Ask member support: Odours affecting tenants’ right to reasonable enjoyment
I am having an issue with odours coming from a unit in the building I manage. The smell of cat urine is extremely pervasive even in the hallway outside this unit – it’s overpowering even when you’re just walking past. I am keen to respect the tenant’s rights, but I have received numerous complaints from others about the odour. This is clearly affecting the day-to-day lives of their neighbours. Since the smell is so strong, I am also concerned about possible health issues for the tenant as well as damage to the unit. How can I gain entry to inspect the unit while ensuring the tenant’s rights are protected?
We understand the desire on the part of a housing provider to respect their tenants’ right to privacy. However, when another tenant’s right to reasonable enjoyment of their units or the premises is compromised, it’s necessary to take action. We recommend that you proceed keeping in mind Section 64 of the Residential Tenancies Act – Termination for cause, reasonable enjoyment.
Step 1: Document, document, document
To begin the process, carefully document all complaints you’ve received from tenants and staff about the smell coming from the unit.
Step 2: Serve a notice of entry
Once you have established a record of complaints, serve the tenant with a 24-hour notice of entry so you can investigate the source of the smell.
Step 3: Work with the tenant
Assuming you’re able to determine the cause of the smell, an excessive number of cats in the unit and/or a lack of appropriate care for the animals for example, we recommend that you enter into a behavioural contract with the tenant. This contract should specify the actions the tenant will take to resolve the issue.
Hopefully, the tenant will take the steps necessary to fix the issue once it has been brought to their attention, resulting in a satisfactory outcome for them, their neighbours, and building staff. If the tenant refuses to enter into the contract or fails to fix the issue then it might be necessary to follow up with:
Step 4: Serve a notice to end the tenancy
If attempts at resolution fail, serve the tenant a notice to end the tenancy on the grounds of a disturbance of reasonable enjoyment of other tenants and/or unsanitary conditions in the unit (based on the situation). Once the notice has been served, the tenant has seven days to address the problem; if they do so, the notice becomes void. Be sure to keep a record of the notice and of its receipt by the tenant for reference in case the behavioural contract is breached in the future.
Serving the notice should be your last resort to resolve the situation. While the hope is that the tenant will take the appropriate steps to resolve the situation, there is always the possibility that it may reach litigation. In any case, make sure you thoroughly document each step you take to work through the issue and consider obtaining legal advice if you find the case heading to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Click to access the N5 (Notice to End your Tenancy For Interfering with Others, Damage or Overcrowding) or N7 (Notice to End your Tenancy For Causing Serious Problems in the Rental Unit or Residential Complex).
Are you an ONPHA member facing a similar issue? Do you have questions about this or a different situation you’re facing?
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