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Are Tenants or Landlords Responsible for Seasonal Maintenance?

Whether you rent out an apartment, detached home, or townhouse, seasonal maintenance is essential to your rental business’s success. Yes, these routine tasks can be inconvenient and time-consuming. But maintaining a seasonal maintenance routine will help prevent costly repairs down the road. Plus, keeping your property in good order will help to attract and retain quality tenants. 

However, a key question lingering in your mind may be this: are you, as the landlord, responsible for seasonal maintenance? Or can you delegate some, or all, of these tasks to your tenant?

To answer this question, we’ll explore what various regulatory bodies across Canada have to say on the topic. And we’ll outline different rules of thumb you can use to determine whether you or your tenant is responsible for various maintenance tasks.

What does the law say about rental property maintenance?

The rules and regulations in Canada surrounding rental property maintenance aren’t always clear. As a result, figuring out which seasonal tasks belong to you and which to your tenant can be tricky.

The short answer is this: the landlord and tenant are both responsible for the seasonal maintenance of a rental. But there are differences regarding the specific tasks each performs based on legal requirements and various criteria, such as the scope and complexity of the job.

Here’s what several provinces have to say about seasonal maintenance:

Ontario

According to section 20 of Ontario’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA),

“A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.”

Regarding tenants, section 33 of the RTA states:

“The tenant is responsible for ordinary cleanliness of the rental unit, except to the extent that the tenancy agreement requires the landlord to clean it.”

Thus, the landlord is responsible for all maintenance in a rental property.

Unfortunately, the RTA is murky regarding the details. It fails to specify what “maintenance” includes. And it doesn’t differentiate it from general cleaning duties, which is the tenant’s job.

Naturally, the unclear explanation presents some problems. For example, who’s in charge of shovelling the snow during the winter, the landlord or tenant?

This particular issue was resolved by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case Montgomery v. Van. The Court’s interpretation of the law was that snow-clearing duties rest squarely with the landlord. However, a landlord can still enter into a deal with the tenant (separate from the lease agreement), where the tenant assumes responsibility for the task.

As a result of this court case, tenants can still carry out certain maintenance duties even if, legally, they’re the landlord’s responsibility. After all, the tenant has a legal obligation to keep the property clean; a task like clearing snow from the walkway would reasonably qualify under this requirement.

But, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the common areas of an apartment or condo complex. For example, they must remove snow from shared walkways.

British Columbia

British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) states the following regarding landlord and tenant maintenance duties:

1) A landlord must provide and maintain residential property in a state of decoration and repair that

 (a)complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law, and

(b)having regard to the age, character and location of the rental unit, makes it suitable for occupation by a tenant.

 2) A tenant must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit and the other residential property to which the tenant has access.

 Though the legislation is unclear, additional details are provided in the Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline document. Suppose the rental is a single-family home, and the tenant has exclusive use of the yard. In that case, they’re responsible for basic outdoor maintenance, such as:

  •         cutting grass
  •         clearing snow
  •         weeding flower beds

However, the landlord bears responsibility for these duties if the property is a multi-unit residential complex. And regardless of the property type, the landlord is accountable for complex projects, such as pruning, tree cutting, and pest control.

Alberta

Alberta’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) requires that landlords meet the Minimum Housing and Health Standards contained in the Public Health Act. Essentially, it means that the property must be safe to live in. The Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program provides a good overview of these requirements.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, the tenant’s maintenance duties are specified as follows under section 21 (c):

“That the tenant will maintain the premises and any property rented with it in a reasonably clean condition.”

As in Ontario, what constitutes maintenance and cleanliness is vague. However, guidelines from Service Alberta present more details regarding tenants’ duties:

“A tenant who rents a single-family home, townhouse or duplex, and has the exclusive use of the yard or part of the yard, is generally responsible for routine yard maintenance and snow removal”

As a result, the tenant is accountable for some outdoor maintenance, as these tasks help to ensure the rental is clean. They may also do minor indoor repairs that require little effort or special tools, such as changing light bulbs.

Quebec

Section 1864 of Quebec’s Civil Code notes the following:

“The lessor is bound, during the term of the lease, to make all necessary repairs to the leased property other than minor maintenance repairs, which are assumed by the lessee unless they result from the age of the property or superior force.”

