Reviewed by Nina Knudsen
Updated April 6, 2023
As a tenant, do you know who is responsible for damage done to the property you are renting?
Some home repairs can be costly, and you shouldn’t be stuck with a bill that is not your responsibility. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about rental unit repairs and who is responsible: the landlord, or the tenant?
The BC Residential Tenancy Act says that the landlord must make sure that the property is “suitable for occupation,” while the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act similarly dictates that the unit be in “good state of repair and fit for habitation.” This means that landlords are responsible for the repair of the unit, which includes:
Landlords are also responsible to repair anything else that’s 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 shared by both the landlord and the tenants. If you, as the tenant, don’t make the necessary repairs, you could be on the hook for the cost of the repairs when they are completed by the landlord.
The basic requirements of the landlord for any rental property are:
As the tenant, you are responsible for:
When a tenant causes accidental damage, like starting a fire while cooking, the landlord’s home insurance policy would theoretically cover those costs of repairs. However, many landlords require their tenants to have tenant insurance policies, because in those cases the tenants’ insurance may be able to cover the repairs instead.
Regular wear and tear, however, is never the tenant’s responsibility to repair—that responsibility rests with the landlord.
In BC, you and your landlord will need to complete a walk through inspection of the home prior to your move in. This time will be your opportunity to note any existing damage, so you don’t get blamed for it later.
The landlord needs to arrange a date with you, after the previous tenant has moved out and before you move in, when 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. You can have someone else attend in your place, but you must first provide the name of that individual to the landlord.
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.
Below is an example of a Condition Inspection Report typically used in British Columbia.
This time is also a good opportunity to talk about the locks. If the landlord hasn’t changed the locks since the last tenant, you can request that they do so before you move in. Landlords in BC are required to change them if you request it and must bear the full cost, while in Ontario there are no such laws in place—however, you can often reach an agreeable compromise on changing locks.
If this unit is fully or partially furnished in BC, 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 landlord must sign and date the inspection report. If you have any comments, be sure to note them on the form before you sign. Within 7 days, the landlord must get a copy of the inspection report to you.
If there are two or more landlords or two or more tenants, there is another form listing all the applicable names and addresses which must likewise be filled out.
It is also a requirement in BC that an inspection be done at the end of your tenancy. The landlord must send a copy of this report to you within 15 days of your moving out and the receipt of your forwarding address.
Many renters and landlords alike still prefer to schedule a walkthrough before keys change hands to avoid later concerns over who’s responsible for damage to the property.
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When you notice something that needs to be repaired, you should let your landlord know, either verbally or in writing. Failure on a BC landlord’s part to complete necessary repairs could result in a dispute resolution hearing, which may then lead to an order to fix the property or their having to pay compensation to you.
If an Ontario landlord fails to complete the repairs, you can then report the problem to local government, the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit or file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board. Your landlord could then be taken to court for not following bylaws or the municipal government may complete the work and add the cost to your landlord’s property taxes.
What happens in the event of an emergency? The Residential Tenancies 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.”
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to post the name and phone number of whoever the tenant should call in case of emergency. If a disaster occurs, and emergency repairs are required, you can have repairs done on your own, only under the following conditions:
If the tenant has to initiate emergency repairs on their own, the landlord is entitled to take over and complete the repairs at any time. The landlord will be responsible to reimburse the tenant for any emergency repairs that they had completed at their own expense.
In that case, you need to provide your landlord 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 you or your guest.
The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act does not have any information on emergency repairs, so it’s in your best interest to discuss the risks and best practices associated with vital, time-sensitive fixes that may arise during your tenancy prior to moving in.
The landlord is responsible for pest control and should address any such problems immediately. The tenant, meanwhile, is responsible for informing the landlord promptly if they discover any evidence of pests like mice, termites, or bedbugs. Tenants are also required to cooperate with pest control instructions or face possible eviction.
But perhaps most importantly: tenants are responsible for keeping their unit reasonably clean so as to discourage pests in the first place.
If your landlord fails to act once you have notified them of a pest problem, you may need to resolve the issue through a formal dispute resolution process. Once again, the specifics of this vary from province to province, so check the rules in your jurisdiction.
If you decide you would like to make some improvements to your rental property, BC law requires that you contact your landlord first.
If you make changes to the unit without consent, you must return it to its original condition when you vacate the unit. If you don’t, then your landlord can return it to its original condition and charge you for any costs.
If the value of the unit is reduced because of the changes you made, your landlord can claim from you the amount of the reduction in the value of the unit.
And if you make improvements which increase the value of the property without first getting the okay from the landlord, you may not legally be entitled to reimbursement of those improvement costs when you move out.
Be sure to get an agreement with the landlord in writing before you begin any improvements.
Details on you making your own improvements to the property are not covered in Ontario’s Rental Tenancies Act, unfortunately.
But, it does have a great deal of information on what to do if your landlord is planning such significant renovations that they would require your eviction from the property. You are required to be given a formal notice of termination of tenancy, including a full 60-day notice delivered to all tenants, and in these circumstances you and your evicted roommates will be given first right of refusal to resume your tenancy once the period of improvement ends.
If these repairs are not being ordered under the authority of the Residential Tenancies Act or another governing body, the building contains five or more units and you are not interested in exercising first right of refusal once the repair is completed, the landlord will be required to provide a comparable rental unit you deem acceptable or to give the equivalent of three months rent in compensation.
BC, meanwhile, also has rules for landlords that want to renovict their tenants.
As mentioned, tenants are responsible to repair any damage they or their guests have caused—excluding wear and tear.
If you have a roommate, you should have an agreement between you about who will repair what. If your roommate damages something, they should repair it (and the same goes for you). If either refuses to repair their damage, or moves out before repairs are done, the remaining roommate can get stuck with the bill.
If both roommates are on the same rental agreement, they are jointly liable not just for paying the rent, but also for the costs of any damage caused by either. That means that even if any damage is caused by your roommate who has now skipped town, you’d be responsible for the cost of any repairs.
If your landlord needs to make repairs, or enter the unit for any other reason, unless you allow access, your landlord needs to give you written notice a minimum of 24 hours in advance. If you have moved out or abandoned the unit, your landlord can enter without notice.
Your landlord can also enter the unit if necessary to protect life or property when an emergency exists.
In Ontario, your landlord can also enter your rental unit without prior notice if they are showing it to a prospective tenant after a mutual agreement to an end of your tenancy, and then only between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm and if they have made a reasonable attempt to notify you beforehand.
Tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment”. Intrustions on quiet enjoyment include:
If any of these things occur, your landlord may be required to pay you compensation.
Before you sign a lease on the dotted line, know what the rules are regarding repairs, maintenance, and improvements. If there is anything you’re uncertain about, get in touch with the agency that governs tenants and landlords in your province.
Want to learn more? Visit our Renter resource centre for more tips and information about life as a renter. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
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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