HOUSING: Home Maintenance and Repairs – U of T

HOUSING: Home Maintenance and Repairs – U of T


hi it’s Katrina and Ben back again I’m
Katrina and I’m Ben I’m from Housing services essential you’ve to service to
help students in their off-campus housing living experiences and I’m from
downtown legal services which is a student legal clinic here on campus we
have law students who provide legal advice and representation and other
forms of assistance in housing law, employment law, criminal law, refugee law,
family law and university affairs which is academic offenses and academic
Appeals so not very much so you may have seen our tenants rights chat which we
did last month and today we’re gonna deep dive into one of the more specific
topics that we covered which is maintenance and repairs hmm so Ben let’s
get started with a big question who is responsible for tenants maintenance
repairs well for the most part the landlord is we talked last time about
the Residential Tenancies Act which is this big sort of complete code or law
that covers most landlord and tenant relationships in Ontario and under the
RTA or Residential Tenancies Act it says that the landlord is responsible for
providing the rental unit which is like the place that you’re renting in a good
state of repair and fit for human habitation and consistent with local
housing and maintenance standards so that covers a wide range of things from
just the physical quality of the place that you’re living to whether there are
pests infested there and and it can cover other things that you might not
expect like cutting the grass and removing snow because it sort of
connects that that piece on local housing standards connects to city
bylaws that here in Toronto that the City of Toronto has passed and and
they’re they’re sort of similar all over the province but it really it matters
that you look at the bylaws in the city where you’re living and and those sort
of set out in more precise detail like all your cupboards have to have a knob
on them so that you can open them like simple
things that somebody took the time to spell out really carefully and so you
can figure out okay like there’s a crack in the wall that needs to be plastered
over well there’s actually a specific section of a bylaw about just that so
yeah so I think some of the big questions that I get because I work with
so many students who are renting and having all kinds of different rental
experiences are the really precise things mm-hmm so to clarify and you just
kind of covered it but let’s go into some really granular detail so if your
unit has a stove and an oven that comes with it and something goes wrong with
one of those those two or both right your landlord is the person who will be
responsible for both organizing the repair of so I mean they may not be
technically skilled enough to repair it but organizing that repair with a repair
person and paying for the cost of that correct it is and there’s always a few
extra details that that come with these sort of legal principles so broadly
speaking yeah it would be the landlord’s responsibility in a regular rental
relationship to take care of fixing these sort of major parts or things that
come with the apartment like a stove or an oven the law has added a few extra
details like the landlord is not generally held responsible for things
that they didn’t know about and couldn’t have known about so it’s the tenants job
usually to bring something to the attention of the landlord to let the
landlord know that that say the ovens not working there are always exceptions
to that like the landlord is expected to do sort
of regular let’s say annual maintenance inspections and kind of you know they
can’t treat every single thing that breaks as a complete surprise but a lot
of things that go wrong the first person who’s gonna know is the person living
there the tenant and it’s the landlord’s not going to be on the hook legally
until you can say that the landlord definitely knew about the problem how do
you prove that well if the best way is for the tenant to communicate with the
landlord in writing hey you know email text these are great ways to sort of
both let the landlord know that there’s a problem
or should hopefully respond to as quickly as they can and also for you to
later say if things don’t go according to plan or according to law
I let the landlord know so on this date and from this date forward they were
supposed to a fixed it that’s why we like to put things in writing especially
by email it’s a really great way to you can track information one of the other
small things I often get students asking about is light bulbs so I recently had
someone whose oven light burned out which you can understand might be a
little bit more finicky than other types of light bulbs right whose
responsibility is light bulbs and what general advice might we give about some
of those smaller items so it’s an important question it’s a question I
think that’s probably more and more common because the more of us who are
renting in brand-new condominiums the more real estate agents have been
