My Rented Suite is Damaged – Do I Have to Pay Rent?

You have signed a one year lease for a basement suite. The top floor is also rented out by the same landlord to another tenant. You come home from work to find that water has come through the floor above, and ruined a number of your personal items. Extensive work is required to return the suite to livable standards. The landlord begins this work by undertaking extensive repairs on the walls and ceiling. As a result you cannot live in the suite. You move in with a friend and wait for the repairs to be completed. It is now the first of the month. Your landlord is asking for the rent.

Are you legally obligated to pay rent while you are not living in the suite?

As a renter you are bound by the BC Residential Tenancy Act (the “Act”).  There are only 5 specific instances where a Tenant can refuse to pay the full amount of rent. A Tenant can refuse to pay the full amount of rent only when:

An Arbitration Board has given an order to reduce the rent;

The tenant has followed the proper procedure to claim money spent on emergency repairs;

The landlord has illegally increased the rent;

The landlord has over changed for a pet or security deposit; or

The tenant and the landlord have agreed in writing to reduce the rent due to one of the other sections of the Act (e.g. ending the tenancy early).

Since your situation does not fall into one of the 5 categories, it appears that you would have to pay rent to your landlord. If you do not pay rent, the landlord is entitled to file a file a Notice which enables them to end the tenancy after 10 days. The landlord is able to file this notice the day after rent was due.

While it appears that you have to pay rent, there might be other options available to you. For example, 1 option is that you could file a claim for dispute resolution under the Act and seek a rent reduction.