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My family rents our primary residence in a major city and we pay significant monthly rent, enough to cover two or three mortgage payments in a cheap juridisction. One of the key reasons I have been a long term renter is to avoid dealing with the expenses and hassles related to maintenance of a home.

In the past I have always had very good, responsive and proactive landlords who fulfill their end of the maintenance bargain.

We moved in the spring and are locked into a 2 year lease. Our new landlord has been hit hard by the pandemic, they briefly listed our property (3 proper legal rental units in a house) for sale, before withdrawing it from the market and moving their primary residence to a cheaper area about an hour away.

We have recently had some maintenance needs which they have struggled to address, one was a crucial plumbing issue which was addressed slower than necesary, and they have now flat out told us they do not have the cash to address other less critical but still pressing issues we have brought to their attention, and basically said "it'll have to wait until spring". It is clear the rental income is going towards their personal expenses, none of what is needed amounts to even 1/3rd of our monthly rent in terms of cost.

I have reviewed our tenants insurance policy but there is no mention of situations where a landlord can no longer afford maintenance of their property.

Other than holding significant cash in a savings account to cover potential expenses that could arise if the landlord is unable to address major issues, and other than legal actions against the landlord, are there any personal finance approaches we can take to hedge against the risk we suddenly find ourselves exposed to?

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    What kind of risk? Are there health and safety issues that are going unaddressed? Are you concerned about injury/death/illness? Property damage? Loss of use of the rented unit (unlivable, or needs to be vacated for repairs)? Or paying what would have been a fair rate for the rental if it were well-maintained, but the condition of the unit now doesn't justify such a rate? – yoozer8 Sep 30 at 14:41
  • Basically all of the above, at present there are no (serious) health or safety risks, but if the property continues to deteriorate they will arise. The sort of "loss of value" that might be represented by the condition of the unit vs rent paid is less of a concern. It just feels like we are suddenly exposed to a bunch ownership type risks, if several appliances die, if the landlord has no capacity to handle their snow-removal obligations, etc. these things will fall to us by necessity. I realise the question is a bit broad, it seems to me the risks of having a broke landlord are broad. – Cameron Roberts Sep 30 at 14:51
  • @CameronRoberts I would guess that your main "insurance" is that if the contract stipulates the landlord is required to maintain the property, and they don't, you are likely (though this is not legal advice!) to be able to get out of the 2-year lock-in and rent a different property. Obviously there are more factors involved than my simplistic summary... – TripeHound Sep 30 at 15:00
  • unfortunately at this time we can't pin any expectations on the legal system, tenancy matters in Ontario go before a special tribunal and everything is delayed by covid, the lease could be up before any hearing. Plus I'm self employed and bill by the hour, I face significant personal costs (in lost income) by either moving or engaging in some kind of legal process. I could break the lease, get sued, and try to defend myself, but that's a risky path. Ultimately I'm not sure there is any real answer to my question, but I'm interested to hear if there are any creative ideas or options out there. – Cameron Roberts Sep 30 at 15:13
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    Is there a rental ombudsman in your jurisdiction that guarantees you certain rights as a renter? (water, plumbing, safety are usual inclusions - in Montreal, you even have the right to a new coat of paint every few years) You may need to reach out them to get traction. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Sep 30 at 15:37
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I'm not sure you can even do this without owning the property, but a possibility might be purchasing a home warranty. If you can't maybe you could offer to pay for it if the landlord will obtain one.

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  • Interesting thought, not sure if there's an option for renters but it's worth investigating. – Cameron Roberts Oct 1 at 1:56

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