Collingwood Lawyers Discuss: When A Landlord’s Negligence Prevents You From Paying Your Rent

One can imagine scenarios where a landlord chooses not to repair the chain supporting a chandelier. The chandelier then falls and breaks the skull of an unsuspecting tenant. Because of the seriousness of these injuries, the tenant cannot work, and cannot therefore pay rent until the injury fully heals. After a few months of arrears, the landlord finally evicts the tenant. In other words, the landlord is responsible for the arrears, but evicts the tenant anyway.

The scenario seems rather grim, but landlord and tenant law in Ontario provides for some degree of relief to tenants caught in a similar situation. Under Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), tenants have the right to claim an abatement of their rent at the Landlord and Tenant Board if the landlord fails to maintain a residential unit in a proper state of repair.


Section 20(1) of the RTA lays down the landlord’s responsibility to maintain a residential unit such that it is fit for habitation and in compliance with maintenance standards:
  • 20(1) Landlord's responsibility to repair:  A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.
The legislation even provides that the landlord’s responsibility remains even if the tenant was aware that the unit was in a state of disrepair at the time of entering into the tenancy agreement.
  • 20(2) Same: Subsection (1) applies even if the tenant was aware of a state of non-repair or a contravention of a standard before entering into the tenancy agreement.
In other words, it is not a defence for the landlord to say that the tenant knew full well that the unit was not properly maintained when he signed into the tenancy agreement.

If a landlord breaches this responsibility, then paragraph 1 of section 29(1) of the RTA allows for tenants to apply to the Board for an order that the landlord has breached his duty under section 20(1):
  • 29(1) Tenant applications: A tenant or former tenant of a rental unit may apply to the Board for any of the following orders:
    • 1. An order determining that the landlord has breached an obligation under subsection 20(1) or section 161.
After the Board has made an order under section 29(1), the RTA under section 30(1) grants the Board wide authority to provide the tenant with a remedy. The Board may, under paragraph 9 of section 30(1), make any order that it considers “appropriate”: 
  • Order, repair, comply with standards
  • 30 (1) If the Board determines in an application under paragraph 1 of subsection 29 (1) that a landlord has breached an obligation under subsection 20 (1) or section 161, the Board may do one or more of the following:
    • 9. Make any other order that it considers appropriate.
In paragraph 2 of section 30(1) of the RTA, however, the Act specifies that the Board may order an abatement of the tenant’s rent. This provision means that the Board has the authority to reduce or eliminate the rent owed by the tenant as the result of the landlord’s transgression.
  • Order, repair, comply with standards
  • 30 (1) If the Board determines in an application under paragraph 1 of subsection 29 (1) that a landlord has breached an obligation under subsection 20 (1) or section 161, the Board may do one or more of the following:
    • 2. Order an abatement of rent.
In other words, if a landlord’s negligence leads to a tenant’s inability to pay their rent, the Act may authorize the Board to forgive any arrears and reduce the amount of rent owed to that landlord going forward.

The legislation, however, recognizes that landlords may not be fully responsible for all disrepairs in their residential units. Section 30(2) of the RTA requires the Board to consider whether a tenant brought any disrepairs to the landlord’s attention before bringing their case before the Board:
  • 30(2) Advance notice of breaches: In determining the remedy under this section, the Board shall consider whether the tenant or former tenant advised the landlord of the alleged breaches before applying to the Board.
It would therefore be prudent for tenants to communicate their concerns to their landlords about the state of their residence before bringing their case to the Board.

In any case, the landlord still has a duty to keep their residences fit for habitation and in compliance with maintenance standards. Tenants who experience injuries because of their landlords’ failure to fulfill their responsibility to maintain their residential units may have a claim at the Landlord Tenant Board to a reduction or elimination of their rent. The availability of this remedy may alleviate some of the stress that might arise when a landlord’s negligence leads to a tenant’s possible eviction.
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