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Damages caused by the decease of a tenant must be borne by the landlord

Damages caused by the decease of a tenant must be borne by the landlord

The tenant was bound by a lease for the period going from the 1st of July 2007 to the 30th of June 2008. He died in his apartment on the 15th of October 2007. The tenant was living alone in his apartment. Following the tenant’s decease, – his mortal remains were found several months later –, the landlord had to carry out cleaning and disinfection works in the apartment besides changing the carpets and repainting the apartment.

The landlord states that the apartment had become uninhabitable because of nauseating odours which had impregnated the apartment and which, one year later, still persisted. He did thus not put the apartment for rent before the month of September 2008, i.e. one year later. The landlord claims thus the loss of rent suffered since November of 2007 until the 30th of June 2008, at the end of the lease thus, since the succession has never given notice of termination of the lease in virtue of article 1938 of the Quebec Civil Code.

The Court must thus decide whether the inheritors of the deceased person are responsible for the unpaid rent and for the damages resulting from the decease in the circumstances mentioned above.

The damages to the apartment:

One should ask if the decease of the tenant constitutes a gratuitous case as defined by the following doctrine1:

« As in contractual matters, an absolute necessity must contain, in order to be recognized as such, the characteristics of unpredictability, irresistibility and the principle of exteriority, even if the strict recognition of this latter one would sometimes be put into question by Quebec jurisprudence. »

Both, authors and jurisprudence, agree upon the fact that decease must be considered as a fortuitous case. The Court of Quebec has already decided on a similar litigation:

« The late Joseph Keenan could surely not have known in advance the date and the circumstances of his death, no less as he could have foreseen the inconvenience caused by the presence of his mortal remains, without anyone knowing, over a period of several months, in his apartment. In this particular case, that it was the negligence displayed by Joseph Keenan, while alive, that would generate the responsibility on his part for the damages caused to the apartment of the plaintiffs.2 »

A deceased person is incapable of committing an error. Two decisions from the Rental Board have decided in this way.3 Death is, by its nature, an expected event but the precise moment of death remains as unpredictable as it is impossible to resist. The Court has rejected the request for damages and interests.

The demand for unpaid rents:

How about the claim now for return of unpaid payments? Even if the apartment was too unclean to be inhabited, no notice whatsoever to clear off had been expedited to the tenant. In the present case, not only has there been any clearing off but the mortal remains of the tenant have stayed in the premises during several months.

In fact, the law prescribes in which manner the inheritors of the tenant can shield themselves from their obligations in virtue of article 1938 of the Quebec Civil Code which holds that the succession can terminate a lease by giving three months’ notice to the landlord. As this opportunity has not been used by the succession, the Court must thus allow the request of the landlord, i.e. the rents for the months of November 2007 until the 30th of June 2008.

1 Jean-Louis BEAUDOIN, Civil Responsibility, 1994, p. 296.

2 Florent v. Inheritors of Joseph Keenan, 1976, c.p. p. 422.

3 Placements Cijac inc. v. Succession of Daneau R.L 37 920520 010 G; Leduc v. Succession of Dolain (1996) J.L. p.152.

About the author

Me Robert Soucy, avocat

Me Robert Soucy, auparavant régisseur devant la Régie du Logement du Québec, membre du Barreau du Québec depuis 1979, oeuvre auprès des propriétaires depuis 1984.

Il a donné de nombreuses conférences autant pour le Barreau du Québec que les membres de l'Association des propriétaires du Québec. Ainsi qu'écrit des articles dans le mensuel "Le Propriétaire".

Avocat connu et reconnu, il représente les propriétaires de logements locatifs devant la Régie du logement et devant diverses médias.

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