If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you have likely dealt with a leaky faucet, burst pipes, busted heater—the list could surely go on. As students begin giving up and picking up leases, winter is a good time to discuss information on a tenant’s rights and obligations under Quebec law when dealing with pesky repairs in a rental apartment.
Who is responsible for repairs?
The law in Quebec states that lesser maintenance repairs of a dwelling are the responsibility of the tenant; however, the tenant is not responsible for repairs that result from the normal aging of the property. The tenant must also maintain the rental dwelling in clean condition and, at the end of the lease, the tenant must return the dwelling in the same condition in which it was received (notwithstanding changes that result from aging or fair wear and tear). This obligation may require the tenant to complete some work or repairs.
Anything other than lesser maintenance repairs are the responsibility of the landlord. The law also binds the landlord to make all “necessary” repairs to the property during the term of the lease—not necessarily any and all repairs that the tenant requests. The lease itself may outline other repairs the landlord has agreed to make.
The Régie du logement
When a landlord and tenant are unable to resolve a dispute, either side may file an application at the Régie du logement, the specialized tribunal that handles issues arising from residential leases. The Régie operates like a court in that a hearing is held before a commissioner who listens to all of the evidence, witnesses, and arguments of both parties before making a decision.
Notifying the landlord
The tenant is responsible for informing the landlord of any serious problems with the dwelling within a reasonable time. The Régie recommends that tenants deliver notices with proof of receipt, such as by registered mail or person-to-person with confirmation. The Régie also recommends that tenants keep a copy of any written notices they have sent and keep track of dates and times of phone calls.
Allowing the repairs to be carried out
The law requires that the landlord provides a notice of his or her intention to carry out work 24-hours ahead of time, and the tenant can deny the landlord access to do so between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. In the event that the work is urgent, these requirements do not apply.
When the landlord does not respond or does not act to carry out the repairs
When the landlord fails to carry out repairs while he or she legally required to do so, the tenant can apply to the Régie for authorization to go ahead and carry out the repairs. If the Régie agrees with the tenant, it will set conditions and maximum monetary amount that can be spent on repairs, which are later deducted from the rent.
The “urgent and necessary repairs” standard
The law allows for an additional option where the repairs in question are considered “urgent and necessary,” and is only available where the repairs are required to “ensure the preservation or enjoyment of the leased property.” The Régie calls this an “exceptional measure” and urges tenants to exercise great caution in applying it. This recourse allows the tenant to undertake repairs or incur expenses without the Régie’s authorization. The tenant has to have informed—or attempted to inform—the landlord, but the landlord has not acted in due course. The landlord can intervene at any time to continue and complete the work, and the tenant can be reimbursed only for the reasonable expenses incurred.
What constitutes “urgent and necessary” is vague, since the law does not specify it, nor what are considered reasonable expenses. It is possible that the tenant, the landlord, and the Régie will not agree on what is “urgent and necessary,” but the Régie provides some useful examples on its website www.rdl.gouv.qc.ca.
The above information is of a general nature, and is not a legal opinion or legal advice. If you require legal advice, the Legal Information Clinic at McGill can assist you with referrals. To obtain free legal information on a specific question, you can call or come by the office to make an appointment, located on the main floor of the SSMU Building.