involved in creating leases and a lot of the leases that I’ve seen lately that
have been created by real estate agents they’ve gotten a little creative and
they’ve taken a little creative license and they’ve said things like repairs
under $75 or the tenants responsibility if it’s an RTA tenancy then in my
opinion that’s actually an illegal clause it’s not enforceable but you know
the landlord might not know that the real estate agent might not know that and so
you might have a situation where a landlord thinks that’s something little
like a light bulb the tenant should take care of that that’s what a reasonable
person would do but technically the law on in the RTA would say like if there’s
supposed to be a light on in the room or there supposed to be light available in
the room and the light bulb goes out that’s no longer in a good state of
repair so technically it’s the landlords job to replace the light bulb for
repairs like this you know of course the law doesn’t require the landlord to
personally come and do everything themselves they can hire other people
contractors property you know you know maintenance people to show up and
perform some of these tasks on their behalf and in fact a lot of tenants will
if they’re on good terms with their landlord can just agree to do it to do
the fix if it’s simple enough themselves on behalf of the landlord so if you
think there’s something simple like changing a light bulb or even calling
somebody you say your landlord is not even around or not- they don’t live in Toronto and you want to maintain a good relationship with your
landlord you could offer to to call you know a plumber if you need one to come
and take care of the problem as long as you’re documenting that the landlord
says yes I want you to do that and yes of course
I’ll pay for it like whether they explicitly authorize you to deduct the
cost from your next month’s rent or whatever but the key thing is you’re not
required legally to do any of this but tenant if they were in a bad
relationship with their landlord might just say you come and fix the light bulb
you come in and and maybe with something more technical like a light that’s
inside an oven you know the tenant might want to say I don’t really want to mess
around inside something like this and then later get blamed if something else
goes wrong right like it’s it’s all what you’re comfortable with absolutely and
it’s October now so it’s gonna start to get colder mhm and one of the other big
ones we see is snow shoveling mm-hmm so students who might rent a floor of a
house like a basement or just like you know one of the floors who are signed up
by their landlord to do snow shoveling as part of their rental mm-hmm pretty
common all over the province and same with cutting in the grass right if the
landlord’s not nearby they figure out we’ll put that in the least make the
tenants do it again the law says that in particular because keeping the snow way
the walkways clear of snow and keeping the lawn
reasonably cut are parts of the local city maintenance bylaw that’s why they
become part of the maintenance standard that the RTA assigns to the landlord so
for the most part those clauses are illegal the landlord can’t make the
tenant shovel the snow or cut the grass except and I’m sorry these are really
ridiculous little legal technicalities except if the landlord creates a scheme
with the tenant where they pay the tenant a separate amount of money to
that to hire them basically to be the snow removal person or to be the lawn
cutter and then there’s all this stuff in the law about how that has to be a
severable contract so something the tenant can opt out of at any time and
can and I mean frankly I’ve never seen it I’ve never seen a valid example of
this it’s always just the landlord try to add it to the tenants list of
responsibilities and most of the time that’s just not legal right that’s super helpful for people to know,
especially as tenants sign new leases hmm and speaking of new leases what
happens if a tenant is looking to rent somewhere new but there are maintenance
or repair issues so the Act helpfully and by the act I mean the RTA the
Residential Tenancies Act it it spells out to be really clear that just because
there’s a problem with the place you’re renting when you first see it doesn’t
mean that the tenant has accepted that that problem or that the landlord’s
allowed to say well you knew what you were renting you knew this was a you
know that this place was kind of busted up no actually a tenant generally it’s a
good idea and we talked about this last video to try to get a look at the place
that you’re gonna be renting before you actually put up money for it but if
there are problems you know usually tenants are gonna point them out to
landlords and say you know this are you gonna fix this and when are you gonna
fix this and it would be smart for a tenant to do this and a document for
their own records because the other side of the coin here is that tenants are
responsible for any damage that they willfully or negligently cause unless
