For anyone who survives a Canadian winter, this is a clear and present danger, and snow and ice related injuries occur with an alarming frequency. For those who own their own homes, such an injury may just be chalked up to a learning experience, but what about for those who rent? How responsible are landlords for preventing such types of injury?

In the case of Montgomery v. Van, it was decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal that, irrespective of any prior agreement between tenant and landlord, it would be the landlord’s responsibility to remove any snow, ice, or other outdoor hazards. In the case, the landlord claimed that due to a clause in the lease that stated that the tenant would be responsible for clearing any snow or ice, he was absolved from any responsibility for the injuries Montgomery sustained when she slipped on a patch of ice leading to her basement apartment. He argued that the lease clause was legal despite the Residential Tenancies Act, which states that:

Exterior common areas shall be maintained in a condition suitable for their intended use and free of hazards and, for these purposes, the following shall be removed:

5. Unsafe accumulations of ice and snow.

While the original judge agreed with the landlord, the appellate court ruled that “since the responsibility for snow removal is the landlord’s under the Act, then the landlord cannot transfer this responsibility to the tenant unless there is separate consideration given” – that is, a separate agreement where the landlord pays the tenant to take over that responsibility.

In addition to this decision leading to the plaintiff winning her case against the landlord, it also set a precedent for handling disputes of responsibility between landlord and tenant. Even when leases are signed with full awareness and agreement with the clauses therein, they are void if inconsistent with the Residential Tenancies Act. As a result, both tenants and landlords should be well versed in their respective rights and responsibilities before signing any lease. If you are a landlord or a renter, read through the Act today and ensure that both sides are meeting their legal obligations.

Contact the Mackesy Smye personal injury legal team with any questions regarding your specific situation.