All posts by ttul

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!