Quebec tenants should be aware of Civil Code rights, obligations

by Joyce Blond Frank

A few months ago I wrote about certain provisions in the Civil Code of Quebec pertaining to notices to be given the landlord when a lease has to be cancelled, because of the death of the tenant or because the tenant moved into a residential or long-term care facility.

The termination of the lease takes effect two months after a notice is sent to the lessor, or one month after the notice is sent if the lease is for an indeterminate term or a term of less than 12 months. In cases where the lease is cancelled because of death, the landlord can pursue the deceased’s estate.

When a tenant moved into a residence in spring 2008 and died in January 2010, the landlord sued the estate.

In this case, special care services were provided by an employee of the residence. The employee left in March 2008 and was not replaced. The daughter of the deceased told the rental board that she had discussed the situation with the landlord on many occasions and pointed out to him that the promised services were not being provided and that if the situation continued, her mother would have to be moved. In April 2008, she advised the landlord, in the presence of two other people, that her mother would be leaving before long, to be admitted permanently into a long-term care facility. The move took place 28 days later. Because the lease was for an indeterminate term, the notice requirement as provided in the Civil Code was one month.

As the tenant had passed away, the landlord sued her estate for both rent owing and damages, alleging that he had not received proper notice of termination of the lease. The damages he was claiming were for expenses he had incurred resulting from his first effort to sue the estate in small claims court. That court dismissed his claim on the grounds that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case and the claim would have to be brought before the rental board.

The law is that a person can end his lease once he has been admitted to a residential and long-term care centre, a facility operated by an intermediate resource, a private seniors’ residence or any other lodging facility where the nursing care and personal assistance services required by his state of health are provided.

The law also states that, in the case of a senior, the termination notice must be sent with a certificate from an authorized person stating that the conditions requiring admission to the new facility have been met. Regardless of whether it is necessary to provide a one- or two-month notice, such notice must be in writing and be accompanied by the required certificate. It is only from the moment that these two conditions have been met that the delay to cancel the lease will start.

The rental board commissioner held that the evidence clearly showed that the deceased’s daughter had advised the landlord on April 19, 2008, that her mother would soon be leaving his premises because the essential condition of her being there, namely the presence of a special caretaker, had not been fulfilled. However, in spite of this, because no absolute date of departure had been specified, no certificate from an authorized person had been provided, and because the notice had been verbal and not written, the notice was held to be insufficient. Furthermore, since no specific departure date had been provided, the commissioner held that the notice period had only started on the day of the tenant’s departure on May 16. The lease was therefore considered to be cancelled as of June 16 and the estate was held responsible for payment of rent till then, plus interest and court costs. The claim for damages was not granted as the damages resulted solely from the landlord’s error in filing his claim before the wrong tribunal.

This rental board decision establishes that when a lease is being terminated, a written notice detailing the date of the move and a certificate from the proper authority representing the new residence are both necessary, otherwise the cost of moving may be greater than anticipated and even your estate could get caught with the bill.

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