Top 5 things renters should know about damage to their home

Posted by on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 at 1:05pm.

Recent wildfires in Northern Alberta have caused us to think long and hard about what’s important.  What would you grab in the event of a fire, how should you prepare for a fire, how to fireproof your home and its surroundings and what type of insurance should you have.  These are just some of the things that Canadians have thought about as we have watched the startling images from Fort McMurray this month.

Those fortunate to have escaped this can still take away the lessons learned especially landlords and renters.  Here are some things you should know if you rent out property or if you are in a lease yourself as compiled by The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA), a non-profit organization decided to keep the public informed of their rights.

Paying Rent

Tenants of a rented property are obligated to pay rent unless the tenancy has been, in legalese, frustrated.  Frustrated in this context means that an event has occurred that is beyond the control of either the landlord or the tenant and has rendered the agreement virtually impossible.  That event could be when the property has been destroyed completely or unreasonably damaged or condemned.  The tenant must provide written notice about ending the tenancy and receive permission.  So both parties must communicate with each other in the event of a devastating fire.

Damaged Property

It’s the responsibility of the tenant to ask for rent abatement if the property is not livable (or gone).  From a legal point of view, applications for this can be made in a court or provincial office where Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Services are available.   This is only if there’s a dispute and a landlord becomes unreasonable about whether a property is habitable or not.   If the property is damaged and not obliterated and there is some confusion as to whether it’s inhabitable, you can consult with a public health inspector or a municipal by-law enforcement officer for back up.  In Alberta, a health inspector can be contacted through Health Link by calling 811.

Who is responsible for damaged goods?

Tenants should have tenant’s insurance, without a doubt so that damaged or destroyed items can be replaced.  In terms of the property, the landlord’s insurance company should pay for property repairs or replacement when appropriate.  It’s not the landlord’s responsibility to replace the tenants items lost in a fire.

Can landlords enter the tenant’s home after an event?

Whether fire or flood, a landlord by law still has to provide at minimum 24-hours’ notice.  That’s completely from a legal point of view.  No doubt there will be immediate communication following a damaging event but you should know that the landlord just can’t bust in without giving you a day’s notice.  What if there’s a fire or flood inside your home and you’re not around?  If you believe your landlord’s actions didn’t have just cause you may want to consider some dispute resolution.

What about your damage deposit?

The CPLEA says that your landlord can’t take your security or damage deposit and use it to cover repairs as a result of a fire.  It’s supposed to be there in case you, as the tenant, didn’t pay rent or caused damage or if your property required extra cleaning.  The landlord could use the deposit if you couldn’t live in the property any longer and you, as the tenant, didn’t provide the proper notice.  But the tenant would have to apply to get the security of damage deposit back.

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