The Dwelling

Major Work

You are the tenant and you learn that your landlord intends to do some major work1 in you dwelling. You may be a little worried and wonder what to expect, especially since it is very likely that you will have to leave your dwelling for a certain time.

You are the landlord and are planning major work. You’re wondering what the restrictions will be and how it will be possible to go about getting the work done while maintaining a good relationship with your tenant at the same time.

This section is designed to inform both of you.

Definition

Major work includes important repairs or improvements in a dwelling such as renovating the bathroom or kitchen or replacing the plumbing, the heating system or the windows of a dwelling. In general, this is work that gives an added value to the dwelling and improves the quality of life of its occupants.

The landlord’s rights

During the lease, the landlord has the right to make improvements or major repairs to any of the dwellings, as long as the work and the conditions under which it is to be carried out are reasonable.

However, he is not allowed to change the form of the dwelling or its destination, transforming it into commercial space, for example.

Before undertaking any work, the landlord must respect the procedure set out in the law as described below.

The landlord’s obligations

  1. Before the work begins, the landlord must give the tenant a 10-day notice if the tenant does not need to leave the dwelling or if the vacancy is not for more than one week.

    If the tenant must leave the dwelling for more than one week, the notice must be given at least 3 months before the evacuation.

  2. During the term of the lease, the landlord may not increase the rent of the dwelling because of major work that he has done. However, he may do so at the end of the lease provided notice is given in accordance with the law.

    Furthermore, the landlord may not modify any other conditions of the lease during the term of that lease. For example, if the landlord was assuming heating costs for the dwelling, he must continue to do so, until the end of the lease, even if the repairs involved replacing the old oil furnace, which heated the entire building, by a new system which heats the dwelling individually.

  3. When the work is completed, the landlord must return the dwelling in a clean condition, otherwise the tenant may file a complaint with the Régie.

The notice

The landlord’s notice must not only be given within the time limits specified by the law, it must also include the following information:

  • the exact nature of the work to be done (e.g., redoing the entire electrical system);
  • the date on which the work will begin and an estimate of its duration;
  • all other conditions regarding the work if they are likely to seriously affect the tenant’s enjoyment of the dwelling.

And, when the tenant must temporarily leave the dwelling, the notice must also indicate:

  • how long the tenant must be gone;
  • the amount offered to the tenant as compensation2 to cover expenses involved in leaving the dwelling (e.g., moving costs, storage, extra rent in the temporary dwelling, etc.)

Temporary evacuation

In all cases where the tenant is asked to leave, he has 10 days from the date of receipt of the notice to notify the landlord whether he agrees to vacate the dwelling. If he does not respond to the notice, he is deemed to have refused to leave the dwelling.

The landlord may, within 10 days of the tenant’s refusal, ask the Régie du logement to decide on the advisability of the evacuation. The Régie may also set conditions it deems just and reasonable.

Abusive conditions

When temporary evacuation is not requested or if the tenant agrees to leave the dwelling but wishes to contest some of the conditions mentioned in the notice, the tenant must, within 10 days of receipt of notice, ask the Régie to change or remove the conditions that he considers abusive.

The hearing of the application

Whenever the tenant or the landlord asks the Régie to rule in either of the above cases (these hearings will be given priority by the Régie), all work is immediately suspended, unless the Régie decides otherwise.

At the hearing held by the Régie to rule on the conditions in which the work is to be done, the landlord must demonstrate the reasonable nature of the work and of the conditions as well as the necessity to vacate the dwelling.

In its ruling, the Régie may impose such conditions it considers just and reasonable.

Note: The tenant shall be entitled to damages resulting from his having to permanently vacate the dwelling following major work, whether or not he originally consented to it, if it turns out that the work was done with a view to converting the building into condominiums and evicting the tenant. The tenant may also claim punitive damages.

The tenant’s obligations

With regard to major work, the tenant must allow the landlord, his representative and his workers access to the dwelling under the following circumstances:

  • if he has received the landlord’s notice and has not contested it within the legal time limits;
  • if a decision by a commissioner authorized the work to be done;
  • if the tenant has reached an agreement with the landlord.

When it’s a question of access to the dwelling for major work, all parties should use common sense and act in good faith.

The landlord must perform his work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Of course, nothing forbids him to agree with his tenant on different hours if they so wish.

The tenant’s rights

Both the tenant who has had to undergo the work without leaving the dwelling and the tenant who has had to vacate may take action at the Régie should the work not be finished with the specified time or if it is not carried out as stipulated in the landlord’s notice.

The tenant may also appeal to the Régie if, once the work is completed, the landlord leaves the dwelling in an unsuitable condition or if there is a reduction in services.

When the work is done, the tenant pays the same rent. The landlord may not request an increase or change any other conditions of the lease except at the time of renewal.

Public housing program

When the alterations made have been the subject of an agreement between the landlord and the tenant within the scope of a public housing preservation and restoration program, no notice concerning repairs or improvements is required and it is not possible to contest the work.

In most cases, these are renovation programs where loans or grants are given by a government organisation or a municipality.

Even when the agreement includes the amount of rent to be paid by the tenant, to be entitled to a rent increase the landlord must send a notice within the time limits specified by the law.

1. For information on urgent and necessary repairs, see the section on this subject.
2. This compensation is payable on the day the tenant leaves the dwelling. If it should prove insufficient, the tenant may be reimbursed for any other reasonable expenses incurred.