Landlord responsibilities for rental unit repairs

As a Landlord, do you know who is responsible for damage done to your rental property?

In BC, the Residential Tenancy Act says that you, the landlord, must make sure the property is “suitable for occupation.” This means that you are responsible for the repair of the unit, including such things as:

  • Electrical systems;
  • Plumbing systems;
  • Heating systems;
  • Door locks; and,
  • Structural items, like ceilings, floors, and walls.

You are also responsible for repairing anything else that you have included in the rent, such as:

  • Furniture;
  • Appliances; and,
  • Outbuildings, like a garage or a shed.

But the tenant is responsible for a few things, too. For instance:

  • Keeping the unit clean.
  • Notifying you if something needs to be repaired. Or if other issues arise, such as the dreaded bed bugs.

The responsibility for maintenance of the home is actually shared by both the landlord and the tenants. The basic requirements of the landlord for any rental property are:

  • The property must meet health and safety standards required by law
  • It must have all the services and facilities outlined in the tenancy agreement
  • It must be in good repair

Tenants are responsible for:

  • Any damage caused by them, or anyone else living in the unit (pets, too)
  • Any damage caused by any visitors to the unit
  • Maintaining a reasonable standard of cleanliness both in the unit, and in the surrounding common areas

Repairing regular wear and tear is NOT the tenant’s responsibility. That one is yours.

Condition Inspection Report

Before your tenants move in, you and the tenants need to complete a “walk-through” inspection of the home. This will be an opportunity to note any existing damage, so there is no confusion later. You will need to arrange a time with the new tenants, after the previous tenant has moved out, and before the new ones move in. The unit should be empty. This could be a fairly short window of opportunity, so, if possible, try to be flexible when finding a time that works for both of you.

This inspection is tied to the damage (or security) deposit. If you offer two separate times for the inspection, and the tenants don’t attend, their right to the return of the damage deposit is forfeited. They can have someone else attend in their place, but they must first provide the name of that individual to you.

In BC, you need to complete this Condition Inspection Report (RTB-27). You should take a copy with you to the “walk-through.” Look for any damage such as stains on the carpet, cracks in the walls, missing or damaged light fixtures, and so on. Take photos of any damage you see, and keep these with the inspection report, in case of a dispute later. Be sure ALL existing damage is listed, so the refund of the tenants’ damage deposit at the end of your tenancy is not disputed. Below is an example of a section of the Condition Inspection Report.

Your tenants may request that you change the locks after the last tenant has moved out. The landlord, in BC, is required to change them, if requested, and must bear the full cost.

If this is a fully or partially furnished unit, an inspection needs to be done on the furnishings, as well. Be sure to note any scratches, dents, or other marks. You can add extra pages to the report if necessary, to record the information regarding the furnishings.

Both you and the tenants must sign and date the inspection report. If you or the tenants have any comments, be sure to note them on the form before signing. Within seven days, you must get a copy of the inspection report to the tenants.

If there are two or more landlords or two or more tenants, there is another form which needs to be filled out, listing all the applicable names and addresses. This is the “Schedule of Parties.”

In BC, it is a requirement that another inspection is done at the end of the tenancy. You, as the landlord, must send a copy of this to the tenants, within 15 days of their moving out and the receipt of their forwarding address.

Asking for repairs

When your tenants notice something that needs to be repaired, they should let you know verbally or in writing. Failure on your part to complete necessary repairs could result in a dispute resolution hearing. You could then be ordered to make the repairs, as well as pay compensation to the tenants.

Emergency repairs

What happens in the event of an emergency? The Residential Tenancy Act is quite specific about how these are to be handled. First, a definition:

“repairs that are: (a) urgent; (b) necessary for the health or safety of anyone or for the preservation or use of residential property; and, (c) made for the purpose of repairing: (i) major leaks in pipes or the roof; (ii) damaged or blocked water or sewer pipes or plumbing fixtures; (iii) the primary heating system; (iv) damaged or defective locks that give access to a rental unit; (v) the electrical system; and, (vi) in prescribed circumstances, a rental unit or residential property.”

Before anything happens, it’s your responsibility, as the landlord, to post the name and phone number of whoever should be called in case of emergency. If a disaster occurs, and emergency repairs are required, the tenants can have repairs done on their own, only under the following conditions:

  • Emergency repairs are needed.
  • They’ve tried at least twice to call the emergency contact number provided by you.
  • After those two attempts, they give you reasonable time to make the repairs.

