According to the Civil Code of Québec, superior force is an unforeseeable and irresistible event. It releases a party from his or her obligations when the superior force makes it impossible for the party to perform them:
1470. A person may free himself from his liability for injury caused to another by proving that the injury results from superior force, unless he has undertaken to make reparation for it.
Superior force is an unforeseeable and irresistible event, including external causes with the same characteristics.
Depending on the circumstances, flooding can constitute superior force.
In such a case, a lessor is temporarily released from his or her obligation to provide for the enjoyment of the dwelling. In return, however, the lessor may not exact performance of the correlative obligation of the lessee, that is, payment of the rent:
1694. A debtor released by impossibility of performance may not exact performance of the correlative obligation of the creditor; if the performance has already been rendered, restitution is owed.
Where the debtor has performed part of his obligation, the creditor remains bound to perform his own obligation to the extent of his enrichment.
If a lessee has already paid the rent, the lessee can ask for restitution of that amount for the period of time the lessee was unable to use the dwelling.
However, in a case of superior force, the lessee cannot claim damages from the lessor for injuries sustained.
Return to the dwelling
After the water has receded, a lessee who returns to the premises can ask the tribunal for a rent reduction for loss of enjoyment caused, for example, by the variety of work that may be needed.
A lessee who considers that the dwelling is unfit for habitation, that is, it constitutes a serious danger to the health or safety of its occupants, may abandon the dwelling under certain conditions:
1915. A lessee may abandon his dwelling if it becomes unfit for habitation, but he is bound to inform the lessor of the condition of the dwelling before abandoning it or within the following 10 days.
A lessee who gives such a notice to the lessor is exempt from rent for the period during which the dwelling is unfit for habitation, unless the condition of the dwelling is the result of his own fault.
If a lessee gives such a notice and the dwelling becomes fit for habitation again, the lessee may choose to return to the dwelling or not:
1916. As soon as the dwelling becomes fit for habitation again, the lessor is bound to inform the lessee, if the lessee has given him his new address; the lessee is then bound to notify the lessor within the following 10 days as to whether or not he intends to return to the dwelling.
Where the lessee has not given the lessor his new address or fails to notify him that he intends to return to the dwelling, the lease is resiliated by operation of law and the lessor may enter into a lease with a new lessee.
Determining whether or not a dwelling is unfit for habitation is a question of fact and may be debated. In the event of a dispute, the question must be decided by the Régie du logement.