches, or bedbugs. You are also responsible for any damage you or your guests do even if it is an accident. You are not responsible for reasonable wear and tear. Reasonable wear and tear is what happens to a place over time with normal use, such as the wearing out of carpets.

Getting repairs done or services back

If a repair is needed

If there's a repair needed and it's not an emergency, tell your manager or landlord right away (see the section on Emergency repairs below for information about what you can do in an emergency). Write down the date when you talked to your landlord and what they said. Don't wait until a small problem becomes a big problem.

If a service is taken away

The Residential Tenancy Act allows a landlord to restrict services or facilities as long as you are given at least 30 days written notice and are compensated with a rent reduction that is equal to the reduction in value of your tenancy agreement. Your landlord cannot take away services or facilities which are considered "essential" to your tenancy. However, what you consider essential may not be what your landlord or what an arbitrator consider essential. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you have a written tenancy agreement that says what services and facilities are material terms of your tenancy agreement. For example, if laundry is included in your agreement make sure your written agreement states that laundry is included. A material term is a term that is so important that without that term you wouldn't have entered into the agreement.

Improving your place

If you want to make changes to your place, like painting walls or taking out old carpet, ask your landlord and get written consent. If you make changes without permission from your landlord, you might have to pay for new paint or carpet later. Don't expect to be paid for any improvements you make unless you have a written agreement from your landlord stating that you will be compensated for the improvements.

Don't hold back your rent

You may want to withhold your rent for your inconvenience or the cost of repairs you have done yourself. If you do this without getting a arbitrator's order, your landlord could evict you for non-payment of rent. It is better to apply for dispute resolution if you are having trouble getting your landlord to do repairs.

Send a letter

If your landlord doesn't do the repairs or give back the service, send a letter. The demand letter should say:

  1. the address where you live,
  2. what needs fixing, and
  3. the date you want it fixed by.

Sign and date the letter, and keep a copy. The demand letter might solve your problem. The letter can also prove that your landlord knew about the problem. If the deadline goes by, and your landlord has not fixed the problem, you can apply for a dispute resolution hearing.

Sample demand letter

June 5, 2013
Penny Saved
Big Property Management Co. Ltd.
1234 Main Street
Anytown, B.C.
Dear Ms. Saved:
Re: My apartment at 201-4567 North Main Street
For three weeks my stove has not been working properly. The oven does not work at all, and only two of the burners work. I told you about this on May 17 and May 25.
The Residential Tenancy Act states that you must maintain my apartment and the appliances. If my stove is not fixed by June 10, I will have to take legal action through the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Thank you. Sincerely,
Teresa Tenant

You can also use TRAC's template demand letters.

Dispute resolution for repairs and services

When you take your landlord to a dispute resolution hearing for non-emergency repairs or services, the arbitrator can:

  • order your landlord to do the repairs or restore the service,
  • order your landlord to lower your rent until the repairs are done or the service is restored,
  • give you permission to pay for the repairs yourself and to deduct the cost of the repair from your next month's rent, or
  • order you to pay your rent to the Residential Tenancy Branch instead of to your landlord, until the repairs are done; this is called a "re-direction of rent."

See section 65 of the RTA.

If you went without something like your stove, fridge, toilet, or balcony because the landlord delayed repairs, you may want some of your rent money back. If you and your landlord cannot agree on fair compensation, you can go to dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. If the arbitrator agrees that you should be compensated it will most likely be through a temporary rent reduction.

Proof of the problem

Make sure you gather proof or evidence of the repair problem in case you have to go to a dispute resolution hearing. You can take a photograph, or videotape the problem. Cost estimates from a tradesperson such as a plumber make good evidence. You can also ask friends or neighbours to look at the problem and be witnesses at a dispute resolution hearing.

Calling a municipal building inspector

Some municipalities have rules about how clean, safe, and healthy your suite must be. You can phone your municipal hall and ask them about these standards. (Look under “Health”, “Fire” or “Building Inspections” in the Blue Pages of the phone book or do a search for your municipal government on the Internet.) Inspectors may check your place and order the landlord to do repairs or clean things up. Unfortunately, not all municipalities will do this. If you live in a community that does not have bylaws to protect your health and safety you should call or write your mayor and city council and encourage them to adopt standards of maintenance bylaws. See the section on Taking Action.

