May 20, 2016 | Jamie Zachary
Five things about fire damage for landlords and renters
Tips on who is responsible and for what
The smoke continues to clear from the devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, which, at one point, was estimated to be three times the size of Edmonton.
While it could still be weeks or even months before resident are able to return to the city, landlords and tenants will have questions before then. The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) is offering these five tips:
1. Should the tenant keep paying rent?
According to CPLEA, tenants must keep paying rent unless the tenancy has been frustrated – that is, when something happens that is out of the control of both parties, and makes continuing with the agreement impossible. There are a number of reasons why a tenancy can be frustrated, including if the property is destroyed, if there is an order under the Public Health Act that says the property is unfit for human habitation or if the property is damaged beyond what the landlord would reasonably fix. If the tenant wants to move out, then they must provide written notice or receive the landlord's consent to end the tenancy early.
2. What if the rental property has been damaged?
If the tenant can't live in a property while it's being repaired, then the tenant could suggest rent abatement – meaning the tenant would
pay less rent, or no rent, while they are not able to live in the property. Applications for abatement can also be made at the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service or in court. If a tenant and landlord dispute a property's livability, they can contact a health inspector via Health Link at 811 or bylaw enforcement officer at a local municipal office.
3. Who pays for damaged belongings?
In most cases, the landlord or landlord's insurance will pay for repairs to the property and structure. Tenants are responsible for replacing any items that were damaged or destroyed.
4. Can the landlord enter the property following a fire?
The landlord legally must provide at least 24-hour notice to enter a property to inspect it or make repairs.
5. Can the landlord use the security deposit?
According to CPLEA, a landlord cannot use a security deposit to cover the cost of repairs from a fire. The deposit is meant to cover other costs the tenant was responsible for, including unpaid rent, cleaning costs and damage. If the tenant treats the lease agreement as being frustrated and moves out without providing proper notice, then the landlord may be able to use the deposit. The tenant would have to make an application to get the security deposit back.
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