FIRES AND OTHER DISASTERS
There are sometimes exceptional circumstances that force tenancies to end unexpectedly. If a flood, fire, or earthquake leaves your rental unit unlivable, your tenancy agreement may be considered a “frustrated contract”, since it would be impossible for your tenancy to continue under those circumstances. Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 34 says the following:
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.
The BC Building Code requires that smoke alarms be installed in properties where people sleep, including rental units. Additionally, Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) Policy Guideline 1 says the following:
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, RTB 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.
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.
If you have tenant insurance, contact your provider right away. Tenant insurance often provides greater support than what is available through the government.