In Quebec, the landlord must ensure their rental property is clean and in good repair so it’s habitable for tenants. They’re required to perform all urgent and necessary repairs.

On the other hand, tenants are usually in charge of simple maintenance, like filling in small holes in walls or touching them up with paint.

 

Rental property seasonal maintenance – general rules for landlords and tenants

Provincial regulations related to seasonal maintenance are fuzzy regarding which tasks belong to you and which to your tenants. However, there are rules of thumb you can use to help you make the determination.

As the landlord, you’re generally responsible for the following:

  • Maintenance of all shared areas, such as hallways
  • Outdoor maintenance in multi-home buildings, such as apartment and condo complexes
  • Maintenance related to tasks that are extensive and complex 

Your tenant is generally responsible for the following:

  • Ensuring the living space is kept clean (including outdoor areas they have exclusive access to)
  • Basic maintenance that requires little knowledge, effort, or tools to carry out
  • Conducting simple tests to ensure every device in the rental is working (but not doing any major repairs)

Home and apartment maintenance checklist

Landlord’s responsibilities:

  •         Inspecting the HVAC system and repairing it if necessary
  •         Cleaning the eavestroughs and gutters
  •         Washing the window exteriors
  •         Clearing the property of any pests
  •         Inspecting the roof for loose or damaged shingles and installing replacements if necessary
  •         Fixing major leaks in pipes
  •         Replacing or fixing damaged smoke alarms
  •         Repairing or replacing appliances included in the rent fee
  •         Cleaning the dryer vents
  •         Turning on/off the hose bibs and taps

Tenant’s responsibilities:

  •         Replacing the HVAC filter
  •         Replacing burnt-out light bulbs
  •         Patching up small holes in walls
  •         Washing window interiors
  •         Cleaning carpet stains
  •         Testing smoke alarms and replacing the battery if needed
  •         Removing garbage from the property
  •         Inspecting the rental unit for leaky pipes
  •         Testing the air conditioning unit
  •         Checking for mold
  •         Testing the thermostat and replacing the battery if needed
  •         Inspecting appliances to ensure they work properly
  •         Checking faucets and taps for water pressure

Outdoor maintenance checklist

Landlord’s responsibilities:

  •         Trimming trees and shrubs
  •         Cutting grass (if the rental unit is part of an apartment or condo complex)
  •         Inspecting trees for damaged limbs
  •         Removing dead plants
  •         Power washing the deck and porch
  •         Painting the exterior, including the doors
  •         Removing snow from walkways and driveways (if the rental unit is part of an apartment or condo complex)

Tenant’s responsibilities:

  •         Cutting grass (if they have exclusive access to the yard)
  •         Raking leaves (if they have exclusive access to the yard)
  •         Clearing snow (if they have exclusive access to the walkway, driveway, etc)
  •         Removing garbage and debris from outdoor areas that are part of the rental property
  •         Clearing weeds from the yard and flower beds

Our Final Thoughts

If you’re unclear about whether you can delegate specific maintenance tasks to your tenant, refer to your province’s tenancy legislation. Read any guidelines your jurisdiction makes available to gather more in-depth details.

By default, assume you’re responsible for all seasonal maintenance, with the exception of simple cleaning duties. This is particularly true if your rental property is a multi-home dwelling with shared spaces.

However, arranging with your tenant to perform simple repairs and maintenance is acceptable and customary. Some examples are inspecting appliances, changing light bulbs, and washing the window interiors.

 

Regarding outdoor maintenance, tenants are usually in charge of raking leaves, shovelling snow, pulling weeds, and related tasks if the property is a single-unit home.

One final note: your tenant is financially responsible for covering any excessive damage they cause to your rental property, either willfully or through neglect.

However, let’s say they refuse to repair the damage, and their security deposit is insufficient to cover the expenses. In that case, you could get on the hook for hefty repair bills, which can put a severe dent in your bottom line.

SingleKey’s Rent Guarantee program works to offset this risk to your rental business by reimbursing you for up to $10,000 in property damage caused by a delinquent tenant. Plus, you’ll also receive up to $1,500 in legal fees if you need to carry out an eviction – and access to your own paralegal team!

 

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