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The tenant leaves his belongings...

The tenant leaves his belongings...

If the tenant leaves his belongings in the dwelling, do not forget to send them a 90 day notice!

On February 20, 2009, the tenant filed Court with an application¹ for damages in the amount of $8,500 . The evidence filed showed that the parties were bound by a lease from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, at a monthly rent of 443 $. In support of his application, the tenant argued that the landlord had disposed of an industrial sewing machine which he estimates was worth $8,500, and this without any notice or authorization.

The tenant testified that in January 2007, he intended to vacate the dwelling to allow the landlord to carry out major repair work. However, the parties then reached another agreement to cancel the lease as of February 15, 2007. Concerning McKay brand sewing machine which is used to sew shoe soles from the inside, the tenant had acquired it in bankruptcy sale. This machine belonged to a whole set that he had bought at a cost of $2,200. Taking into account the size of this machine, it was not stored in the dwelling, but rather in a storage space in the building.

To be able to move this machine out of the storage space, the tenant needed to be able to open the the building's loading door. However, in February 2007 this door which is below the level of the sidewalk could not be opened because it was wedged in the ice and needed to be repaired. Being unable to open the door at that time, this machine was left where it was..

On May 31st, 2008 when the tenant arrived at the building with a truck to pick up this machine, he learned that the landlord gave it to one of the construction workers working on a nearby building site.

For having disposed of this machine without any notice, the tenant claimed $8,000 from the landlord representing the market value of this type of machine and $500 for the cost of the unused truck rental.

In defence, the landlord declared that when the tenant vacated the dwelling, the agreement to cancel the lease was drafted according to terms dictated by the tenant. Concerning this sewing machine, it was left on the porch without any protection. Having no way to contact the tenant and considering the state of the machine in question, they decided to give it to a workman on the building site in September of 2007.

In response to this, the tenant admitted that when he returned the keys of the dwelling in February 2007, he did not have a fixed address, but he argued that the landlord could have reached him by email. He admitted that during their subsequent conversations, the issue of this machine was not discussed.

Article 1978 of the Civil code of Quebec reads as follows:

“1978. The lessee, on resiliation of the lease or when he vacates the dwelling, shall leave it free of all movable effects except those which belong to the lessor. If the lessee leaves movable effects at the end of the lease or after abandoning the dwelling, the lessor may dispose of them in accordance with the rules prescribed in the Book on Property which apply to the holder of property entrusted and forgotten.”

Concerning the rules making it possible for the lessor to dispose of property left on the premises by the tenant, it is necessary to refer about it to articles 944, 945 and 946 of the Civil Code of Quebec which read as follows:

«944. Where a thing that has been entrusted for safekeeping, work or processing is not claimed within 90 days from completion of the work or the agreed time, it is considered to be forgotten and the holder, after having given notice of the same length of time to the person who entrusted him with the thing, may dispose of it.

945. The holder of a thing entrusted but forgotten disposes of it by auction sale as in the case of a found thing, or by agreement. He may also give a thing that cannot be sold to a charitable institution or, if that is not possible, dispose of it as he sees fit.

946. The owner of a lost or forgotten thing may revendicate it, so long as his right of ownership has not been prescribed, by offering to pay the cost of its administration and, where applicable, the value of the work done. The holder of the thing may retain it until payment.

If the thing has been alienated, the owner's right is exercised, notwithstanding article 1714, only against what is left of the price of sale, after deducting the cost of its administration and alienation and the value of the work done.»

The evidence shows that the landlord never attempted to notify the tenant to come to reclaim his sewing machine. As for the tenant, the evidence shows that he never notified the landlord that this machine was left on the premises because he could not open the loading door to remove it from the storage space. In the spring, when the door was no longer jammed by ice and be opened, he didn't notify the landlord that he intended to reclaim this machine.

However, the landlord committed and error by not taking custody of the machine according to the law and consequently, he is liable responsible for the dame caused to the tenant.

Regarding the value of this sewing machine, the tenant deposited an email from the Landis International Company which sells this type of machine. In June of 2008, they estimated that a newly rebuilt machine of this type would be worth between $7,000and $8,000. As for the condition of this particular machine purchased by the tenant, no evidence was provided as to its condition in September 2007, or the costs of any repairs performed on it.

Taking into account the evidence filed and the price paid for this machine by the tenant, the Court grants the tenant the amount of $1,000 for the loss of this sewing machine. As for the expense of renting a truck, the Court dismisses this part of the claim since the tenant should have contacted the landlord before showing up at the building fifteen months later to reclaim his sewing machine.

In conclusion, the Court ordered the landlord to pay the tenant $1,000 in damages due to the loss of the machine.

¹ Yvon Roux vs. Coop. D' Habitation Aquarelle de Québec, 18 090220 027 G, June 29, 2010

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Me Bill Kostopoulos

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