Dear David: I’m renting a town home. My landlord and I are at odds over who is responsible for outdoor maintenance. He says snow removal and grass cutting are my responsibility, but I think he should take care of these things. Who is right? – NOT MY HOUSE
DEAR NMH: Outdoor maintenance is one of those things that you and your landlord need to address specifically and in writing.
The Residential Tenancies Act (2006) sets out clear responsibilities for landlords and tenants in Ontario. Under the Act, tenants are obliged to keep their units clean and repair any damage that they or their guests may cause. Landlords are required to keep buildings and rental units in good repair and in compliance with health and safety standards. Under the Act, snow removal and grass cutting are the landlord’s responsibility.
Snow clearing is an issue that was brought before the courts in 2009, by a tenant who was renting a basement apartment in a six-plex. The tenant was injured when she slipped on ice, on the stairs leading down to her unit. She claimed that the landlord was negligent for failing to clear the snow. The landlord countered that the accident was not his fault, since the plaintiff’s lease contained the clause: “Tenants are responsible for keeping their walkway and stairway clean (including snow removal).”
The landlord won the initial trial. The judge’s ruling stated that the landlord was able to delegate responsibility for snow removal to the tenant, since she had agreed to it in the lease.
The case moved up to the Ontario Court of Appeal. At that level, the court decided that because responsibility for snow removal belonged to the landlord under the Act, the landlord could not transfer this responsibility to the tenant without “consideration” (which means “payment” in layman’s terms).
The Court of Appeal ruled that for a landlord to delegate snow clearing to their tenant, they need to have a contract, separate from the rental agreement, in which they agree to pay the tenant for clearing the snow. Additionally, the court decided that the part of the lease that assigned snow clearing to the tenant in this case was invalid, since it violated the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act.
If a landlord wants their tenant to take responsibility for mowing grass and clearing snow, they need to have a written agreement in place that is separate from the lease and confirms the tenant will be paid for their work. For a tenant to be made responsible under the law, they need to be compensated like a contractor, not roped in by a rental agreement. Your lawyer can help you address this.
A landlord may consider offering their tenant a credit to help offset the rent, but this should be addressed outside of the rental contract. #Advice #AskDavid #TheNegotiator
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