FIRES AND OTHER DISASTERS
Fires and other disasters may result in your tenancy ending suddenly due to your contract being “frustrated”. The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) Policy Guideline #34 – Frustration says the following about frustrated contracts:
A contract is frustrated where, without the fault of either party, a contract becomes incapable of being performed because an unforeseeable event has so radically changed the circumstances that fulfillment of the contract as originally intended is now impossible. Where a contract is frustrated, the parties to the contract are discharged or relieved from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.
When a tenancy agreement is frustrated, the landlord is not required to pay for your moving costs or replace your damaged items. If you have tenant insurance, your policy may cover these costs. See our page on Tenant Insurance for more information.
A tenant’s responsibilities also end when a tenancy becomes frustrated. This means that if you had a fixed-term tenancy (lease), you do not need to continue paying rent. If you already paid for days after the date your tenancy was frustrated, you may request that your landlord return rent for those days.
Remember that a tenancy is only frustrated when neither party is at fault. If you have evidence that the landlord was aware of a problem and acted negligently, you may be able to get compensation from them. See our page on Applying for Dispute Resolution for more information.
If there are smoke detectors, or if they are required by law, the landlord must install and keep smoke alarms in good working condition. Regular maintenance includes: annual inspection of the system, annual cleaning and testing of the alarm, and replacing batteries at least annually and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In terms of tenant responsibilities, Policy Guideline #1 goes on to say:
The tenant must not prevent the smoke alarm from working by taking out batteries and leaving them out, or by replacing them with batteries that are dead or the wrong size. For his or her own safety and the safety of others, the tenant must tell the landlord when a smoke alarm needs new batteries, or that it seems to need to be repaired or replaced.
If you have tenant insurance, contact your provider right away. Tenant insurance often provides greater support than what is available through the government.
Emergency Social Services may be able to provide assistance to tenants who have been displaced due to fire, floods, earthquakes or other emergencies. Assistance may be provided for up to 72 hours following the disaster, and can include services such as food, housing, clothing, emotional support, information about the crisis, and family reunification.