Maintenance and safety standards for rentals

Like many VCI readers, I have been shorting the Vancouver property market by renting. And, like many renters, I have had to contend occasionally with landlords who take an all-to-casual approach to property maintenance. In this post, I’m going to describe a new legal method I have discovered which combines the Residential Tenancy Act and a Vancouver By-law to force landlords to fix certain maintenance and building quality standards that you may not have thought were “mandatory”. This includes things like ensuring there are enough electrical outlets in each room of a suite, or that the floors be properly levelled.

It all starts with the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), which says in section 32 that

A landlord must provide and maintain residential property in a state of decoration and repair that (a) complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law…

This is a very powerful statement, because it forces landlords to ensure that their properties conform to every building code, electrical code, maintenance code, etc.. in effect within the jurisdiction where the property is located. In the case of Vancouver tenants, this refers to any and all building maintenance by-laws, fire safety by-laws, electrical by-laws, etc.. as well as province-wide rules and regulations concerning buildings.

The City of Vancouver has an omnibus By-law simply titled, “Standards of Maintenance” (https://vancouver.ca/bylaws/5462c.PDF), which is “A By-law for prescribing standards for the
maintenance and occupancy of building sites within the City of Vancouver to ensure that such buildings and sites are free from hazard and are maintained continuously in conformity with accepted health, fire and building requirements.” This bylaw applies to, “all land and all buildings in the City, and, unless otherwise specified, the owner of said land and/or buildings shall be responsible for carrying out the work or having the work carried out in accordance with the requirements of this By-law.”

With that out of the way, let’s see how the RTA can be combined with By-law 5642 to force your landlord to fix certain things that you may never have thought needed to be fixed:

– Electrical Safety (see 5642 section 19)

+ Yes: Plenty of electrical outlets! “Every habitable room in a dwelling shall have at least one electrical duplex outlet for each 120 square feet (11.2m5) of the floor space; for each additional 100 square feet (9.3 m5) of floor space a second duplex outlet shall be provided. Every kitchen shall have at least two electrical duplex outlets which shall be on separate circuits.”

+ Lots of light! “Adequate levels of artificial lighting shall be maintained in good working order at all times as in Table 19A” — this includes specific lumens of light output in each type of room.

Landlord storing his old junk in the back yard? Section 4 says, “All land shall be kept clean and free from rubbish or debris”

Walkway old and cracked? Section 4 says, “Suitably surfaced walks shall be available on all land leading from the main entrance of each building to the street or driveway”

Bed bug infestation? “If pests have infested land, or any building or accessory building on it, the owner of the land must eliminate the infestation”

Breezy doors or windows? “Exterior doors, windows, skylights, and hatchways shall be maintained in good repair and weathertight.”

Crappy floors? “Floors shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, reasonably smooth and level and free of loose, warped or decayed boards, depressions, protrusions, deterioration or other defects which are health, fire or accident hazards.”

Crappy walls or ceilings? “Interior walls and ceilings shall be maintained in good repair and free from holes, or loose or broken plaster that may create health, fire or accident hazards.”

The laws are there to protect us all. Don’t let your landlord convince you that he doesn’t have to fix the flaking plaster in your character living room just because “it’s an old house”. Show him the law, and get some fixing going on!

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jesse
Member

And if the landlord doesn't comply, how does one get the City involved?

Good post. Great post.

patriotz
Member

"Like many VCI readers, I have been shorting the Vancouver property market by renting."

Renting is not shorting, it's, well, renting, i.e. using something you don't own.

Shorting is selling something you don't own.

bubba
Guest
bubba

Secrets Of The

Plunge Protection Team

The Four Derivative US Dictators

http://www.rense.com/general52/secretsoftheplunge

Carl Sagan
Guest
Carl Sagan

If you want a perfect house, there are lots around…millions and billions of them.

