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Duties of a Landlord
A landlord is obligated to maintain the residential property, and the services provided to it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation, use and enjoyment, according to section 49 of The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 and section 8 of the Standard Conditions that are part of every tenancy agreement.
A landlord must act promptly and reasonably when a tenant reports an infestation of bed bugs or other pests. If not, the tenant may have to arrange for an exterminator and claim the cost from the landlord. If the problem existed in the suite prior to the tenancy or spread from another rental unit, the landlord will have to bear the cost of extermination, although the landlord may be entitled to recover the costs from anyone who can be shown to have caused the problem.
Duties of a Tenant
A tenant must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit, also under section 49 of Act and section 8 of the Standard Conditions.
Tenants must co-operate with the landlord, exterminators or professional pest control companies when they attend to treat an infestation, and must comply with instructions to prepare the rental unit for treatment. If a tenant does not co-operate, eviction may be necessary to address the infestation. If the tenant caused the problem, the tenant is responsible for the cost of extermination, not only in their own suite, but potentially for the costs to treat other rental units, especially if the problem has spread because the tenant did not inform the landlord promptly or cooperate with an exterminator.
If, however, the infestation constitutes a breach of a material provision of the tenancy agreement by the landlord, the tenant may give written notice of at least one day and end the tenancy. However, before the tenant ends the tenancy, the landlord must be given a reasonable period of time to remedy the problem under section 56 of the Act. The tenant may also file an application with the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT), and may request an expedited hearing to deal with the matter promptly.
At a hearing, the issue of who is responsible for bringing bed bugs into the rental unit or residential premises often arises. However, the landlord's and tenant's respective obligations arise in different ways: the landlord's obligation is contractual, the tenant's obligation arises through fault.
The landlord must maintain the residential property in a good state of repair and fit for habitation (s. 49 of Act and s. 8 of the Standard Conditions). The courts have held that "habitable" means free from an infestation by pests. If the tenant shows that bed bugs or other pests are present, that is likely sufficient to establish a breach of the landlord's obligation to provide habitable premises. The tenant can request an order requiring the landlord to treat the bed bug infestation, reimburse for costs related to the infestation, and in severe cases may allow the tenant to terminate the tenancy.
To avoid liability for breach of contract, the landlord must show that the tenant caused the problem; that is, that the infestation was the tenant's fault. An expert witness may be desirable to provide an opinion on the likely cause of the infestation. Showing fault for a bed bug infestation is not as simple as showing that an infestation exists. Some relevant factors may be:
- When was the infestation discovered?
- Was there an infestation at the tenant's previous accommodation?
- Were there reports of bed bugs in the rental unit or residential property prior to the tenant moving in?
- Are bed bugs present in other rental units?
- Has the tenant acquired furnishings from questionable sources, such as dumpster diving?
A hearing officer will make a decision after hearing the evidence of both parties.
You can review decisions of the ORT. Use search terms like "bed bugs," "cockroaches" or "mice" to find relevant decisions.
More information about bed bugs and how to prevent bed bugs is available on Health Canada's website: Stop Bed Bugs.