it’s kind of regular wear and tear and we can’t get those debates about wood
floors or whatever can I pause you for a second? yeah so even though a landlord might be
responsible for regular maintenance and repairs what happens if someone sort of
negligently or allows their guests to do something like threw a party and your
friend punches a hole in the closet door but the landlord can prove that it was
more likely to be have been you or your roommate or your guests fault and not
just something that happened through regular wear and tear then they can hold
you responsible they can even evict you if you don’t pay for the cost of the
repair so you can imagine that there are a whole bunch of things that the tenant
says I didn’t do this, it’s broken the landlord’s job it’s a landlord job
to fix it and the landlord says well I think how do I know you didn’t break it
and and that’s especially the case when you move in you want to say okay right
from the get-go this is the condition that I found a place in I didn’t do any
of this stuff you want to document take photos and writing email – list what the items are
and from from the very beginning these are the problems I observed and that’s
even if you’re you know say there’s a the floors a little bit scratched up and
you don’t want to insist on a repair but you also want to make sure that you
bring it to the landlord’s attention so that it’s clear you didn’t put those
scratches in the floor so I guess I have this question both about someone who’s
newly moving into a space or someone who’s just been living a space and is
experiencing a need for maintenance or repair what happens if it’s not getting
done right so there are a couple options actually the I’ve been talking a lot
about city bylaw and the the Toronto property standards bylaw is what kind of
governs most of these rules and there are some additional rules made by the
public health department there’s a minimum temperature bylaw all of that is
enforced by the city so if you live in the city of Toronto our advice would
typically be you dial three one one that gets you connected to all the city
services and then on the phone you say I want municipal licensing and standards
that’s the department you want to talk to and I and I want them to send out a
property inspector so ml and s municipal licensing standards as part of the city
that can send inspectors out to any rental unit whether you’re in a basement
apartment or a high-rise and if it’s a high-rise there’s actually they’ve got a
new kind of enhanced group called rent safe TO and they they go around and do
their own inspections even when the tenants don’t ask
but either way getting somebody from the city to inspect and walking around with
them and pointing out like how about this problem how about this problem
allows them if your landlords not doing anything about it to make an order and
this that order comes from the city and the city is supposed to follow up and
enforce that order with the landlord the landlord can be charged and fined if the
landlord doesn’t actually make the repair within say 30 60 or 90 days
whatever the city sets out for them and then your other option if you want to
get some compensation so you want to get your rent reduced for the months that
you had to put up with the problem or even worse if the problem of a
maintenance problem led to some of your belongings being damaged or are you
having out of expenses like you could imagine if your
landlords not fixing your refrigerator a bunch of your foods gonna spoil and
you’re gonna have extra costs there you got a document all of those costs keep
your receipts take lots of photos there’s some kind of a theme here put
lots of things in writing and then within one year of the problem, a tenant is
allowed to bring an application against their landlord at the landlord and
tenant board it’s called a t-6 application it’s a form you can fill out
and and file and and then and there you’re the one who would have to prove
this is the problem this is why it you know why my place was not in a good
state of repair on this date this is when I let the landlord know about it
and here’s all the time that went by with them not really doing anything or
not doing anything effective and then here’s all the things that I lost and if
a tenant can prove all of those things the landlord tenant board can order the
landlord first of all do the repair if it hasn’t been done yet and secondly pay
the tenant an amount of money that is fair that’s really helpful are there any
final things you’d like to tell students about maintenance repairs yeah I mean
that’s something we touched on earlier but you talking to your landlords good
and you know there’s a lot of technical standards that you’re not really gonna
necessarily want to enforce until you get the sense that the landlord’s just
not taking it seriously so for example it’s a maintenance standard that your
unit has to be 21 degrees Celsius from September 1st until June 15th you can
imagine that if we just had a like a mid-october heat wave that the landlord
you probably don’t want your landlord firing up the furnace right like justing
