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Owners of apartment buildings – or landlords – have many responsibilities to their tenants. However, when bugs invade an apartment, do landlords have any role to play?

What is substandard housing according to the law?

An apartment that is unsafe, or unfit for habitation, is an apartment that is in a condition that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of the occupants or the public.

Mould can make an apartment unsafe. So can poor air quality. An insect or pest infestation in an apartment can also make a dwelling substandard.

The landlord’s responsibility to the tenant and vice versa

In the legal sense, a landlord is required to maintain the apartment in a good state of habitability. The landlord must make sure that the tenant has a safe and healthy place to live, i.e. the landlord must exterminate ants or other bugs if they are found in the apartment.

The tenant, for their part, has an obligation to maintain the apartment in a good state of cleanliness throughout the entire term of the lease. The tenant must therefore keep bugs away from the apartment.

Apartments and bugs: the tenant’s recourse

You may be surprised to learn that a tenant can abandon an apartment if it becomes unfit for habitation (insect or other infestation), without being responsible for it.

However, they must notify the landlord of the condition of the apartment beforehand or within 10 days of abandoning it. Before proceeding, they must also make sure that the landlord will not solve the problem quickly, either by contacting an exterminator in Montreal or Laval or through an appropriate method.

Two scenarios are possible:

  • If the tenant notifies the landlord, the lease remains intact, but the tenant is exempted from paying the rent until the apartment becomes healthy and bug-free again.
  • If the tenant doesn’t notify the landlord, the tenant must continue to pay the rent. The tenant is also liable for damages resulting from failure to notify the landlord during the bug infestation.

Apartments and bugs: the landlord’s recourse

If the tenant is responsible for the bug infestation in his apartment, the landlord can request the cancellation of the lease. He can also get an order from the Régie du logement to restore the apartment to its original state.

Typically, photo evidence is enough to demonstrate the unsanitary condition of an apartment.

If the Régie du logement orders the tenant to perform work, the tenant is required to do it. Failure to comply could result in contempt of court and even a fine of $10,000 (or less).

Managing bugs in apartments

As you can see, bugs are no laughing matter in apartments.

If you find ants or other pests, take the right steps to get rid of them. After all, the health of the occupants of the apartment and the people living in adjacent units depends on it.