A Mouse in My House: Understanding Minimum Housing and Health Standards for Residential Tenancies

/A Mouse in My House: Understanding Minimum Housing and Health Standards for Residential Tenancies

A Mouse in My House: Understanding Minimum Housing and Health Standards for Residential Tenancies

2023-06-01T14:58:24-06:00 March 1st, 2023|

In residential tenancies, one of the most common disputes is assigning whose responsibility it is to deal with damage to the rental premises. While reasonable wear-and-tear from daily use is common, there are occasions where much more significant damage can require extensive and expensive repairs. This was the case in a recent decision out of the Provincial Court of Alberta: Hometime Property Services Ltd v Girumnesh (2022 ABPC 172 (CanLII)), where a landlord sought just over $8,000.00 in damages from a former tenant resulting from a mouse infestation.



The Plaintiff/landlord, Hometime Property Services Ltd. (“Hometime”), entered into a residential tenancy agreement with the Defendant/former tenant, Ani Girumnesh in November of 2019. At the end of the one-and-a-half-year tenancy, Ms. Girumnesh moved out and Hometime arranged for a new tenant to rent out the rental premises. The new tenant discovered mice while they were in the process of moving in and raised the problem with Hometime. After conducting an examination of the rental premises, a pest control contractor retained by Hometime advised that there was a “long term mouse infestation” (paras 7-8). Hometime sued Ms. Girumnesh for the cost of exterminating and remediating the damage caused by the mouse infestation on the basis that it was present during Ms. Girumnesh’s tenancy.

The Court highlighted the fact that Ms. Girumnesh herself was unaware of the mouse infestation and it was only discovered by Hometime once the new tenant pointed it out during the process of moving into the rental premises. Notably, the mouse infestation was not discovered by Hometime during three ‘check-in’ inspections during Ms. Girumnesh’s tenancy nor was it identified in either Ms. Girumnesh’s move-out inspection or the new tenant’s move-in inspection.


Analysis and Holding

Turning to who should be responsible for the damage caused by the mouse infestation, the Court started by examining the prevailing legislation on landlord and tenant disputes in Alberta: the Residential Tenancies Act (the “Act”). Under section 16(c) of the Act, it is one of the landlord’s covenants that the rental premises will meet the minimum housing standards under the Public Health Act and its regulations.

Section 4 of the Housing Regulation to the Public Health Act states that “[a]n owner shall maintain the housing premises in compliance with the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, as approved and published by the Minister and as amended by the Minister from time to time”.

The Minimum Housing and Health Standards can easily be found on the Government of Alberta website. In this case, the Court focussed on section 16(a) of same which requires that “[t]he owner shall ensure that the housing premises are free of insect and rodent infestations”.

In reviewing the applicable legislation and standards, the Court determined that the responsibility of exterminating and remediating a mouse infestation sits squarely on a landlord’s shoulders at first instance. This is not to say that there are no circumstances under which a tenant could be found liable. Section 21(e) of the Act requires that a tenant “not do or permit significant damage to the premises, the common areas or the property of which they form a part”. A landlord could have recourse if, during the tenancy, a tenant were to have caused a mouse infestation, allowed another person to create a mouse infestation, or wilfully did not notify the landlord of an existing mouse infestation. However, absent such circumstances, “it is the ultimate obligation of the Landlord to remediate that condition and return that premises to a clean and sanitary condition” (para 31).

The Court found that there were no circumstances in the present case to deviate from the presumption that Hometime is responsible for bearing the cost of exterminating and remediating the mouse infestation. Accordingly, Hometime’s claim against Ms. Girumnesh was dismissed.


Concluding Remarks

The Minimum Housing and Health Standards set out many more minimum standards than just mouse infestations that landlords in Alberta are required to comply with to ensure the health and safety of their rental premises. Although the landlord will typically be on the hook for noncompliance with these minimum standards, tenants should be careful not to cause or wilfully ignore breaches of the standards or else risk being liable to rectify the damage.

Our team at Stillman LLP is well-versed in residential tenancy disputes and can offer advice about minimum housing and health standards whether you are a landlord or tenant. Those interested in discussing their particular situation should not hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced lawyers for guidance.


By Taylor Maxston

Note: This article provides general commentary and is in no way intended to replace the need to consult with a legal professional concerning the specific circumstances of your situation. This article should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice.

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