because you know it takes some time true so you know if the if the temperature of
your unit dips to 19 degrees right in the middle of September maybe don’t you
know go ham on your landlord maybe don’t maybe you don’t kind of get you make it
like you want to document this kind of thing but if you are cold even for example, I once had an apartment that was 14 degrees all
winter, you can get a digital thermostat or digital
thermometer I bought mine from the Canadian Tire, it was $10
and it tells me precisely what the temperature is and so I was able to
track that over the course of an entire month my place was dipping down to 14
degrees many many days and that’s an opportunity to have taken photos and
said here’s some evidence that this is abnormally cold for an abnormally long
that that’s smart and not only smart that’s kind of what you have to do like
it’s not I’ve seen when these cases get all the way to landlord-tenant board and
the tenant says I was really cold I had to put on extra socks when I went to bed
not good enough what you have to do to get legal damages is basically have a
series of photos of you holding up your thermometer in the middle of the room
not near the window showing that you’re below minimum temperature so it can get
tricky and you can end up in kind of a big battle with your landlord and you
want to hope to avoid that but you want to cover yourself by taking that
documentation I would say in general raising issues early on and raising them in
writing and being clear with what you want to have done is important so you
know if you’re okay with you know the ovens still not really working but the
stove is a huge priority for you you can let your landlord know both of these things
are an issue it’s really urgent for me to have the stove fixed if someone can
come in in due time to get the oven you know that’s the order I’m prioritizing
it but ideally both are getting repaired you don’t have to live without things
being repaired or maintained properly um but you should be putting things in
writing and you should be following up with your landlord we know we all get
tons of emails we all get tons of messages throughout our days and so
sometimes they can lose track of that but that work is really on you to make
sure that you’re kind of reminding them and pushing to get what you need to have
done and it is for your benefit you pushing your landlord to complete a
repair or do some maintenance is for your own benefits that’s worth it’s
worth doing even if it feels like some work upfront and I had one more thing
which is you know it’s very different if you’re renting a condo from one
individual landlord or maybe renting a basement from landlord who lives right
upstairs then if you’re in a traditional apartment building and if you’re in a
traditional apartment building and you’re having regular maintenance issues
not just inside your apartment but maybe you’re having issues with the common
areas of the building the walkway is crumbling the
elevators are constantly broken down talk to your neighbors
I mean the way that people in these kinds of buildings have normally turned
things around maintenance and repair wise is by forming tenants associations
and you know students are often I’m really proud to say like at the
forefront of that because we have time in the middle of the day to call our
local city councilor and and do that sort of organizing work that people who
work a nine-to-five might not normally so there are a lot of great stories over
the years of U of T students partnering with other members of the community
around campus just to sort of fix up things in their building or finally
force their landlord to do that and if you can get together with other tenants
in your building it’s a great opportunity to sort of develop community
with your neighbors and and and make sure that you’re not shouldering all
this work all this documentation on your own of course that makes sense so next
month we’ll be covering pests so to give people a little sample of what’s to come
what about maintenance around pests so if you know evidence of pests are there
and a tenant notifies their landlord with them yeah well I mean the thing and
I’m sure you’ll talk about it more next month but the legal thing to be
consistent to concern yourself with is that bedbugs cockroaches you know maybe
especially bedbugs will say I think are the worst case scenario most of your
losses most of the things that are gonna cost you money happen right away I mean
the minute you discover bedbugs you’re gonna have some stuff that you might
have to throw out you’re gonna have a lot of stuff that you have to clean and
bag up and it’s a huge headache and unfortunately in most cases if you can’t
prove that the landlord is the one who let the bedbugs into your apartment and
who knows you know bedbugs are really hard to trace that’s how we end up with
them right is that they there they they hitchhike on on people’s clothing and
and it’s really difficult to track where they come from
usually it’s nobody’s fault that the bedbugs are there so the real question
