Dealing with Problems

While finding good tenants is significant for landlords, avoiding trouble is also a major concern. It is your responsibility to ensure avoidable problems do not occur after the unit is rented. You have to ensure the rental complies with the rules and regulations for health, safety, housing and maintenance, municipal property standards and zoning bylaws, fire safety regulations and building codes. If the unit fails to meet these standards at any point during the tenancy, you must make necessary repairs.

Non-payment of rent, disruptive behavior and violations of the lease agreement are tenant problems that come up from time to time. When the problems cannot be resolved you may need to consider legal options. For information on how to deal with problem tenants, see Handling Problem Tenants below.

Emergencies and Repairs

An emergency repair is required when something in the rental unit has broken and the health or safety of your tenant is in danger or the building or property is at risk until repairs can be made. By law, as the landlord you should handle and pay for emergency repairs.

At the beginning of the tenancy it is a good idea to inform the tenant that it is their responsibility to purchase contents insurance. This insurance will cover damage to your tenant's belongings resulting from a problem in the residence.

In some situations, if you are not available and repairs must be performed immediately to reduce personal risk or property damage, your tenant can authorize the repair work. Repairs can also be authorized by an order from the rental authority in your province or territory.

FactEmergency Contact

Some provinces require that emergency contact information be posted in a visible place in the building. The emergency contact can be the landlord and/or another person.

If your tenant has authorized an emergency repair, you should ask your tenant for copies of all paperwork related to the incident. Your tenant may ask the repair worker to bill you directly for the repair, or you may prefer to reimburse your tenant. In this situation, your tenants should keep track of expenses, notify you upon completion of the repairs and ask for reimbursement.

If you are contacted before the repairs are completed, you may choose to take over the repairs and pay for work done up to that point. Alternatively, you may decide to let the repairs continue, choosing to reimburse your tenant for the full cost once repairs are completed.

If your tenant authorizes repairs that are not a true emergency, you can potentially refuse to repay his/her expenses. This chart can be used to gauge whether or not a repair is an emergency.

Emergency Repairs Non-Emergency Repairs
Although not emergencies, your tenant should notify you during office hours as soon as possible.
  • Broken pipe(s) are flooding the premises.
  • The heating system is not functioning when it is cold outside.
  • The sewage system is backing up into the premises.
  • A defective lock lets anyone enter the premises without a key.
  • A short circuit in the wiring is creating a risk of fire and/or electrocution.
  • The refrigerator supplied by the landlord is not working.
  • An interior door doesn't close properly.
  • A stove element is burnt out.
  • The kitchen sink has a slow drain.
  • There is a minor leak in the roof.
  • There is a minor leak or dripping in household plumbing.
  • A garage door opener is not working, but manual access is still available.
  • There is a cracked pane in an upper window.

Regular Repairs

Attention to emergency situations, general maintenance including wear and tear and appliance repairs are all your responsibility. However, a regular or minor repair is an inconvenience, not an emergency. Your tenants should not become involved in fixing minor repairs unless they have either agreed to take over these duties or they (or their guests) have damaged the premises.

If the responsible party fails to make necessary repairs to the property, the party that is not responsible for the repairs may notify the provincial or territorial authorities, sometimes referred to as the residential tenancy office. An application to the rental authority can lead to a court order for the responsible party to make necessary repairs.

If you refuse to make reasonable repairs such as fixing broken door locks or windows, your tenant may bring in a local authority. Should this situation arise, your tenant may request an inspection from a city or municipal building department. If an inspector finds that repairs are necessary, a work order will be issued to you, the landlord, listing repairs to be completed by a specified date.

FactFixing Required

If your tenant pays rent for something, such as a fridge, and it breaks, you must fix it. This includes all appliances provided with the rented premises; if the unit came with a fridge and stove, you must fix them when they break or require maintenance. You are also responsible for maintaining and repairing common areas. These include halls, lobbies, stairways, elevators, security systems, swimming pools, laundry facilities, and garbage rooms.

Handling Problem Tenants

Excessive noise, especially late at night, unreasonably dirty premises and having too many people in one living space are just a few of the problems that can occur during a tenancy. When the problem relates directly to non-payment of rent, you have the option of following the eviction process. When problems shift into other areas, the process becomes more challenging.

Resolution with Little Intervention or Legal Action

When asking your tenant to clean up and make repairs to an exceptionally dirty or damaged rental space, a simple verbal or written request (or politely worded warning) might get results. For actions that violate local by-laws, landlords often call the police. In these situations, a police warning or fine may convince offending tenants or neighbours to stop breaking noise, parking or garbage by-laws.

If initial attempts to resolve a conflict fail, you may need to formalize your complaint through the local rent authority. When the communication between you and your tenant breaks down completely, proof and witnesses will be needed to demonstrate blame and establish compensation, if in order. For example, offended neighbours or other tenants might help you support claims against noisy tenants.

What to do when Tenants don't Pay their Rent

When tenants fail to pay the rent, it is important to act quickly. When this happens you can give them a notice to move. In most provinces, you can give this notice as soon as the rent is late, in others, after a 3-day grace period.

A notice for non-payment of rent must include:

  • the amount of rent that your tenant owes
  • the date your tenant is to move out
  • a statement that says your tenant can disagree with your notice

If your tenant doesn't move or pay the rent, you can request help from the provincial or territorial rental authority to order your tenant to move. For more information, call the local office responsible for landlord and tenant issues. (See the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets).

Procedures and paperwork are extremely important in cases of rent non-payment. If you have a valid reason to terminate a tenancy but make a minor mistake in the paperwork, the Tribunal in your province or territory may not uphold the action.

In some provinces your tenant may apply to their provincial authority for a rent reduction in a few situations. Your tenant can submit an application if you don't make repairs or improvements or fail to provide services as a condition of a rent increase. Your tenant may also apply for a rent reduction if municipal taxes have been lowered or if a building service or facility is reduced or removed and you do not reduce the rent.

Canada

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