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Natural Disasters - Tips for Tenants and Landlords

With the recent wild fires in Fort McMurray, a city wide evacuation occurred leaving many landlords and tenants with questions on their legal obligations. We have complied a list of frequently asked questions containing some tips to help.

The unit I rent was damaged in the fire. Can I break my rental agreement?

It depends on the condition of the unit. If the tenant cannot return to the unit because it is destroyed or damaged beyond repair, a rental agreement could be “frustrated”. This means it is not possible to continue living in the unit. Inform your landlord in writing that you are treating the rental agreement as frustrated. If you and your landlord agree that the tenancy is frustrated you may not have to continue paying rent. It is advisable for a tenant to get written confirmation of this from the landlord. The landlord would also be required to return the security deposit. The tenant should also ensure they provide a forwarding address to the landlord. Document the condition of the property with photos and video in case your landlord disagrees the tenancy is frustrated.

What if my landlord disagrees and refuses to end the rental agreement?

If the landlord disagrees that the agreement is frustrated and you have stopped paying rent, the landlord can make an application for damages to the provincial court or the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS), and/or keep some or all of the security deposit. The tenant may make a counter-application if they believe they are owed monies or make their own application if they believe the landlord should not keep their security deposit.

Both tenant and landlord should be prepared to provide proof of the condition of the unit.

The tenant or the landlord can also contact a provincial health inspector to have the unit inspected to determine whether it is in livable condition.