is how quick is the landlord responding and a good landlord is gonna call pest
management company and and pest control is going to start treating the unit
by doing heat treatments or by spraying and you have to cooperate with your
landlord on that if you don’t potentially not only are you not gonna
be able to complain when the landlord when you haven’t got rid of your pests
but also your landlord might be able to evict you for sort of getting in the way
of eradicating the pests because pests in one unit could very quickly spread to
the next one in the next one in the next one so it’s a it’s it’s something that
is kind of horrible to live through and the law often doesn’t really give you
kind of great responses a lot of people end up losing valuable time and
belongings and yeah I would say that that’s you know there are specific tips
about how to like you know find bed bugs and I would say heat treatments if you
had but have bed bugs heat treatments are generally the best but yeah maybe as
a preventive tip think twice before picking up some furniture that’s free on
the side of the road and bringing it home like that lately has become kind of
a big mistake for a lot of people – we have a question thanks for watching Oh ok I’m going to read this to you can they hear me? Ok I’ll try to speak loudly My kitchen ventilation has been an issue for one year like it only works when I put it to the highest level but now it cannot be shut down. We use it just as it is um in regular and we tenants also missed the maintenance provided by the building since we were not at home during maintenance time uh so who should be responsible for fixing it? and how should I tell my landlord? yeah I think it does I mean it sounds
like you’ve got a fan like in your kitchen and you can tell that it’s not
operating the way it’s supposed to you’re supposed to be able to shut it
off your sounds like there’s a middle mode and a high mode and that side
they’re getting stuck on one or the other
I mean if that’s something you can observe you would think it’s something
that a city bylaw inspector could observe but before you go that far I
mean it’s everything we’ve talked about Katrina mentioned right away you you
want to make sure you’ve written this down like an email or if not if your
landlord doesn’t have email sometimes they have a maintenance request forms
fill one out take a photo of whatever you’re sending your landlord so that you
have a copy and a record of that but you should describe exactly what’s
malfunctioning and if you’re not the one who caused that problem then it’s on the
landlord to fix it I mean it’s actually on the landlord to fix it even if you
did cause the problem and then they would send you the bill but this doesn’t
sound like something that you would have caused it sounds like just you know a
part of your kitchen that’s old and breaking down and needs to be replaced
so yeah absolutely this is something you should complain your landlord about
because it sounds like when it’s stuck on all the time I bet that’s making
noise that that might be disturbing your sleep or your study habits and if it’s
if it’s not actually clearing food smells out of your kitchen that worse
that could maybe be a fire hazard if you got a lot of smoke building up so I I
don’t know I mean it it sounds like something that your landlord should take
care of as soon as they’ve been made aware but I don’t I don’t know if this
person how should they tell their landlord? that’s the question too, like how how do you bring this up with the landlord? If you’re feeling a little nervous about it right okay because this is maybe a
general point to write about like I’m not wanting to everyone just rock the
boat right and I think you know you can email your landlord and put in all kinds
of language to sort of cover yourself a little bit or make sure that it comes
across the way you want it to dear landlord I’m you know I’m not
trying to this is a this is a minor issue I’m not trying to be difficult but
I thought I should let you know and then describe the problem and ask if there’s
any way that the landlord could fix it that’s a good starting point because you
know on the flip side of this idea that well if it’s below a certain kind of
level of seriousness I don’t want to tell the landlord is we’ve had clients
whose landlords get angry when they find when they discover a problem that
existed for a long time and the tenants never said anything sometimes problems
if they’re not fixed early can develop into bigger problems that ultimately
cost the landlord more money like the landlord owns this property they should
care about all of the parts of it and and hopefully they care about also your
experience too so I yeah I think talking talking to them
about it’s super important I’m a big proponent of putting things in writing
but that if you have an OK relationship with them if they’re around it doesn’t
have to be your first means to go through writing you could talk to in
person hey I’m having a really good time living
here I do have one problem that kitchen fan of mine for a whole year now it’s it
