Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities: Striking a Balance in Canada

Discover the balance in maintenance obligations for harmonious landlord-tenant relationships in Canada.
Andrews Moses
December 11, 2023
4 min read
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When you sign a lease on a new apartment or house in Canada, it's like entering into a little marriage with your landlord – a union of mutual respect, obligations, and the occasional awkward conversation about who should be doing what. Understanding the fine line between tenant maintenance responsibilities and landlord duties is essential for a harmonious living arrangement. This week, we look at landlord and tenant maintenance responsibilities, focusing on how to strike the perfect balance between both parties.

Understanding the Legal Framework

The foundation of all maintenance responsibilities is laid out within Canada's provincial and territorial legislation. While there are regional nuances, a common thread is that landlords must provide a property that is safe, clean, and suitable for living—a principle that is non-negotiable. On the flip side, tenant maintenance responsibilities includes measures such as maintaining reasonable health, cleanliness, and aesthetic standards within their rented abodes.

The Landlord's Legal Obligation

Landlords in Canada shoulder the primary burden of significant property upkeep. This obligation generally falls into three major categories:

  • Major Repairs: A leaky roof, a broken furnace amid a Canadian winter, or faulty wiring are all examples of significant repairs that fall squarely on the landlord's shoulders. By law, major issues are for landlords to resolve, often within a specific time frame, to prevent tenant hardship.
  • Property Compliance: Landlords must ensure the property adheres to building codes, health and safety standards, and other legal requisites that keep the building livable and safe.
  • Structural Integrity: From the foundation to the roof and the walls that hold up a house, the landlord is responsible for the building's structural well-being, ensuring that the tenant's home remains sturdy and robust against the elements and wear.

Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities: Care and Consideration

Just because Canadian landlords bear major responsibility when it comes to property maintenance doesn't mean tenants are free from obligations.  

When it comes to tenant maintenance responsibilities, tenants are generally responsible for: 

  • Daily Upkeep: A tenant's everyday life involves chores and duties that maintain a clean and orderly home. This includes disposing of garbage, cleaning personal spaces, and managing the minutiae of home life.
  • Minor Repairs: If you've accidentally put a hole in the wall during a passionate round of indoor golf, patching it up can fall to you. Minor damages caused by tenants are usually their responsibility to fix.
  • Respectful Use: The adage "use it, don't abuse it" is critical for tenants. Appliances and fixtures should be used for their intended purposes, and any damage from misuse can be the tenant's responsibility to repair.

Navigating Repairs: Who Does What?

Here are some generalities when it comes to navigating specifics of who does what when it comes to landlord and tenant maintenance responsibilities.

  • Emergency Repairs: When the unexpected strikes, like a burst pipe, it's usually the landlord's job to step in swiftly to make repairs. Tenants should notify their landlords immediately in such scenarios.
  • Cosmetic Touches: Painting the walls or updating the cabinet hardware are typically tenant-driven desires. Unless these are necessary due to disrepair, they may fall outside the landlord's scope.
  • Appliance Maintenance: The landlord provides appliances, so they're usually tasked with ensuring they're in working order. However, if a tenant's overzealous microwaving habits lead to an appliance's early demise, they might be responsible for the costs.
  • Preventative Maintenance: Maintenance is not always about fixing things; it's about preventing issues from arising. Landlords may conduct regular inspections to ensure everything is in order, while tenants can take steps like cleaning the lint trap in the dryer to avoid fire hazards. Both parties benefit from these preventative measures.

Seasonal Responsibilities: A Canadian Special

In a country known for its dramatic seasons, certain maintenance tasks are tied to the weather. Snow removal and lawn care can vary in terms of responsibility. Some leases stipulate that tenants take care of snow shoveling or lawn mowing, while others include these services in the rent. This should be outlined in the lease agreement to ensure everyone is on the same page before the first snowflake falls or the grass starts to grow.

Communicating Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

Communication is the lifeblood of a healthy tenant-landlord relationship. Whether it's a leaky faucet or a creaky floorboard, tenants should report maintenance issues promptly. This helps prevent minor problems from becoming major headaches and documents the tenant's proactive approach to care.

