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Handling emergencies and repairs

What if water suddenly starts leaking through your roof or the furnace breaks down in the middle of a cold winter night? Call the landlord! Emergencies often cause a panicked reaction and if the landlord is not instantly available, tenants might react hastily. Before going ahead and ordering major repairs, tenants must understand what constitute emergency repairs and which situations warrant action on the part of the province.

what are emergency repairs?
An emergency repair is required when something in the rental unit has broken and the health or safety of the tenant is in danger or the building or property is at risk until repairs can be made. By law, the landlord should handle and pay for emergency repairs.

what if i can't reach my landlord?
You should try to contact the landlord or the emergency contact at least twice, leave a message if no one answers and record the date and time of the calls, faxes, or e-mails and allow a reasonable amount of time for them to respond. In some situations, repairs must be performed immediately to reduce personal risk or property damage. If you are unable to reach the landlord, you can authorize the repair work yourself. Repairs can also be authorized by an order from the rental authority in your province or territory. Some provinces require that emergency contact information is posted in a visible place in the building. The emergency contact can be the landlord and/or another person. If you are authorizing an emergency repair because a landlord is unavailable, you should keep all paperwork related to the incident. Ask the repair worker to bill the landlord directly for the emergency. If repairs must be paid upon completion, tenants should keep track of expenses, notify the landlord and ask for reimbursement. If the landlord can be contacted before the repairs are completed, the landlord may choose to take over the repairs and pay for work done up to that point. Alternatively, the landlord may let the repairs continue, choosing to reimburse the tenant for the full cost once repairs are completed. Avoid paying for anything that is not a true emergency, because the landlord could refuse to repay your expenses. Use this guide to gauge whether a repair is an emergency putting you at risk or something you can live with for a few days.

emergency repairs
• Broken pipe(s) are flooding the premises.
• The heating system is not functioning when it is cold outside.
• The sewage system is backing up into the premises.
• A defective lock lets anyone enter the premises without a key.
• A short circuit in the wiring is creating a risk of fire and/or electrocution.
• The refrigerator supplied by the landlord is not working.

non-emergency repairs
• An interior door doesn't close properly.
• A stove element is burnt out.
• The kitchen sink has a slow drain.
• There is a minor leak in the roof.
• There is a minor leak or dripping in household plumbing.
• A garage door opener is not working, but manual access is still available.
• There is a cracked pane in an upper window. While not an emergency, the landlord should be notified during office hours as soon as possible.

insure against surprises
If a tenant's belongings are damaged or destroyed because of a problem in the residence, such as a leaking roof, normally the tenant, not the landlord, is liable for the replacement of the damaged belongings. For full protection against these situations, tenants should carry their own rental unit contents insurance.
CMHC

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