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Dangerous Premises

Tenant Safety in British Columbia: Understanding Landlord Responsibilities

Recent years have marked a shift in the British Columbia housing landscape. According to the 2021 census, the province now has more than 660,000 rental households. The number of renters surged between 2011 and 2021 to more than triple the homeowner rate in that same period. As more British Columbians choose tenancy, it’s imperative to understand tenant rights and protections. The Residential Tenancy Act states the rules that both tenants and landlords must adhere to, including stipulations regarding the duty of landlords to a tenant.

Condition Inspections

A landlord’s primary duty to their tenant is to keep the property in good, livable condition. That begins with conducting a thorough inspection. Inspections must be completed at the start and end of each tenancy. Both the landlord and the tenant must be present and sign off on the inspection findings. These inspections are necessary to ensure the property is safe, clean, and habitable for the tenant.

Landlord Repair Obligations

While a tenant lives at their property, a landlord must handle any internal or external health, safety, or housing issues. This includes not only handling routine maintenance but also addressing emergencies. Any issues inside the home that could potentially cause harm to the tenant or the property itself must be resolved promptly. These include:

  • Major pipe or roof leaks
  • Water, sewer, or plumbing pipe and fixture damages or blockages
  • Heating systems issues
  • Electrical systems issues
  • Structural or integral property damages

Repairs should be completed at no cost to the tenant unless the tenant is determined to be at fault for the issues.

Terminating/Restricting Services or Facilities

Essential services like water or facilities like laundry rooms are essential for a tenant to live comfortably. Landlords cannot cut off access to any resources that would make it unsafe, unhealthy, impossible, or impractical for the tenant to continue living there. However, services or facilities deemed non-essential may be restricted or terminated by the landlord if they provide 30 days written notice to the tenant and reduce the cost of rent equal to the loss of service or facility value.

Right to Enter

Even though a landlord is the rightful owner of a unit, that doesn’t give them the power to come into a unit at their discretion. There are only a handful of situations that permit landlords unrestricted access to their properties:

  • Prior permission from the tenant is granted to the landlord
  • Services listed in the tenancy agreement are performed by the landlord
  • The unit has been abandoned
  • There is an emergency need to protect life or the property
  • An inspection must be carried out

Is Your Apartment Safe?

Despite these regulations, not all landlords maintain their properties, which can lead to dangerous premises for tenants. Accidents and injuries can occur as a result of landlord neglect or failure to rectify property issues in a timely manner. If you are a tenant in British Columbia and have been hurt due to the failure of your landlord to complete routine maintenance or emergency repairs, you might be entitled to compensation under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. To find answers, reach out to the team at Stephens & Holman.