A newly published rental office ruling demonstrates the success tenants can have in holding large landlords to account for the state of their accommodation.
However, the ruling also demonstrates that doing so can be time-consuming, requiring that tenants build a case against a landlord and preserve as much evidence as they can.
Tenants in Yellowknife commonly complain of damaged units going weeks or months without repairs, a problem exacerbated by a rental climate in which there are few vacant alternatives available.
In May, one tenant – having waited months for water leaking through their ceiling to be addressed – filed an application against their landlord, Northview, alleging the company had “failed to maintain the rental premises in a good state of repair and fit for habitation.”
The rental officer hearing the case, Janice Laycock, agreed. Northview was ordered to pay $2,332.50 in compensation for the delayed repair work.
In her decision, Laycock said the tenant had come to the hearing equipped with photographs demonstrating the water leak, which ran from the ceiling down a wall of their bedroom. They brought emails documenting “repeated attempts” to have Northview assess the damage and repair it.
The first request to the landlord was filed on December 19, 2021, then a follow-up was sent on February 16, 2022, accompanied by a phone call a day later.
With nothing having happened by May 7, the tenant sent another email with a photograph “showing that the damages were getting worse and asking for immediate action,” Laycock wrote.
“Finally, at the end of May, the landlord’s staff came to the rental premises, the leak was identified and fixed, and the wall and ceiling in the bedroom were patched.”
The tenant had waited nearly half a year with water damage to their bedroom. The landlord’s maintenance log showed a request had been logged on December 20 and marked “resolved” on June 9 – though Laycock said the landlord had acknowledged more work was still needed. The tenant said some of the repair work did not “fully address” the leak and they worried about mould in the ceiling or wall.
According to Laycock, Northview’s representative at a June hearing into the case apologized to the tenant, stating Covid-19 restrictions had limited the landlord’s ability to carry out maintenance but, even so, “this issue should have been addressed much sooner.”
The landlord “committed to return and make absolutely sure the water was no longer leaking, assess to see if there was mould and do any required remediation of the area, and complete the finishing of the area, including painting,” according to Laycock’s report. She said Northview had also suggested “it may be possible to compensate the applicant for their loss of use of the area by giving them a break on their rent.”
Laycock concluded the landlord had breached its obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act – which expects landlords to remedy problems like this within 10 days – and the tenant, having lost full use of their home, deserved compensation.
On the basis that the tenant had lost full use of roughly a quarter of their unit for five months, Laycock awarded them a quarter of their rent for each of those months: a total of $2,332.50.
The landlord is also ordered to complete all follow-up work by the end of August.