Property Maintenance – Someone’s Gotta Do It
What are tenants responsible for?
Renters often get a bad rap – a reputation as messy, careless and disrespectful to properties. This is really unfortunate given the majority of renters who do treat their rental home like it was their own.
Maintaining a property is the shared responsibility of both landlords and tenants. Landlords must ensure it is clean, safe and livable before new tenants move in but once in, the best way to ensure everything is tickity-boo is to keep communication lines open and be neighbourly!
The upkeep of a property benefits all parties and thus, playing your part is key to enjoying your apartment and helps ensure a landlord treats you well. Here we’ve outlined some simple, common sense responsibilities that tenants should be aware of:
Seems basic, but it must be reiterated. Clearing your home of trash is your responsibility and is step 1 to keeping your place in decent condition. Make sure you ask your landlord where garbage chutes, recycling bins, and building garbage facilities are located and on what day the garbage is picked up.
Your landlord must ensure a property is pest free before you move in and ensure there are no possible entry points for pests. However, once you’ve moved in, should poor hygienic habit attract rodents, it will be your responsibility to pay for removal.
Generally, the tenant in a single-family home is responsible for basic yard work including cutting the grass and basic weeding. The landlord should make these expectations clear to the tenant and indicate where the necessary tools are for performing these tasks. The tenant shouldn’t embark on any major landscaping efforts (i.e. digging new flower beds etc.) without expressly consulting the landlord.
Proper Appliance Use
The basic maintenance of appliances is the domain of landlords as is the replacement or repairs related to standard wear and tear; however, if you decide to wash 10 beach towels, throwing off the washer’s calibration, then it is you, the tenant, who must pay for the appliance repair.
Smoke detectors are a seemingly small concern, but their implications are big and important. A landlord is required to replace batteries in fire alarms but, as a tenant, you must ensure they remain active. If alarm starts to sound, indicating low battery or other malfunction, contact your landlord immediately to let them know. A landlord must investigate this immediately. Insurance policies hinge upon the presence of a working fire prevention plan which, of course, includes smoke detectors. The expectation is that landlords conduct an annual test of fire alarms and replace batteries as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is also highly recommended that landlords consider installing smoke alarms that have carbon monoxide (CO) detection built-in or separate stand-alone CO detectors.
It is the tenant’s responsibility to adhere to civic bylaws and clear snow from walkways and sidewalks around a property. This applies to homes, not apartment buildings where a building manager is typically responsible for snow removal.
Light Bulbs and Fuses
Before moving in, a landlord should make sure all light bulbs and fuses are in working order. Once you are in, you will be responsible for replacing light bulbs and standard fuses unless caused by a malfunctioning electrical system, in which case, that is the landlord’s responsibility.
Contacting the landlord
If you are ever in doubt over the division of labour, it is always best to contact the landlord even if it is simply to ask permission to perform a repair or contact a service provider. Oftentimes, landlords rely on a tried and tested list of repairmen and will recommend someone. It is also important to discuss payment responsibilities.
Every province has slightly different guidelines governing responsibilities. Make sure you research your legal obligations and regularly discuss expectations with your landlord. In BC, refer to the Policy Guidelines – Landlord and Tenants Responsibilities.