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Welcome to Scorpion’s Legal Tips! Every week we’ll share stories of injustice and show you how you can strike back legally.
If your landlord isn’t holding up his end of the rental agreement by maintaining the property, why should you hold up yours by paying rent? Scorpion Legal Protection explains why withholding or refusing to pay rent isn’t the best choice.
When you rent a property, you sign a rental agreement with the landlord or agent. It’s important that you go through this contract carefully and make sure you understand everything clearly, as it will be the basis for any disputes you need to resolve. If the landlord is not maintaining the property in “good and safe working order” (Rental Housing Act) as is his responsibility, then the first thing you should do is go back to your rental agreement. Sometimes, it will state exactly how this kind of issue must be resolved. For example, if your rental agreement allows it, you can give the landlord 14 days’ notice to carry out the repairs. You can let him know that if the repairs are not done in this time or you do not receive a response, you will get someone to do the repairs yourself and deduct the cost of this from your rent. If your contract does not allow for this, then you may not proceed.
When you signed the rental agreement with your landlord, you agreed to pay a specific rent amount. If you do not pay the landlord, even if he/she is not maintaining the property adequately, you are breaching (breaking) this contract. You cannot decide unilaterally (on your own) – and without the courts – to withhold rent or take a portion of the rent for repairs, no matter how justified you feel. If you do not have an order from the courts, and it is not in your rental contract, it is not legal. Your landlord could decide to take you to court for breach of contract, or demand full rental payment and then cancel your rental agreement due to you breaching the contract by not paying rent as you agreed to.
Go to the Rental Housing Tribunal for help. This is a free service that helps resolve issues between landlords and tenants. You can lodge a complaint about unfair practice with them. They will then investigate and try to resolve the issue through mediation. If this fails, your matter will be sent to arbitration. Both the landlord and tenant will be summoned for an arbitration hearing, where the matter will be decided. The ruling of the Tribunal is legally binding, and if either the tenant or landlord does not do what they have been ordered to do, they can be convicted of an offence and sentenced to pay a fine, prison time, or both.
You may also be interested in:
3 things to check before signing: lease agreement
Is interest on overdue rent legal?
4 hidden costs in your rental agreement
We have a team of lawyers available to answer your legal questions every first Thursday of the month from 11:30 to 13:30 on the Scorpion Legal Protection Facebook page for free. Have your legal question answered on the spot at the Scorpion Live Q&A.
* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 23 September 2022
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