Otherwise, sounds like VISION leftie retards with another " eat the rich" campaign.

space889
Member
space889

Well I guess the landlord can also try to throw you out on the pretext of fixing all these problems and then do some cosmetic work and re-rent to someone else after 1 month. You get what you pay for and if you rent an old house at say $1K/month while similar places in the neighborhoold goes for $2k/month, there generally is a reason for the good deal. If the landlord fixes everything then it wouldn't rent @ $1k/month anymore would it?

stander
Guest
stander

and a building permit will get rid of a problem tenant.

Patiently Waiting
Member
Patiently Waiting

@space889: So doesn't the landlord just do the renovations and rent for the higher price?

There are minimum requirements for housing, and the price is beside the point. If the landlord tries to force you out for renovations, you have further legal steps you can take.

If, in fact, you live in a house that requires that level of repair, its best you move anyhow and you can probably force the landlord to give your deposit back (and maybe even compensate for moving expenses).

If a slumlord has been ordered by the city to do extensive repairs to his property, you will be at an advantage if the RTB has to get involved.

Scam Goode
Guest
Scam Goode

@space889: if you want to move a lot you could actually turn this into a profit opportunity. Take the cheap rentals and then pressure to get flaws fixed. Get them to give you notice to renovate, take the two months rent they are required to give you and move on.

Better have a friend act as your reference though, you'd leave behind a trail of unhappy people.

Royce McCutcheon
Guest
Royce McCutcheon

@Jesse: You said this on the last VCI post – "Vancouver real estate is like looking at a Dali painting when calibrating reality."

Just wanted to commend you on so succinctly covering the way I've been feeling. It has much more eloquence than the refrain my wife keeps hearing from me: "Doesn't anyone notice this?! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.!"

Patiently Waiting
Member
Patiently Waiting
@jesse: How to get the City involved? Don't bother with City staff. Go straight to a City Councilor. Embellish your sob story if necessary. Just get the politician on the warpath and straight to the City Solicitors office. I've written before about the slumlord on our block. For years, neighbours had been calling staff in the municipal government to deal with the unsightly property which was a haven for criminal activities. It wasn't until someone actually talked to a City Councilor that things started moving. And once the ball started rolling, it rolled fast. This Summer: – multiple city inspections of the slumhouse. – As it was determined to be an illegal rooming housing, most occupants had to leave. – bedbug infestation discovered, several mattresses were thrown out, along with furniture, bedding etc. I assume the landlord will have to… Read more »
MrBear
Member
MrBear

If the landlord is good with it, I'm generally happy to do minor repairs and upgrades myself – patching walls and the like. The way I figure it, someday I might buy a place and I'd rather learn how to do all of these things (i.e. make my various mistakes) on someone else's building.

jesse
Member

@Patiently Waiting: Congratulations on doing this!

Out of curiosity, which councilor(s) should be approached, how should the letter be worded, etc.? This is basically a how-to if you see a problem house on your block.

Personally I'd suggest a secondary angle, writing councilors (and candidates in the next election) about substandard housing and its detrimental effects on the community, and what steps they will do to solve this problem by properly enforcing their own by laws. If enough people write, it might actually make them do something about it. Would you like me to draft a letter in the forum?

jesse
Member
"Renting is not shorting, it’s, well, renting" Yeah, technically this is true. The colloquial use of "short" makes the pedant in me bristle. If I am "short" something it means I have the obligation to produce the something at a later date. I've often seen the term extended to put options, but that's not really a short. If I were short housing, it would mean that I have obliged myself to buy or rent a specific property (or property type) at a certain later date. In many cases this is true, say you have a new baby on the way and need more space. Or maybe you agree with your spouse that you'll "wait for a few years" to see how the market shakes out, but after a certain amount of time, if the market hasn't dropped to an acceptable… Read more »
Patiently Waiting
Member
Patiently Waiting
@jesse: There was no written correspondence that I know of. Phone calls were made. The words "Pandora Street" were uttered. Once a municipality is aware of a potentially unsafe house, and if something happens like a deadly fire, the city could have some legal responsibility (not to mention bad publicity). COV is still dealing with the Pandora Street mess, and councilors all over the Lower Mainland are aware of this. Also, if you suspect a grow-op or drug lab, the city is more or less obligated to investigate. Keep in mind, municipal elections are only a few weeks away. I don't know which specific councilors you should approach in your area. You could call, or write to, all of them, until one bites. Otherwise, its who you know the most, if you know any. Be personally direct, though, don't confine… Read more »
patriotz
Member

@jesse:

"If I were short housing, it would mean that I have obliged myself to buy or rent a specific property (or property type) at a certain later date."

