This is part 3 of the four part series on landlords’ maintenance obligations. In part 1 we talked about the legislation governing maintenance and repairs for residential tenancies in Ontario. In part 2 we dug into the wording and intent of the legislation and explained what types of things would constitute a true breach of the landlord’s obligations with respect to maintenance and repairs.

However, there is a bit of a grey area, and there are going to be times when the landlord and tenant do not agree. The tenant may feel that their maintenance issue makes the unit unfit for habitation or below health standards, whereas the landlord may represent that the requested repair is purely cosmetic. Who decides? Previously we learned how a tenant can file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (the Board), but that is costly and time-consuming. You want to be certain you have a viable case before taking that step.

There are a few things you can do. First, you can research past cases that have been heard before the Board on similar issues, to get a sense of whether your issue meets the threshold. You may also want to get the advice of a paralegal or a lawyer. Often this type of advice can be obtained for free through services like Legal Aid or other community organizations.

If you still have doubt, you could contact the property standards office of your municipality. They will send a bylaw officer or a property-standards official to your apartment to see if there are any standards being breached. If they find there is a breach, they will issue an order to the landlord to fix the issues. If the landlord ignores the order, there would be serious consequences, so most landlords will comply. If an order were issued by the municipality, it would also give you evidence to use in support of your Board application. For more information on filing an application with the board, you can visit their website at Landlord and Tenant Board | Tribunals Ontario.