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Freezing Burnaby tenant broke lease over landlord’s heat policy but was punished for it

Renter says landlord didn't live up to written agreement
Thermostat 11062020
A Burnaby landlord was accused of not turning on the heat for a tenant. (Photo by Dan LeFebvre | Unsplash)

An arbitrator with B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch has made a Burnaby renter pay a heavy price for rebelling against a landlord who kept them freezing all winter.

A published dispute resolution found in favour of a Burnaby landlord in the Metrotown area on Sussex Avenue after the tenant gave notice halfway through a one-year lease agreement, which was set to expire in August 2021.

The tenant felt that the landlord has not lived up to the written agreement, which includes a provision that heat would be provided in the unit. The landlord was in control of the heat settings – not the tenant, who wrote in their submission that the suite was “very cold” in the fall and winter months.

“As the tenant did not have the ability to control the heat, the tenant felt that the landlord had breached a material term of the tenancy agreement,” the dispute resolution said.

The landlord denied that there was an issue involving the heat settings and was seeking more than $2,800 in compensation for lost rent, unpaid utilities, damage to the suite and having to replace keys. The landlord also wanted $50 to compensate for the tenant “moving the furniture” in the furnished suite.

The two sides also argued over the cleanliness of the suite when the tenant moved out.

There was also a disagreement about a broken window, with the tenant saying an “uninvited” and intoxicated person broke the window and so they should not be responsible for it.

The arbitrator ruled that the tenant’s claim of being kept cold all winter didn’t meet the standard of a “frustrated tenancy” that is used to break a lease agreement.

“The test for determining that a contract has been frustrated is a high one,” the arbitrator wrote.

“I find that the rental unit was still inhabitable,” the arbitrator wrote.

The arbitrator dismissed one of the damage claims and also the claim of $50 for the moving of furniture, but ruled in favour of the landlord in the other areas, minus the money the landlord already holds in the damage deposit.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.