The Residential Tenancies Act, at s. 20(1) says "A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards." Should the Landlord fail in this duty, the Tenant is entitled to bring a Landlord and Tenant Board Form T6. This form allows the tenant to ask for a rent abatement as compensation for the failed duty. This article will focus more on the repair aspects of the claims, but check out our T6 article of lawn and snow maintenance here. Generally speaking, the tenant will have to prove:
1) What day and how they informed the landlord of the problem. Text messages are easiest but call logs with notes about the conversation work too-- as long as the notes were taken at the time. These notes should include what the landlord is specifically supposed to fix.
2) The tenant has to prove that the landlord "failed their duty" to maintain the unit. This doesn't just mean that something broke and it took time to fix, but that it wasn't fixed reasonably or in a reasonable time. As an, example, let's say the building elevator is broken. If the landlord immediately calls a repair company and they can't send a repair technician for 3 weeks, then the landlord has not failed their maintenance duty because they have done all they reasonably can to repair the issue.
3) The tenant must prove the damages. This most often means proving how the maintenance problem affected your enjoyment or use of the property, on what day(s), for how long and how much.
Example: Let's assume you are claiming for a broken air conditioner. If you want to be successful, you will likely have to show proof of the temperatures in the home for each day you want to claim, not just claim "it didn't work all year." Without specifics, your matter will be dismissed.
If the tenant can show the Landlord failed their duty, there are nine possible remedies, but we will deal with the three most common:
Remedy 1, Rent Abatement. This is where the tenant claims a percentage of their rent back for the inconvenience or reduced enjoyment of the unit caused by the landlord's maintenance. This seems the most simple to request, but is often the hardest to justify. Traditionally, the board will find the total daily rent, (total monthly rent divided by the number of days in the month), then assess a percentage of the unit or home they did not get to enjoy or use until the problem was fixed, and grant a judgment award for each day that happened.
Example: It is the first week of November, and your furnace isn't working properly. Two bedrooms are heated to 21C, but one is 10C. The tenant will have to prove what temperature each room was (pictures of a thermometer are easiest) and keep a log of those temperatures for each day they want to claim. If the rent was $300.00/month, and there are 30 days in the month, making each day $10 in rent, the tenant might ask for a 20% abatement, or $2.00/day for each day that bedroom was under 15C until the landlord fixed the furnace.
Remedy 2, Repair/Replacement cost. If the tenant has shown that they lost property or it was damaged as a result of the Landlord's failure of their duty to maintain or repair the unit, the Tenant can ask use the T6 to seek the cost to replace or fix it. This rule is subject to two legal principles, 1) the duty to mitigate and 2) the principle of "betterment." Simply put, "mitigation" means that the party with a loss is required to do what they can to lose as little as possible. Betterment has more to do with value of the property that was destroyed and limiting your claim to the value of the 'used' item before it was broken, not the cost of buying a brand new replacement for the destroyed item.
Remedy 4, Authorize Repairs. This section is used when a tenant has paid out of pocket for a repair, or did the work themselves, and the Landlord has not reimbursed them for that repair/work. The tenant will still have to prove that they acted after the landlord failed their duty to repair, but the tenant can ask that the board approve/authorize their work and ask for the cost to do so.
Example: Let's assume your refrigerator was broken and the Landlord has not scheduled a repair. If the tenant pays a technician to repair the fridge, they would claim that receipt and ask the board to approve the repair. If the repair is approved, the board could order the landlord to repay the tenant or allow the tenant to deduct that cost from future rent.
As always, remember that this blog should not be taken as legal advice and is no substitute for a consult about your specific facts. If you have questions, please click here to contact Sparling Paralegal Today.