Dealing with Problems
While finding good tenants is significant for landlords, avoiding trouble is also a major concern. It is the landlord's responsibility to ensure avoidable problems do not occur after the unit is rented. The landlord has 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, the landlord must make necessary repairs at any point during the tenancy.
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 the landlord 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 the 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 the 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, the tenant can authorize the repair work. Repairs can also be authorized by an order from the rental authority in your province or territory.
Some provinces require that emergency contact information is posted in a visible place in the building. The emergency contact can be the landlord and/or another person.
If a tenant has authorized an emergency repair, you should ask the tenant for copies of all paperwork related to the incident. The tenant may ask the repair worker to bill you directly for the repair, or you may prefer to reimburse the tenant. In this situation, 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 the tenant for the full cost once repairs are completed.
If the 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.
- 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.
- While not an emergency, the landlord should be notified during office hours as soon as possible.
Attention to emergency situations, general maintenance including wear and tear and appliance repairs are all the landlord's responsibility. However, a regular or minor repair is an inconvenience, not an emergency. 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, the tenant may bring in a local authority. Should this situation arise, the 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.
If a tenant pays rent for something, such as a fridge, and it breaks, the landlord must fix it. This includes all appliances provided with the rented premises; if the unit came with a fridge and stove, the landlord must fix them when they break or require maintenance. The landlord is 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, the landlord has 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 a 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 the landlord and tenant breaks down completely, proof and witnesses are needed to demonstrate blame and establish compensation, if in order. For example, offended neighbours or other tenants might help the landlord 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 the tenant owes
- the date tenant is to move out
- a statement that says the tenant can disagree with the landlord's notice
If a tenant doesn't move or pay the rent, you can request help from the provincial or territorial rental authority to order the 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 the landlord has a valid reason to terminate a tenancy but makes a minor mistake in the paperwork, the Tribunal in the province or territory may not uphold the action.
In some provinces the tenant may apply to their provincial authority for a rent reduction in a few situations. A 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. A 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 the landlord does not reduce the rent.