Both landlords and tenants have a duty to maintain and repair the rental unit.
A tenant is required to maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit and the rental building to which the tenant has access. The tenant’s duty to repair is generally limited to any damage to the rental unit or common areas that is caused by the actions or negligence of either the tenant or a person permitted on the property by the tenant. However, a tenant is not required to make repairs for reasonable wear and tear (ie. natural deterioration due to aging, reasonable use and other natural forces).
A landlord’s duty to repair is broader than that of the tenant. A landlord must ensure at all times that the residential property complies with health, safety and housing standards required by law and is suitable for occupation by the tenant. To assess suitability, one must take into account the age, character and location of the rental unit. This obligation to repair and maintain persists regardless of whether the tenant knew, at the time of entering into the tenancy agreement, that the suitability or inhabitability of the rental unit was doubtful or that the rental unit was in breach of health, safety or housing standards or bylaws. Finally, the landlord must post in a conspicuous place on the residential property or give to a tenant in writing, the name and telephone number of a person to contact in case emergency repairs are required.
Under certain conditions, a tenant may make emergency repairs on behalf of the landlord and seek reimbursement thereafter. In order to qualify as an “emergency repair”, the repair in question has to be:
- Necessary for the health or safety of anyone or for the preservation or use of the residential property; and
- Made for the purpose of repairing (1) major leaks in pipes or the roof, (2) damaged or blocked water or sewer pipes or plumbing fixtures, (3) the primary heating system, (4) damaged or defective locks that give access to the rental unit (5) the electrical systems or (6) in prescribed circumstances, a rental unit or residential property.
If emergency repairs are needed, a tenant must make at least two attempts to call the telephone number of the contact person designated by the landlord. Following these attempts, if the landlord fails to make the required repairs within a reasonable amount of time, a tenant may undertake the repairs and seek reimbursement from the landlord. However, a landlord may still take over the completion of the emergency repairs at any time. Also, a tenant is only entitled to reimbursement if the tenant provides the landlord with a written account of the repairs undertaken and accompanying receipts for any amounts claimed.
If a landlord does not reimburse the tenant for the amounts claimed, the tenant may deduct the amount from future rent or otherwise seek to recover the amount. However, a landlord may apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for an order to dismiss the tenant’s claim for reimbursement if:
- the repairs in question do not qualify as emergency repairs;
- the tenant has failed to provide reasonable time for the landlord to undertake the emergency repairs;
- the tenant has failed to provide a written account and/or receipts for the repairs to the landlord;
- the amounts claimed for reimbursement are unreasonably high; or
- the emergency repairs are as a result of damage caused primarily by the actions or neglect of the tenant or a person permitted on the residential property by the tenant.
Last revised: April 10, 2016