Reviewed by Nina Knudsen
Updated December 19, 2022
As a Landlord, do you know who is responsible for damage done to your rental property?
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In BC, the Residential Tenancy Act says that you, the landlord, must make sure the property is “suitable for occupation.” It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure a safe, comfortable home. That means taking care of such things as:
You are also responsible for repairing anything else that you have included in the rent, such as:
But the tenant is responsible for a few things, too. For instance:
The responsibility for maintenance of the home is actually shared by both the landlord and the tenants. The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property:
Tenants are responsible for:
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 short window of opportunity, so try to be flexible when finding a time that works for both of you.
This inspection is tied to the damage (or security) deposit. 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 the Condition Inspection Report (RTB-27) form. 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 (or burnt-out lightbulbs), 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.
Here’s 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.
Don’t forget to take photos here, too—and be thorough. For example, take photos of the couch, including both sides of the cushions.
Remember to make notes about cleanliness as well. There are some commonly neglected nooks in rental units that tend to gather dirt and grime over the course of a tenancy: bathroom vents, kitchen exhaust hoods, blinds, and so on.
If everything’s clean when the tenant moves in, make sure you’re clear that you expect things to be that way when they move out, too.
If this is a fully or partially furnished unit, you need to inspect 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.
This can also be accomplished by adding an addendum to the tenancy agreement.
In BC, it is a requirement that another inspection is done at the end of the tenancy. Again, the landlord and tenants should be present for the walkthrough.
The landlord must send a copy of the Condition Inspection Report to the tenants immediately after signing it and receiving the keys. Then, within 15 days of their moving out and the receipt of their forwarding address, the secuirty deposit must be returned to the tenants with or without any agreed deductions.
Landlords cannot retain any of the security or pet deposit without the express consent of the tenants on the move-out condition report. Security and pet deposits cannot be held in lieu of rent or utilities if a move-out condition inspection has been completed and a forwarding address has been offered.
If there is unpaid rent or utilities owing and the tenant does not agree to pay this, then the only means to get compensation is through filing an arbitration claim through the Residential Tenancy Branch (in BC).
All post-dated cheques must be returned to the tenants when they return the keys. Failure to do any the above will result in the tenants being compensated double what was originally paid.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to always have a detailed agreement in place and take move-in condition photos.
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Once they do, you need to complete the repairs promptly. Failure to do so could result in a dispute resolution hearing. You could then be ordered to make the repairs, as well as pay compensation to the tenants.
There is one stipulation: You’re not necessarily responsible for repairing damage that your tenants (or their pets or guests) caused. If the repairs constitute an emergency, though, you still need to take action.
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 emergency repairs are required, the tenants can have them done on their own under the following conditions:
If your tenants have had to start emergency repairs on their own, you’re 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 for the repairs must be reasonable.
As the landlord, you are responsible for pest control and should address any such problems as soon as they become apparent. Your tenants must cooperate with pest control instructions or face possible eviction. And don’t forget: your tenants are also responsible for keeping the unit reasonably clean—the best defense against vermin.
How do you know if there is a pest problem?
Your tenants have a responsibility to notify you immediately if they notice any signs of rodents, termites, bed bugs, or other pests. The sooner you get on it, the easier it will be to manage.
What you need to do will depend on the nature of the infestation. It may be as simple as setting a few traps. On the other hand, it may require the expertise of an exterminator.
If your tenants decide they would like to make some improvements to your rental property, they need to contact you first and have your written approval of everything they will be doing in detail (for example: telling you about paint colours).
If they make changes to the unit without your consent, they must return it to its original condition when they move out. 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. Though, this can be a challenging thing to accomplish in practice.
To avoid unwanted renovations, let your tenants know that you’ll be doing periodic inspections. Staying aware of what’s happening in your unit is key.
Tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they, or their guests, have caused.
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.
You should do a new walkthrough and inspection report each time the occupants of your rental unit change, to avoid unpleasant scenarios.
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’ve moved out or abandoned the unit, you can enter without notice.
You can also enter the unit if necessary to protect life or property during an emergency.
The Residential Tenancy Act says that tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment.” A loss of “quiet enjoyment” may include:
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.
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—then it should be perfectly okay to leave their paint as-is between renters.
You may wish to repaint between tenants anyway, though. A fresh coat of paint encourages new tenants to keep the unit in tip-top shape. If the tenants offer to re-paint the unit to improve the space, always offer to share the cost or offer compensation so there is no issue at move-out.
Mice, bats and other unwelcome animals fall under the same category: the landlord is typically responsible for making sure they are removed from the premises. However, the tenant is responsible for promptly reporting any issues to the landlord and for keeping the unit reasonably clean.
Landlords are generally allowed to charge their tenants for any repairs for cleaning services that are needed to bring the rental unit back to its pre-tenancy condition. If damage is the fault of the tenant, their pets, or their guests, the landlord can charge them for the repairs.
It’s important to note that a landlord cannot use a tenant’s security deposit to help repair normal wear and tear damage. Security deposits are used to cover excessive damage to the unit, like stained carpets or pet damage. If the lawn and garden are not maintained as per the rental agreement, then the security deposit can also be used for this.
For more information, check the regulations for your province. Here are some links for further reading on tenant and landlord responsibilities in different provinces:
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About the expert: Nina Knudsen
Nina Knudsen has 12 years of property management experience under her belt. Nina is part of the team at Royal LePage Sussex, bringing her experience to the company’s Property Management division as the Managing director of the Hello Rent team.
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