Building inspections in Vancouver

The City of Vancouver has a Standards of Maintenance bylaw for enforcing basic housing standards. The bylaw covers everything from heat and hot water to rotting floors. Other bylaws make a landlord get rid of cockroaches, mice and fleas. If you live in Vancouver, you can phone City Hall and ask an inspector to check your place. You can call city hall by dialing 311. The phone number for the City of Vancouver property use inspector is 604-873-7398. For information on the Vancouver health bylaw, contact Vancouver Coastal Health at 604-675-3800.

Repairs and "illegal" suites

When suites in houses are illegal it's because the municipality does not allow them. If you live in an illegal suite, you have the same rights as every other tenant under the Residential Tenancy Act. You can apply for a dispute resolution hearing for repairs. The Residential Tenancy Branch will not contact your municipality.

However, don't phone the municipality about a repair problem if you think your suite is illegal. If you report the suite, the municipality might close down the suite and tell the landlord to evict you. If your suite is closed down by the municipality you could be given a one month eviction notice.

Pest control

Your landlord is responsible for the removal of pests such as insects or rodents. If you discover a pest problem let your landlord know as soon as possible. Some pest problems like bedbugs can be very difficult to treat. It is important that a professional pest control company is hired to treat the problem properly. Write a letter to the landlord and keep a copy for yourself to document the problem. You can also phone your local health authority to ask if they can do an inspection and order the landlord to treat the pest problem. The health authority may get involved when there is the potential that the pest may carry disease. If your health authority won't get involved you can still file for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch to get an order to make the landlord treat the pest problem.

Mold

Mold is a major problem in many homes in BC given our damp climate. It is important that you take every step possible to prevent excess moisture in your home so that the landlord does not blame you for causing the mold problem. If you do find mold make sure you document it with pictures, witnesses, and with letters to your landlord in case you should need evidence for a dispute resolution hearing. You can also call your local health authority for more information about mold. (Look for the number in the Blue Pages of your local phone book.)

Emergency repairs

The Residential Tenancy Act has special rules for "emergency repairs." The rules may allow you to do repairs in some circumstances. Emergency repairs are repairs that are urgent, necessary for health or safety, and made for the purpose of repairing:

  • major leaks in pipes,
  • damaged or blocked water or sewer pipes,
  • electrical systems,
  • in a rental unit, major leaks in the roof, damaged or defective locks, damaged or blocked plumbing fixtures or the primary heating system, or
  • in prescribed circumstances, a rental unit, residential property, a manufactured home site or manufactured home park.

See section 33 of the RTA.

Contact your landlord

The law says that your landlord has to post the name and phone number of an emergency contact person some place in your building where you can easily see it. If you need an emergency repair, phone the emergency contact person right away. You must try to reach the emergency contact person at least twice. If no number is posted, call the landlord or the manager. Make sure you write down the date and time of each call.

What if repairs are not done?

You are allowed to pay someone else to do the repairs only if:

  • you talk to the emergency contact person and the landlord still does not do the repairs within a reasonable time, or
  • you cannot reach the contact person after two tries.

It's a good idea to call different places to get repair cost estimates. Write down their prices and hire the cheapest one that is qualified to do the job. Keep all the receipts. Your landlord is allowed to take over the repair job at any time.

Getting money back

Your landlord has to pay you back the cost of the emergency repairs if you followed the process required by the Residential Tenancy Act. Give the landlord a copy of your receipts and any information you wrote down. Keep the original receipts for yourself. If your landlord doesn't pay you back, you can deduct the money from your rent. You may want more money from the landlord for other expenses; for example, if your things have been damaged in a flood that was the landlord's fault. If you and your landlord cannot agree on fair compensation, you can apply for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch.

If your landlord doesn't agree

Your landlord may not agree to pay you back. The landlord may say that it wasn't an emergency, or that the repairs cost too much. If this happens, your landlord can apply for dispute resolution. You will have to let a arbitrator decide. If the landlord wins, you might have to pay some or all of the money back.

You should have tenant insurance

Your landlord cannot make you buy tenant insurance unless it is a term in your tenancy agreement. However, you should have insurance to cover damage to your belongings if, for example, there is unforeseen damage from a fire or flood. Tenant insurance is also a good idea because it will usually pay for a hotel if there is damage that prevents you from staying at your place. Your landlord is responsible for repairing damage to your unit but is not always responsible for the cost of your belongings.

When you're unsure

If you're not sure that your situation is an emergency, phone the TRAC Tenant Information Line or the Residential Tenancy Branch. Follow all the steps required by regulation and get the work done as inexpensively as possible by someone who is qualified to do the work, or you might have to pay!

Legislation and links

Legislation

Links

Resources and forms

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