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Elevator Breakdown - Landlord Liability

For years, the tenants of a six-storey building in Etobicoke had suffered minor but annoying problems with the one elevator in their building.  The tenants were a mixed group with many seniors, families with small children and disabled people.  In the summer of 2007, the landlord told the tenants that the elevator would soon be taken out of service for a few weeks to overhaul it.  The landlord promised to share the details of the plans so the tenants could make arrangements.  Summer and fall came and the tenants heard nothing. 

On December 31, 2007, the landlord told the tenants that the work would be starting soon and there would be a meeting on the evening of January 7 to discuss the plans.  However, on the afternoon of January 7, the elevator was shut down and work began to dismantle it.  The meeting was held, but many could not attend and the landlord had no answers to the tenants’ questions.  The work took about six weeks and there was no elevator service during that time.  Many tenants suffered serious hardship, but the landlord refused to offer any compensation or rent reduction.

With the help of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations and South Etobicoke Community Legal Services, over 40 of the tenants applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board for a rent abatement (refund) and damages for the difficulties they experienced during this time.  The application was filed in June of 2008, and the case was heard on two dates in September and December.  The Board wanted written arguments, which were prepared by ACTO and there were other problems so a final decision was not given until June 24, 2009.

The tenants all received a rent reduction for January 2008 ranging from 5% to 25% depending on their floor.  The tenants who gave evidence at the hearing also received damage awards ranging from $500 to $2,000.  The landlord was ordered to pay over $12,000 in total.

The decision is important because it shows that group applications by tenants can be effective at holding landlords responsible for poorly executed maintenance plans.  The Board also applied recent the Court rulings that say that landlords should pay for more than out-of-pocket expenses when their actions disrupt the lives of tenants.