N.B. tenant displaced by fire damage questions legislation around paying rent

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick man displaced by fire in dispute with landlord over rent'
New Brunswick man displaced by fire in dispute with landlord over rent
WATCH: After a Riverview teacher’s apartment was rendered unlivable due to fire and water damage from a fire in a neighbouring unit, he said he received conflicting information from New Brunswick’s residential tenancy tribunal on whether he needed to pay a full month’s rent. As Suzanne Lapointe reports, the unclear legislation has led to a dispute between him and his landlord. – Jan 30, 2023

After Darren Deinstadt was displaced from his Riverview, N.B., apartment for what he says was a month due to fire and smoke damage caused buy a fire in a neighbouring unit, he says he received conflicting information on whether he had to pay a full month’s rent for an apartment he temporarily couldn’t use.

Deinstadt’s tenant’s insurance paid for accommodations as well as replacements for some damaged furniture after his claims adjuster determined his apartment was temporarily unfit to occupy following the Dec. 11th fire.

“They came in and they assessed everything and I have their word and the property restoration company saying they would not advise anybody live there during that time,” Deinstadt said in an interview on Thursday.

He called the residential tenancy tribunal, asking if he needed to pay a full month’s rent for an apartment he couldn’t use.

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Read more: N.B. renters concerned with residential tenancy tribunal response times

“I was advised based on those things that I should not pay rent because it did not meet the standards of living in New Brunswick,” he said.

“So I didn’t and lo and behold, a couple days letter, my landlords put a notice to vacate in my mailbox.”

While Service New Brunswick’s website states it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide a well-maintained unit that meets all standards, legislation is unclear on whether a tenant needs to pay in full when a rental unit is unusable for a portion of the month.

Deinstadt brought the eviction notice to a Service New Brunswick office in Moncton.

“They immediately started an application for assistance to try to help me out. But unfortunately nothing became of that, and they told me there’s nothing that they could do, and if I did not want to be evicted I had to pay my rent in full,” he said.

Deinstadt paid the rent in order to avoid eviction.

Read more: Service NB doesn’t have data on whether rent cap deterred development

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Service NB representative Jennifer Vienneau declined to comment on the specific case, citing privacy reasons.

When asked about the policy on paying full rent when the apartment is unusable for a portion of the month, Vienneau said:

“Once an application for assistance has been receive relating to damages to a unit, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal will investigate the matter and make a decision based on their findings.”

Landlord Brian Steeves responded in a statement sent on Friday, which said :

“Restoration firms were on the site approximately one hour after the fire was extinguished and arrived while the fire department was still present. (…) All the residents had reoccupied their apartments the next day with the exception of the apartment where the fire occurred, the apartment under this apartment which was affected by some water damage, and Mr. Deinstadt’s apartment,”

It further read that after a cleaning from restoration company First on Site, the apartment was available to occupy within 10 days, on Dec. 21.

Deinstadt contests that timeline and provided Global News with documentation from restoration company Belfor as well as his tenant’s insurance claims adjuster, saying the apartment would be unsafe for at least three weeks.

Steeves’ statement also read, “The issuing of a Notice to Vacate is standard practice for any resident who has not paid their rent. The (tenancy tribunal) and the insurance company did indicate that rent was due since his insurance company was paying for his temporary accommodations.”

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Steeves has agreed to let Deinstadt out of his lease, which ends in March, so he can seek new accommodations.

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New Brunswick tenants dealing with significant increases after rent cap ends

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