REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE
Landlords are generally responsible for making repairs to your rental unit. Every landlord in BC has a legal obligation to repair and maintain their rental property so that it meets health, safety and housing standards. To learn more about these standards, refer to the Residential Tenancy Branch’s Policy Guideline #1, and check to see if your City has a Standards of Maintenance Bylaw.
Landlords are generally responsible for:
- walls, floors and ceilings
- fire doors and fire escapes
- painting at reasonable intervals
- routine yard maintenance (e.g. cutting grass, clearing snow) in multi-unit residential complexes.
- infestations and pests (e.g. bed bugs)
- serious mold issues
- anything included in your tenancy agreement, such as:
- laundry facilities
- storage facilities
Tenants are required to maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards.
Tenants are generally responsible for:
- reasonable maintenance of carpets during the tenancy
- shampooing carpets at the end of tenancies lasting one year or longer.
- cleaning marks on the walls.
- replacing light bulbs.
- routine yard maintenance (e.g. cutting grass, clearing snow) if the tenant has exclusive use of the yard.
- minor mold issues
Even if you are a clean and tidy person, you will notice that eventually things start wearing out. As a tenant, you are not responsible for this normal “wear and tear” that results from reasonable use of a rental unit – for example, the natural deterioration of the carpets.
However, when you, your guests, or your pets cause damage beyond “wear and tear”, such as a broken window, you are responsible for that damage. Contact your landlord and work out a solution for how the repair will be completed. In most cases, the landlord will hire a qualified professional, and ask you for payment.
When something goes wrong in your rental unit, you should let your landlord know as soon as possible, even if it wasn’t your fault. If you don’t notify your landlord and further damage is caused, you could be held responsible for the problem getting worse. For example, if you don’t report bed bugs immediately and the infestation spreads, you may have to pay for some of the treatment costs.
Regardless of who is responsible for the damage, the tenant always has a duty to minimize the landlord’s loss by informing them of damage right away. If you notice something, never wait for it to become a serious problem! If a tenant does not report a problem within a reasonable period of time, and the problem gets worse, the tenant could be held responsible for some or all of the damage.
Always ask for repairs in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Some points to consider including in your letter:
- A description of the repairs needed.
- A list of each time you have already contacted the landlord about the issue.
- Relevant sections of the Residential Tenancy Act (see the bottom of the page), and any local bylaws.
- A reasonable deadline for when you would like the repairs to be made.
- That if the repairs are not made by that deadline, you have the right to apply for dispute resolution and request compensation.
See TRAC’s template letter, Request for Repairs. It is also good idea to take pictures and/or have witnesses for any repairs that are needed.
If your landlord ignores your request for repairs, send them a second letter or apply for dispute resolution. The Residential Tenancy Branch can order your landlords to make repairs and to pay you for any violation of quiet enjoyment caused by a delay in making repairs.
Check to see if your community has a Standards of Maintenance Bylaw. If so, a city inspector may be able to come to your rental unit and order your landlord to make repairs.
No matter how you go about getting the problem fixed, don’t withhold your rent! The law does not allow you to withhold rent for standard repairs, and your landlord could legally evict you for doing so.
For a repair to be considered an “emergency”, it must be all three of the following things:
- Necessary for health or safety of people or property
- Made for the purpose of repairing one of the following:
- major leaks in pipes or the roof
- damaged or blocked water or sewer pipes or plumbing fixtures
- the primary heating system
- damaged or defective locks that give access to a rental unit
- the electrical systems
If your situation meets the definition of an emergency, you should try to contact your landlord’s emergency contact number at least twice. Your landlord is required to give you this emergency contact number in writing, or post it in a common area of your rental building.
If you are unable to reach the emergency contact person you can pay to have the repairs completed, and then ask your landlord to pay you back. However, you must make a reasonable effort to find a fair price. You should be prepared to provide your landlord with a list of prices from a number of companies. Make sure to keep all of the original receipts, as well as copies of all communication with your landlord. See TRAC’s template letter, Request for Reimbursement for Emergency Repairs.
Taking on emergency repairs yourself can be complicated and expensive! If you don’t have the money to pay for the repairs, don’t have the time to deal with them, or are worried that you may not follow the proper steps, you can always apply for dispute resolution to request an emergency repair order.
What is a Standards of Maintenance Bylaw?
Standards of Maintenance (SoM) bylaws allow cities to set minimum requirements for maintenance and repairs that landlords must follow. SoM bylaws are set by each municipality, although not all municipalities have them.
If you want your landlord to make repairs to your unit, it is a good idea to see if your city has a SoM bylaw. You can put your request for repairs in writing to your landlord and refer to relevant maintenance standards from the bylaw. You can also contact the bylaw department for information on landlord requirements, or request that a Bylaw Officer visit your unit.
Illegal Secondary Suites
If you are living in an illegal secondary suite, the city may issue an order for your landlord to shut it down if a bylaw inspector visits. If this happens your landlord will give you a one month notice to end tenancy.
Enforcement of Bylaws
Cities with SoM bylaws have the power to enforce the bylaw, usually by ordering a landlord to make repairs, or issuing a fine. However, cities are often reluctant to do this. If you have requested that your landlord make repairs and they have refused, you can apply for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. A report from a Bylaw Officer could be strong evidence at dispute resolution hearing.
See our page Applying for Dispute Resolution for more information.
Cities with Standards of Maintenance Bylaws
- North Vancouver
- New Westminster
- Maple Ridge
- Prince George
- Williams Lake
- Port Coquitlam
- Prince Rupert
- West Vancouver
BC Standards of Maintenance Bylaw Guide
The provincial government has created a sample bylaw and guide to assist municipalities in developing standards of maintenance bylaws. TRAC strongly encourages all municipalities to develop their own standards of maintenance bylaw, as well as a bylaw enforcement strategy.