When it comes to clear communication, the lease agreement is more than just a piece of paper—it's a manual for deciphering who fixes what. This legally binding document often details the nuances of maintenance responsibilities. Tenants and landlords should review and understand these terms before signing. Ambiguities can be clarified and negotiated to avoid future disputes.

However, even with the best-laid plans, disputes may occur. Each province and territory in Canada has a landlord-tenant board or tribunal designed to resolve these conflicts. They offer resources, mediation, and, if necessary, legal proceedings to enforce the residential tenancy laws.

Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities - Parting Thoughts

The tenant-landlord relationship is a delicate dance of give-and-take, underpinned by mutual respect and understanding. By knowing your rights and responsibilities and where they intersect with those of your landlord, you can ensure a peaceful and enjoyable renting experience. Remember, maintaining a property is not just about preserving a physical structure; it's about building a sense of home and community. With clear communication, a thorough understanding of the lease, and a proactive approach to maintenance, tenants and landlords can strike a balance that works for everyone.

Whether you are a tenant ensuring the heart of the home beats strong or a landlord safeguarding the shell that protects it, remember that balance is vital. With each party upholding their end of the bargain, the Canadian rental landscape can continue to be one where rights are respected, obligations are met, and homes are well-loved

Maintenance Made Easy with Tenantcube

Tenantcube simplifies the landlord and tenant rental maintenance management be eliminating  the need for manual paperwork and allowing you to manage work orders efficiently, regardless of the number of properties you have. With Tenantcube, tenants can easily submit maintenance or repair requests from any location using their devices. This centralizes all requests in one system for better management. But that’s not all! Tenantcube also offers features like property listing, tracking tenant applications, tenant screening, and rent collection. To explore these features and how they can benefit your property management, sign up for a 14-day free trial with Tenantcube today.

Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities FAQs

Q1: Can a landlord require tenants to perform major repairs or renovations?

In Canada, the responsibilities of landlords and tenants can vary by province and territory, as each has its own specific regulations governing rental agreements.Major repairs and renovations typically fall under the landlord's responsibilities. These can include structural repairs, repairs to the heating, plumbing or electrical systems, and fixing problems that could adversely affect the tenants' health and safety.

A landlord usually cannot require tenants to perform major repairs or renovations. The rental agreement may include terms that outline the responsibilities of each party, but any clause that contradicts the local residential tenancy act or regulations (like requiring a tenant to do major repairs which are the responsibility of the landlord) may be considered void or unenforceable.

For example:

  • In Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act requires the landlord to keep the building in a good state of repair and comply with health, safety, housing, and maintenance standards.
  • In British Columbia, the Residential Tenancy Act similarly places the responsibility for major repairs on the landlord unless the damage has been caused by the tenant's negligence or willful actions.

Q2: What should I do if my landlord is not fulfilling their maintenance responsibilities?

In Canada, if a landlord neglects maintenance duties, tenants should take these steps:

  1. Document Communication: Start by notifying the landlord in writing of the maintenance issues, keeping a record of all correspondence.
  2. Review Lease and Laws: Check the lease agreement and familiarize yourself with the local residential tenancy act to understand your rights and the landlord's obligations.
  3. Formal Written Request: If verbal requests fail, send a formal written request for repairs, stating the problem, how long it's been an issue, and a reasonable deadline for resolution.
  4. Contact Authorities: If there's no response, reach out to the local tenancy authority for guidance.
  5. Tribunal Complaint: As a last resort, file a complaint with the tenancy tribunal or board, which can legally enforce maintenance duties.
  6. Seek Legal Advice: For serious unresolved issues, seek legal counsel, especially before considering withholding rent or deducting repair costs from rent, as these actions can have legal ramifications.

Q3: Can a landlord deduct the cost of repairs from a tenant's security deposit?

In Canada, a landlord can usually deduct the cost of repairs for damages beyond normal wear and tear from a tenant’s security deposit. However, they cannot deduct for repairs due to regular use or for issues that are the landlord’s responsibility. The specific rules and procedures for deductions can vary by province or territory, and landlords are typically required to provide an itemized list of deductions and return the remaining deposit within a specified timeframe after the tenancy ends.

Disclaimer :

This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Tenantcube Inc. or its affiliates.

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Andrews Moses
December 11, 2023
4 min read
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