Tenant or landlord: who’s responsible for damage?

Your washing machine has sprung a leak and flooded your landlord’s bedroom below. A fire has broken out in your kitchen and your cupboards and part of the wall have gone up in smoke. Who pays for the repairs? The tenant or the landlord?

As a general rule, the person responsible for the damage has to cover the cost of repairing it. If you’re a tenant and you’ve incorrectly installed your washing machine, you could be held responsible for water damage to the landlord’s property. If you don’t have home insurance, the landlord can legally claim the cost of the repair work from you. The same goes if you forget a pot on the stove and the kitchen wall gets scorched.

On the other hand, if water damage in the bathroom is due to worn-out plumbing, the landlord is responsible and not the tenant. Nor is the tenant responsible for damage due to weather, such as flooding or strong winds. However, be careful: if you forget to close a window and a pipe bursts due to the cold, you could be held liable.

In any event, the tenant must notify the landlord quickly when a problem occurs. If the damage gets worse, the tenant could be held liable.

Tenants: what does your home insurance cover?

If you’re a tenant, you can’t assume that your landlord’s insurance will reimburse you the value of your material possessions such as your furniture, clothes and electronic equipment. It’s up to you to replace them in the event of fire or water damage. And that could cost you more than you think!

If you forget to turn off your hair straightener on your dresser and it goes up in flames, you’ll have to replace not only the dresser but also the clothes it contained. When you take out a home insurance policy, be sure to make an inventory of your possessions before mistakenly concluding that you own practically nothing. And don’t forget that home insurance also protects you from theft: if your $2,000 bike gets stolen, your home insurance can replace it, minus the deductible.

Civil liability

Home insurance covers any damage or injury you might cause another person, up to $1 million or $2 million compensation, depending on your policy.

If your improperly installed washing machine leaks into the accommodation of your landlord who lives below, your insurer will directly handle the repair cost with your landlord, if you’re insured. If not, the landlord can claim the repair cost from you.

Civil liability” insurance covers your spouse and your children, as well as your home exterior. So, what if your spouse forgets to turn off the barbecue and your neighbour’s fence catches fire? What if your child accidentally breaks a window while playing baseball in the yard? Depending on your policy, the civil liability clause could cover some of the damage. Contact your insurance broker for more information.

If you have co-tenants…

While common-law couples are automatically protected by their home insurance policy, that’s not the case for co-tenants. You therefore have to ensure that your co-tenant has home insurance, or add their name to your policy. In this way, the possessions of each of you will be protected and both of you will also benefit from civil liability coverage.

If you’re the landlord…

As the landlord, you have a role in making your tenants aware of the importance of taking out home insurance. You can explain to them that they could be held liable in the event of fire or flooding. You even have the right to include a clause in the lease that requires the tenant to take out home insurance.

If you don’t live on the property…

If you’re a residential property lessor, insurance exists specifically for your situation. This insurance complements basic home insurance, which does not always cover theft, vandalism and maintenance or construction defects. Contact your broker for all the answers to your questions.