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What are my landlord’s obligations when my home is damaged?

By Nathan Guss|6 min|March 2023

Learn which costs your landlord must cover and which ones you are responsible for when your unit is damaged.

When an accident or disaster damages a home, repair and reconstruction costs can be steep. If you’re a tenant, you’re probably wondering who is going to pay for all that expensive work and other related costs, such as relocating to temporary housing and storing your belongings. Are you or your landlord on the hook? What happens when other people (aka third parties) are involved in the incident? Whose insurance will pay? While liability varies based on provincial and municipal laws and specific insurance policies, here’s an overview of who usually pays for what.

The building

When the landlord pays

The property owner must pay for damages to structural aspects of the unit caused by incidents that are no one’s fault. He or she should have landlord or homeowner’s insurance to cover these expenses. If your rented home has been hit by hail, wind, flooding or a fire, your landlord will be the one filing a claim.

Landlords are also responsible for meeting the local housing code’s minimum health and safety standards. This generally includes maintaining and repairing roofs, plumbing, electricity and other fundamental aspects that make the home liveable. This work must be done in a timely manner.

When you pay

That said, you will be responsible for damages caused by your intentional, unintentional or illegal actions. That means you would usually be responsible for damages if you forget to turn off a bathtub faucet and flood the unit. If you are so unwise as to practise fire juggling in your living room and your home catches fire, you’ll pay for repairs. Not surprisingly, the same goes when the unlicensed cannabis nursery in your walk-in closet causes mould damage to your home’s walls.

Furthermore, you should make emergency repairs when needed or you may be liable for damages. For example, if a pipe bursts, you’re expected to cut off the water to limit the problem. Conversely, regardless of who is responsible for an accident, landlords who fail to make emergency repairs when they could have done so are often required to pay for repairs.

Small, cosmetic issues, such as dripping faucets or peeling paint, are generally not the landlord’s responsibility. The property owner may even deduct such repairs from your deposit at the end of the lease if the wear and tear occurred during your stay.

Third-party responsibility

When neighbours or other third parties cause damages to your home, they are liable. In this case, their homeowner’s or business insurance should cover reconstruction. For example, if a neighbour’s tree crashes through your rental unit’s roof, his or her homeowner’s or renter’s insurance should have a liability clause that will pay for repairs. Similarly, if a contractor doing work on a nearby home creates drainage problems that lead to flooding in your home, his or her coverage will normally pay for damages.

Your belongings

In most cases, the property owner doesn’t need to repair or replace a tenant’s lost or damaged belongings when an incident occurs. But if you have renter’s insurance, these items should be covered. Keep in mind that you may not receive full compensation for high-value, high-end items, such as jewelry or art, unless you purchased extra coverage.

Additional living expenses during repairs

Your landlord is generally not required to pay for the extra expenses you incur when damages make your home unsafe or impractical to live in, even if the damaging event in question is insured under the landlord’s policy. That said, some provinces and municipalities require landlords to pay for extra expenses, so check local laws and regulations. And some landlords are willing to pay for these expenses or lower your rent.

Fortunately, most renter’s insurance policies have an additional living expenses (aka ALE) clause that covers you in this situation. It will pay for the costs of moving, relocating to a temporary home, boarding your pets, storing property, eating in restaurants, among other things. Speak with your claims adjuster to learn what is covered.

If you don’t have ALE coverage, you can ask your landlord for a rent reduction (otherwise known as a rent abatement) or cancel the lease so you can find housing elsewhere. However, if you do have it, keep paying your rent: otherwise, you’ll affect the reimbursement of your extra expenses.

Learn more about finding temporary accommodation

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SiniSTAR can help you find a comfortable temporary home that meets your needs. Browse our website and find furnished, fully equipped accommodations in your area.

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