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” (, 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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Looking forward to see the 2011 MOI line crossing over the 2010 line when paulB updates his website in a week or two…

The coming months may provide even more viewing pleasure than 2008 for the RE spectators



Sounds like you've got it under control. I never invite my landlord into my house, so I was surprised to hear about the monthly visits. But I understand that you've got a special situation going on.


[The much anticipated Vancouver West Stats 8/24-9/23 vs 7/24-8/23]

Van West Median sales price increased $20k, or +1.0%

(Average price dropped $46k, or -1.9%)

Months-of-inventory jumped in Van West as well.

Vancouver West: 7.4 -> 12.6

West Van: 8.4 -> 10.5

Coquitlam: 6.6 -> 12.7

Burnaby: 6.1 -> 13.3

Richmond: 11.5 -> 15.1

We now have most areas of Greater Vancouver entering > 1 year of inventory build-up.

It seems like Greater Vancouver's defenses have crumbled to the core

Patiently Waitings&#

@Patiently Waiting:

Sure, I'm doing 15 -20….but I'm up for parole and I know where you live….aahahaha

Patiently Waiting

@Raincouver: LOL don't even bother flushing the toilet when you leave.

I've been in this place over four years. I know my landlord will take part of it for carpet cleaning (I'm not going to bother doing it myself, because I don't want to get in a dispute over how well done it is), and what's left over isn't worth worrying about.

The last place I lived in for a few months, so I fought for it then (and won after telling him he'd have to pay double otherwise). And later turned him in to the CRA MWAHAHA.

Li Kai Shing


Listen we not talking about "Wing Wang" tax….then I need Hercules transport….ask any concubine



Li Kai Shing Says:

"I not pay Head Tax. I take head off, put in beer cooler …. ship separately….. attach later……save $500 !!!"



@jesse: ….I’m shocked! Shocked! Will the NDP claim fudge-it-budget?….

Of course they will. The NDP always make bogus claims, why would one of the claims being true make a difference?

fukushima man

I am shorting everything commodities, china, S/P… went in… full… 6 figures

btw nice blog

Li Kai Shing

Dumb round eyes.

I got into country for free

I not pay Head Tax.

I take head off, put in beer cooler …. ship separately….. attach later……save $500 !!!


A poster says …

"Fwiw, I go into tenancy agreements with the mindset that I’ll be leaving my damage deposit behind when I leave. Amortize it across the term of the rental, and it really isn’t that much money. Then the stress is off."

Thank you, for that statement. I'm about to leave a place after 4 years (and the slum lord is known to NEVER return damage deposits without a fight). I can leave with a clear conscience.


Back in May, I did a post here on VCI ( that the technicals were pointing to a USD rally and a stocks/commodities decline. The technicals are still pointing to much further damage ahead. I hope this finally topples Vancouver RE.

For my latest market technical analysis, checkout my blog:



"We offered to do the repairs and repaint, no luck."

Do you get taken advantage of with everything you do?

As has been said many times before, why even ask? What is the landlord going to do? If you fill holes and paint after leaving you don't lose anything on the damage deposit even it you didn't have permission to put up the gate.

Renters can do what pretty much what ever they want as long as they fix it after.


24 reasons to grasp at straws in Richmond

Steveston came up 4 times

Microsoft moved

Asian Investment reported everywhere including whiterock

Olympic Oval mentioned twice

Weather, does it really differ that much from the rest of GVRD?

Bedroom communities is another GVRD thing

Food Security, Surrey/Delta is just across the bridge

Patiently Waiting

@jesse: Part of the issue is space889 is basically housesitting – he says its a great deal – so is not in a normal rental situation.

Its not a situation I could put up with unless it was almost free. Or really, if you're caretaking someone else's property, YOU should be paid.

Something nice about having my residence be MY home, owned or rented. But to each their own.


@jesse: I think what is more pertinent here is the orientation and angle of the slope (down and steep) versus the data point at September's end.


24 reasons why Richmond real estate is booming ( brought to you be RE agents )

Real estate in Canada – specifically in B.C. – continues to rise, according to recent figures, despite other parts of the world heading into depression-like financial crises. Leading the way in Canadian real estate is Richmond, where median home prices are rising fast. But why? Here are our top 24 reasons Richmond is top of the real estate charts


CBC: B.C. government accused of fudging deficit by $400M

British Columbia's deficit should have been reported as at least $400 million higher than what the government announced, the provincial auditor general has concluded.

In his annual audit of the government's finances, John Doyle criticizes the government for the way it has accounted for a major construction project on the Port Mann Bridge near Vancouver and also for rate-regulated entities such as BC Hydro.

Doyle said the government is deviating from Canadian accounting standards in both cases and with BC Hydro, it's a significant issue.

"If government had not been permitted by current accounting standards to defer certain expenses, government's annual deficit would have been approximately $400 million higher this year," Doyle wrote in the report released Thursday.

I'm shocked! Shocked! Will the NDP claim fudge-it-budget?


Looks to be coming in around just over 2300 sales for September. Things still looking tepid but not horrible. MOI would be around 7 or so, and that means roughly flat prices.


New Listings 213

Price Changes 134

Sold Listings 93



Does anybody know roughly how many people form the average chain of buyers/sellers in Vancouver?

Li Kai Shing

Yeah…..RTO says no farting either…smell clings to post- it notes..have to call POOst it notes.


@M-: "the RTO says that landlords are allowed to stipulate in the rental agreement that the tenants not make any holes in the walls"

So you have difference between normal standard of child safety and a stipulation in a rental agreement about aesthetics. Note that making purposed holes in the walls can be disallowed but it's unlikely the landlord would reasonably expect wear and tear of a wall to be zero. A bump, divot, or a scratch will be inevitable so repainting would be considered a reasonable expectation during any length of tenure.

If a landlord allows families with young children, it's going to be hard to argue that commensurate reasonable safety measures should be disallowed.

But hey space889 can do whatever here. Making decisions is hard.


@space889: As an FYI, early this year I had a maintenance issue with my landlord. They claimed the problem was my fault, I blamed the quality of the appliance. I ended up eating the repair cost ($35), but accepted no fault. I did, however, spend a lot of time reading over disputes at the RTO. The RTO sets out standard useful lifetimes for different parts of the building. For paint, the useful life of paint on the walls and ceiling is four years. So if your kid damages the paint on the walls, and the last time the wall was repainted was two years ago, you would owe 50% of the repair cost. For my situation (and yours as well), I've put lots of small holes in the walls to hang artwork, and some big holes to hang a flatscreen… Read more »


@space889: Here's one for you: send a letter to the Ministry of Child and Family Development letting them know of the unsafe situation in your house. Have them come and cite the landlord for a safety violation. At that point it becomes criminal negligence.

Claim a friend of a friend or a neighbour reported it or something, that way he can't really get mad at you.