If your tenants have had to initiate emergency repairs on their own, you are entitled to take over and complete the repairs at any time. You will be responsible for reimbursing your tenants for any emergency repairs that they’ve had completed at your own expense. They need to provide you with a claim for reimbursement, receipts for the repairs, and a description of the emergency. The costs must be reasonable, and the damages cannot have been caused by the tenants or their guests.

Bed bugs and other pests

We all know that bed bugs have become a huge problem globally. These little insects feed on your blood to survive. They hide in all kinds of places including chairs, couches, dressers, mattresses, and box springs. They can also be found behind paintings, and along baseboards.

As the landlord, you are generally responsible for insect control and should address any such problems immediately. Your tenants are required to cooperate with pest control instructions or face possible eviction.

How do you know if there is a bed bug problem? Your tenants should notify you immediately if they notice any signs of bed bugs. The sooner you get on it, the easier it will be to get rid of the little pests. Bites on arms and legs are one sign. They’ll look like small red bumps. Black or red marks on the pillow, mattress, or box spring are another sign. There may even be small tears in the fabric.

After you arrange for an exterminator, the tenant has some responsibilities as well:

  • Launder everything they can, including clothes, blankets, and towels. The dryer’s high heat setting should be used to help kill bedbugs.
  • Wrap and seal the mattress, box spring, and pillows. Most experts recommend purchasing a mattress encasement cover.
  • Use re-sealable bags to store the laundered clothes, bedding, towels, etc.

Improvements to the rental unit

If your tenants decide they would like to make some improvements to your rental property, they need to contact you first. If they make changes to the unit without your consent, when they vacate the unit, they must return it to its original condition. If they don’t, you can return it to its original condition and charge the tenants for any costs. Another option is, if the value of the unit is now reduced because of the changes made by the tenants, you can claim for the amount of the reduction in the value of the unit.

Repairs and roommates

As mentioned, tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they, or their guests, have caused, not including wear and tear. If you are renting to more than one tenant, they should be aware that they are “jointly and severally” liable not just for paying the rent, but also for the costs of any damage caused by either of them. That means that if damage is caused by one roommate who has now skipped town, the remaining roommate will be responsible for the cost of any repairs. It may be wise to clearly outline this in your rental agreement, so there is no misunderstanding.

Entering the rental unit

If you need to make repairs, or enter the unit for any other reason unless the tenants allow you access, you need to give them written notice a minimum of 24 hours in advance. If they have moved out or abandoned the unit, you can enter without notice.

You can also enter the unit if necessary to protect life or property when an emergency exists.

The Residential Tenancy Act says that tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment.” A loss of “quiet enjoyment” may include:

  • Threatening behaviour by the other occupants of the building, or by the landlord;
  • Ongoing noise;
  • The landlord entering the premises without giving notice, or entering too frequently; and/or,
  • Restriction of services by the landlord, like water or electricity.

If any of these things occur, you may be required to pay compensation to the tenants.

Know what you’re getting into

Owning a rental property can be a great source of extra income for you. However, be sure you understand all of your rights and responsibilities as a landlord before entering into a rental agreement. For more information, or to get a quote on your home insurance, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.

Other commonly asked questions

  • Do you have to paint between tenants? It is rare for local bylaws to stipulate that suites be re-painted between every tenant. If the interior walls meet the standards for habitability—meaning the paint is not lead-based and has no unreasonable chipping or peeling—than it should be perfectly okay to leave their paint as-is between renters.
  • Are mice the landlord’s responsibility? Mice, bats and other unwelcome animals fall under the same category as bed bugs, in that the landlord is typically responsible for making sure they are removed from the premises. Much like bed bugs, there is also a reliance on the tenant to make sure they properly report any issues to the landlord in a prompt and timely manner.
  • What can landlords charge their tenants for repairs? Landlords are generally allowed to charge their tenants for any repairs are cleaning services that are needed to bring the rental unit back to its pre-tenancy condition. But, it’s important to note that a landlord cannot use a tenants security deposit to help repair normal wear and tear damage. Usually, security deposits are used to cover non-wear and tear damage or unpaid rent.

Helpful links

Here are some links that you may find useful:

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