has to go up to max in order to get it to work and now it’s really not working
and it’s been driving me nuts and I think it’s a safety concern could you
come in and take a look at it in the next week yeah and see and invite them
to participate but if they’re not really taking up your invitation then you know
you can present them with the law so steps to justice a really epic website
and the link for that will be in in the comments of our video it’s already there
actually that’s a website that essentially will tell you what the law
states it’s not an interpretation of the law it’s not going to give you legal
advice in terms of your unique situation but it does say what the law
with what the law encompasses and in nice plain language that everyone can
understand so you could go on and you could you could look for the the section
that’s on maintenance repairs and you could send that to your landlord it very
clearly states that maintenance and repairs of things that come with the
unit appliances like a kitchen fan are a landlord’s responsibility both to
actually you know organize and fund and so you could just send that to your
landlord if you’re not really getting the kind of response that you want from
your initial request to have it looked at mm-hmm definitely definitely bring it
up with them though mm-hmm I think that will take you far too they shouldn’t
just have one one maintenance repair day and then no more for the rest of
year that’s not how maintenance repairs work yeah of course the landlord’s got a
come I mean the landlord gets some flexibility and the time that they come
and I thought we should maybe also address that you know as long as your
landlord gives you 24 hours notice they can come to your apartment during the
mid like as long as it’s in the daytime and not late at night or way early in
the morning and you don’t need to be there they like if you’re able to be
there great that’s the point of getting the notice but if you have something
else they should have a key they should be able to let themselves and they
should be able to make the fix but but they shouldn’t be able to limit it to
just things that you point out if you’re there on the spot I mean that’s why you
can communicate with your landlord and hopefully like we’re saying at least at
some point in writing so as Ben mentioned before so let’s say we’ve kind
of gone down this road so you spoken your landlord in person you’ve made the
request you followed that up with an email hey landlord it was nice chatting
with you in the hallway earlier today as I mentioned our kitchen fan has been
working could you kindly come by and assist with this or or you said you’d
come by on Thursday confirming that this was something we agreed to then let’s
say they don’t do anything about it then maybe you send them what Steps to Justice the link with the what the law says right you you say oh sorry landlord says
I wasn’t really I was really trying to negotiate whether or not you’d come in I
am asking that you come in per your obligation as a landlord here’s the link
that shows that all right let’s say they ignore you a little bit more and it
continues that’s when maybe you call Municipal Licensing and Standards and get an inspector to come in um because then
that escalates it in full recognition this stuff doesn’t happen overnight it
doesn’t happen instantaneously it could take a couple of weeks to get the get
the ball rolling but doing it now and seeing what it can lead to is better
than just not doing it because it might take too long or waiting when you’ll end
up a can’t wait even longer mm-hmm yeah and I mean we should also emphasize that
I don’t know how bad your kitchen fan is and how how far off of normal its
operating it’s always up to you you have you as long as you’ve let your landlord
know you’ve done your job and if you decide that any of these other steps
aren’t worth it right now but then your landlord does something else or
something else breaks that they’re also not fixing you know you might down the
road later this year decide you know what yeah we are gonna push all of this
as long as you’ve let your landlord know and giving them every opportunity to
make the repair then you know you it’s not then you can choose how much further
to take it it’s it depends on how important it is to you because we should
acknowledge all of this all this takes time unfortunately it takes time and
it’s and you may not enjoy these kinds of confrontations very few people do so
you know we should recognize that obviously there’s only something you’re
gonna bring up if you think you know it’s worth it and usually it might be I
mean I think it might be the case that there’s a that the fire code requires a
certain level of ventilation in the kitchen I don’t know if you’re getting
that or not but it might be something that the city would be interested in very happy with that answer okay great thank you for watching we’re
glad you’re here amazing thanks for joining us okay well we think that’s it
that’s the end of our maintenance repairs you rent thanks for joining us
thank you