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4 Landlord Liability Mistakes to Avoid

Sep 17 2021

As a landlord of a commercial or residential rental property, you can be liable for physical injuries towards tenants or towards other third-party individuals. Additionally, third-party property damage may also be considered as your legal responsibility under certain circumstances. 

This guide tells you all you need to know about various types of landlord liabilities and the mistakes you need to avoid. 

Close-up of lease agreement papers and a key to a rental property   

What Are Landlord Responsibilities? 

To provide more context regarding landlord liabilities, let’s talk about landlord responsibilities that are legally defined. Based on your region, there are likely to be legal statutes as well as boards/committees (who are in charge of enforcing said legal statutes) regarding both residential and commercial tenancies. 

Residential Landlord Responsibilities 

in Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act of 2006 details matters like the following: 

  • Tenancy agreements;
  • Responsibilities of landlords and tenants;
  • Notice of termination;
  • Eviction orders

The Residential Tenancies Act of 2006 in Ontario is mainly enforced by the Landlord & Tenant Board (LTB). Note that there are different boards for different regions in Canada. 

In a conceptual nutshell, however, we can deduce the following residential landlord responsibilities that are common to most regions:

  • Responsibility to repair
  • Responsibility to respect the tenant’s rights and privacy 
  • Responsibility to adhere to legal statutes regarding termination, abandoned tenant belongings, tenant death, and the like

Commercial Landlord Responsibilities 

Commercial Landlord Responsibilities are usually found in a separate act or legal statute. For Ontario, this legal statute is the Commercial Tenancies Act of 1990 which goes into detail about:

  • Notice of termination
  • Changing locks for non-payment
  • Guidelines for sale of distress

Typically, landlords of commercial properties, unlike those of residential properties, are not responsible for repairs and maintenance. However, this still boils down to the signed lease agreement which may take precedence over the Commercial Tenancies Act.  

When Lawsuits Arise 

Any negligence towards a responsibility can lead to complaints and disputes. But at what point could a lawsuit escalate? 

When landlords commit wrongful acts against legal statutes (or the lease agreement), or when their negligence causes dire consequences such as injury within premises, and death within premises, destruction/loss of tenant property, lawsuits are likely to arise. 

This leads us to our next section which talks more about what landlord liabilities could look like.  

Close-up of a legal statute in a binder with a gavel on top of it

Landlord Liabilities That You Need to Know About 

1. Landlord Liabilities Related to Injured Maintenance People 

For a landlord to be liable for the injury of service/maintenance people, the landlord must first be responsible for repairs/maintenance/installations, whether it’s according to the pertinent legal statute or according to the lease agreement. 

Once that first box is ticked, the landlord is open to liability for the injury of the maintenance/service person if they do any of the following: 

  • They hire someone without making sure they are trained for the job, endangering the person
  • They lend faulty tools to the maintenance/service person (this must be avoided altogether)
  • They failed to warn the service person about specific hazards in the area of repair/installation (or failed to document the warning)
  • They oversee the repair/installation and make demands or changes that puts the maintenance/service person in danger
  • They directly take over some of the tasks or interfere and injure the maintenance/service person 

2. Landlord Liabilities Related To Tenant, Guest, or Third-Party Injury 

The more the landlord is involved with the maintenance or upkeep of the rental property (as stated in the related legal statute or in the lease agreement), the more that they are open to liabilities for injuries within premises. 

Assuming the landlord has such responsibilities (which is more typical but not isolated to residential landlords), the landlord could be responsible/liable for scenarios like this: 

  • A poorly maintained garden walkway causes an elderly guest to trip, fall, and sustain an injury
  • A poorly repaired ceiling falls, causing injury to people below
  • A badly lit outdoor staircase of a commercial rental property causes a customer to trip and sustain an injury 

3. Landlord Liabilities Related to Loss, Damage, or Destruction of Tenant Property 

Just like with the previous 2 types of potential landlord liabilities, this ties with what the landlord is responsible for, whether in a residential or commercial rental property. Is the landlord responsible for the locks of the property or the needed maintenance? 

If so, then the landlord could be liable for the following: 

  • Property is destroyed after a fire breaks out caused by electric repairs done by an unvetted electrician
  • Property is destroyed because of a flood caused by faulty plumbing repairs done by an unvetted plumber - or because of poorly maintained, outdated plumbing
  • Property is destroyed after a part of the ceiling falls because of a known but unaddressed termite infestation
  • Property is burglarized because of neglected broken locks

4. Landlord Liabilities Related to Wrongful Sale of Distress

This type of liability is specific for landlords of commercial rental properties in Ontario and talks about a recent addition to the Commercial Tenancy Act. 

Should a landlord contravene or fail to comply with the pertinent sections in the Commercial Tenancy Act, regarding the following:

  • Re-entry during an applicable non-enforcement period (section 82) or;
  • Seizing of goods as distress for arrears of rent during an applicable non-enforcement period (section 84)

If the above-mentioned scenarios took place, then the landlord is then liable for the damages sustained by the aggrieved party. 

What Is Landlord Insurance and Do I Need It?  

Whether you are a landlord of commercial or residential space, landlord insurance will serve you well. Aside from liability protection, customized landlord insurance can also provide protection for the following: 

  • The actual rental structure/space;
  • The possessions you have for the maintenance or upkeep of your rental property, and
  • Instances of lost income due to business interruption.  

To learn more, check out our article about the cost and coverage provided by landlord insurance

Protect Your Business Fully with Personalized Landlord Insurance 

In this article, we talked about various types of possible landlord liabilities. With landlord insurance in place, liabilities can be filed as claims so that you are protected from sudden financial loss. However, not all landlord insurance plans are the same. 

Here at KASE Insurance, we will make sure that you get personalized landlord insurance that gives you the coverage that you need, without costly unnecessary riders. An added bonus is that we give dedicated assistance through every stage, from negotiating premiums to following up on claims. With our award-winning service, landlord insurance becomes completely hassle-free. 

Get in touch with us today to bring your business to a secure and successful future! 

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