Housing and Property

Improvements and Repairs in Rental Housing

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In Quebec, landlords can only make improvements or repairs in apartments if they follow specific rules. These differ for minor, major, and urgent repairs. In some cases, tenants may have to leave their apartments during repairs.

Tenants have different options depending on the situation and the type of work involved. These include denying the landlord access to their apartment, asking for compensation, and refusing to leave their apartment.

This article discusses situations in which the landlord decides to carry out work. For information on the rights of tenants to request repairs, see our article Poor Housing Conditions: The Tenants’ Recourses

This article discusses situations in which the landlord decides to carry out work. For information on the rights of tenants to request repairs, see our article Poor Housing Conditions: The Tenants’ Recourses.

Minor maintenance by tenants

Tenants must do minor maintenance and repairs themselves. This means doing simple tasks like changing light bulbs, tightening loose doorknobs, or replacing smoke detector batteries.

The landlord must do all other necessary repairs. A repair is considered necessary when a problem prevents the tenant from enjoying or using the apartment or raises health and safety concerns.Landlords must repair things like stairs that are rotting or at risk of collapsing, taps that don’t work properly, and doors that are difficult to open or close. Purely cosmetic changes are not considered “necessary”.

Necessary (but non-urgent) repairs by the landlord

Here are the rules that landlords must follow when doing necessary, but non-urgent, repairs:

  • The landlord must notify the tenant (verbally or in writing) at least 24 hours before the work begins.
  • Work can only be done between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

These rules do not apply in emergencies (see Urgent repairs, below)

Entering the home to do work

Tenants can refuse to let the landlord enter their home if these rules have not been followed.

If a tenant wishes to be present while the landlord or repair person is in their home, they must make themselves available during that time. Tenants can’t require the work to be done more specifically than between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

If a tenant refuses to let the landlord enter but does not have a valid reason, the landlord can ask the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL, formerly Régie du logement or rental board) to order the tenant to give access to the home.

For more information, see our article Visits and Access to Your Apartment.

Major repairs or renovations

There are many types of major repairs and renovations. In general, this kind of work is done to maintain the building and improve the tenants’ quality of life. It usually involves doing work on the structure of the building itself or things like kitchen cupboards or bathroom fixtures.

Renovations and major repairs can only be done if they are reasonable. The question of reasonableness depends on the type of work, the need for the work, and whether the tenant has to vacate their home to do it.

Generally, any major improvements or repairs must respect the tenant’s right to stay in their home. In legal terms, this is called the “right to maintain occupancy”. However, some kinds of work require the tenant to leave their home temporarily.  In some other situations, a landlord can even oblige a tenant to leave their apartment permanently to carry out a specific major project. This is known as “eviction” and is explained below.

Important! It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant simply to renovate. This is sometimes called “renoviction”. This can be a way to rent the apartment to a new tenant at a much higher rent.

Doing major repairs or renovations while the tenant remains in the apartment

Unless it is necessary for a tenant to leave during repairs, they can remain in their apartment while the work is being done. For example, a tenant does not have to leave their home so that the bathroom ceiling can be replaced.

Here are the rules that landlords must follow if the tenant will remain in the apartment while major work is being done;

  • The landlord must notify the tenant in writing at least 10 days before the work begins.
  • This notice must include:
    • the type of work
    • the date when the work will begin
    • an estimate of how long it will take
    • other conditions under which the work will be done (forexample, whether the tenant will be prevented from using certain rooms)
  • Work can only be done between7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The tenant’s options

Within 10 days of receiving the landlord’s notice, tenants may ask the TAL to change or remove any abusive conditions. They may ask to postpone the work for personal reasons, to reduce their rent while the work is being done, or even to vacate their home temporarily if they feel that is the most reasonable option.  However, tenants do not have a say in how the work is done or what materials are to be used.

Once a tenant has applied to the TAL, it is up to the landlord to prove that the work and the proposed conditions (such as the amount of compensation) are reasonable. The work is suspended until the TAL renders its decision.

Asking the tenant to leave temporarily for major repairs or renovations 

It is also possible for a landlord to ask a tenant to leave their apartments while such work is being done.  

Tenants should only be asked to leave when necessary, like when the apartment must be empty for the work to be done or when the work involves health or safety concerns for the tenant. For example, a tenant can be asked to leave for a few days while the kitchen floor, cabinets, and countertops are redone.  

This absence is temporary: it is not an eviction. The tenant has the right to go back home when the work is done. 

Here are the rules that landlords must follow when doing this kind of work:  

  • The landlord must give the tenant written notice  
    • at least 10 days before the start of the work if the tenant does not have to leave for more than a week. 
    • at least 3 months before the start of the work if the tenant has to leave for more than a week. 
  • This notice must include: 
    • the type of work  
    • the date when the work will begin  
    • an estimate of how long it will take  
    • how long the tenant must be gone  the amount offered as compensation 
  • The landlord must pay compensation to the tenant beginning on the date when the tenant temporarily leaves the apartment.  

This compensation must be equal to the tenant’s reasonable expenses for relocating (for example, the difference in their rent, the cost of forwarding their mail, the cost of storing or moving their belongings, etc.). Tenants do not have to pay rent to the landlord while they are away. They only have to pay for the place they are temporarily staying in, like a hotel or another apartment.  

The tenant’s options 

If the tenant agrees to leave, they should inform the landlord within 10 days of receiving the notice. If the tenant does not respond within this time, they are legally considered to have refused to leave.  

If the tenant agrees to leave, but does not agree with the conditions, they have 10 days after receiving the notice to apply to the TAL to change or remove any abusive conditions.  For example, the tenant may believe that they have been asked to leave for too long or that they have not been offered sufficient compensation.  

If the tenant refuses to allow the work, or does not respond to the notice, the landlord has 10 days from the date of refusal to ask the TAL for a decision. In this case, the landlord must prove to the TAL that the work and other contents of the notice (like the amount of compensation) are reasonable and that the temporary departure of the tenant is necessary. The work is suspended until the TAL renders its decision.  

Eviction of a tenant to carry out certain projects

In some exceptional situations, a landlord can force a tenant to leave their apartment permanently so that the landlord can carry out certain major projects. These are:

  • to subdivide the home (for example, by making one 8-room apartment into two 4-room apartments)
  • to demolish the unit (for example, by making a duplex into a single home)
  • to substantially enlarge the unit (for example, by adding another room)
  • to change the use of the unit (for example, by making an apartment into an office).

For more information about evictions and the tenants’ options, see our article Evictions.

Urgent repairs: entering the home without notice

Urgent work may be done in exceptional and emergency situations only. Work is considered urgent only when it must be done immediately to prevent a risk to the tenants’ health or safety or to protect the apartment or building.

Examples of urgent work include quickly drying out rooms that have been damaged by water or repairing walls and floors that have been damaged by fire.

Landlords may enter the home to do urgent work at any time. It is preferable to give the tenants advance notice, but it is not required by law.