If you have an obligation to buy a house at a future date at a known price you are long housing, since you win if the price goes up and lose if it goes down. Like people who buy presales.

If you have an obligation to sell someone a house at a future date at a known price you are short housing. Like developers who sell presales.

Wall Street
Guest
Wall Street

Eat my " shorts" and "longs", and don't pee on my " hedges".

bubba
Guest
bubba

Oh Geez….

Kill a flea with a hammer.

Some tenants are quite stupid.

There are plenty of Big Brother laws out there..like the Grow-Opp bylaw which is a Trojan horse to allow Big Brother in.

One the SWAT team shows up (on suspicion), the cops and the bylaw /building inspectors show up.

No grow-opp? so what…the electrical inspector will inspect for problems and deficiencies….and order upgrades…and owner (resident or landlord) has to pay the cost of inspection.

Go ahead and rat everyone and everything out, further embellish the police state..soon farts, snot and loogers will have DNA tracers.

Morons, simply tarring everyone with same brush…and ultimately going to kiil off more and more cheap housing stock.

jesse
Member

@Patiently Waiting: "The words “Pandora Street” were uttered"

How apt. The City has a Pandora's Box when it comes to their by laws and building codes. Ask an inspector how he can OK a development that is so obviously going to install semi-legal basement suites as soon as he drives away.

Maybe the City should schedule follow-up inspections say a year after construction and build it into the fee structure of the initial permit application.

jesse
Member
@patriotz: OK. So here is a summary when it comes to derivatives: Long position – When a trader buys an option contract that he has not already written (i.e. sold), he is said to be opening a long position. – When a trader sells an option contract that he already owns, he is said to be closing a long position. – When a trader is 'long', he/she wins when the price increases, and loses when the price decreases. Short position – When a trader writes (i.e. sells) an option contract that he does not already own, he is said to be opening a short position. – When a trader buys an option contract that he has written (i.e. sold), he is said to be closing a short position. – When a trader is 'short', he/she wins when the price decreases,… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

what a bunch of angry renters! let start an "everything is free" campaign.

Paiently Renting, you were throwing on the street once, laid off once, and you still have not learned the lesson yet. Are you still angry at your rich sister?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

You cannot short real estate and that's why its not a real market in that sense. Also why prices tend to go in one direction for long periods of time without much fluctuations. Beta is super low but in times of transition, it can pop for flop fast.

bubba
Guest
bubba

Don't you financial dudes speak English ? Get a room and watch BNN

80& of trades are done by 3% of the people.

The rest buy vaseline futures..one way or the other

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

In short, no pun intended

Long – holding an asset (or option contract) and betting the asset will appreciate in value

Short – borrowing an asset, selling it at the current price and plan to repay the borrowed asset in the future when the price is lower (by repurchasing). Betting the asset will depreciate in value.

Naked short – selling something you don't have or something you can't borrow

VISION Update(Bolshe
Guest
VISION Update(Bolshe

Knock Knock

Who's there ?

VISION Landlord cannibals

Why you here?

Complaint !

About what ?

ooooo the drapes are sooooo passe' ugghhh! ….. don't match the "enviro friendly " laminate flooring oooohhhh .

Also, we highly insist the blue bathroom be changed…so eeeeeeeww ……… 70's……post retro

Also Puhleezeee put a bike lane throughout the house .

What about my tenants….

Who ?

Anonymouse
Guest
Anonymouse

Speaking of safety – what's the deal with furniture in rentals? In some countries the furniture has to have some special certification to ensure that it doesn't, for example, give off harmful emissions in case of fire. Are there any such laws in Canada?

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