January 2011 Rent Control Bulletin

Big Issues for “Small” Landlords

“Contracting out” Snow Removal and Lawn Maintenance

Landlords who rent units in smaller complexes, from single family homes to six-plexes, will often make the tenant responsible for looking after their own snow removal and lawn maintenance. “Small” landlords need to be aware that even where lease obligations are in writing, the tenant can refuse to honour the agreement and the landlord will have to provide the service at no extra cost to the tenant.

In 2009 the Ontario Court of Appeal held that landlords could not make tenants responsible for snow shovelling their own walks as part of the tenancy agreement. The Court held that such an arrangement in the lease amounted to an unlawful “contracting out” of the landlord’s obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Under s. 20 of the RTA the landlord is “…responsible for …complying with …safety, housing and maintenance standards”. Most by-laws relating to residential property require that pedestrian access be kept free from unsafe accumulations of ice and snow and lawns be mowed and kept free of noxious weeds…

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