Does Your Tenant Have Mental Illness?

Posted on 3/30/2011 2:54:01 PM by Chris Sui

IllnessThree rental property owners spoke to BCAOMA member services reps recently about three different yet quite similar situations. Some of their comments were:

"My tenant has recently been diagnosed with dementia. She left the water running in her bathtub causing a flood."

"My tenant told me that the large cigarette burns in the living room carpet were caused by her falling asleep on her couch while smoking. She claims that she suffers from mild narcolepsy, a sleep disorder."

"My tenant has problems with drinking and often passes out while the stove is still on, causing some small fires. Thank goodness the tenant across the hall smells smoke and contacts me very quickly."

The similarity between these cases is that each of these tenants is dealing with some form of illness causing them to behave in a way that poses significant risk to your other tenants and to your property. These tenants may have been with you for many years, paid their rent on time, took care of the property and behaved reasonably. Over time, these same tenants developed diseases that could lead to major disasters within their rental suites and the property overall.

Conscience tells us that one would be rash, unsympathetic or down right mean to evict a good tenant for dangerous behavior caused by a disease or illness that the tenant could not help or control. Owners ask us at the BCAOMA, "Can I evict? Would I be heartless and inhumane to evict? Would this make me one of those bad rental property owners you hear on the news? What if my tenant burns down the building or other tenants get flooded out of their suites, or causes injuries or death because of my reluctance to do something? Would my building insurance be voided if the insurance company considered my inaction to be negligent?"

Before considering eviction we suggest some of the following approaches:

1. Write simple step by step instructions that explain how to use the appliances in large print. Keep them posted in common areas such as laundry rooms or provide each tenant a copy for their own use.

2. Ensure smoke alarms are placed in the appropriate areas within each suite and do regular monthly checks to ensure that the batteries have not been removed. Hold regularly scheduled fire drills.

3. In some cases, you may have to dismantle the working elements of the stove and encourage the tenant to use the microwave only. You would have to ask permission - this might involve contacting the family of the tenant to get their assistance. On an annual basis update emergency contact information for each tenant so you are able to reach the appropriate family contact when need be.

4. If available, talk to the tenant`s home care or community health service worker to develop a safety and injury prevention plan or to arrange more frequent in-home visits. If the tenant does not have a community health service worker and you have no family contacts, give your local community health services department a call and express your concerns (Vancouver Coastal Health or Fraser Health Authorities).

5. You can ask to have a tenant mentally assessed if the behaviour has become extreme&mdashdangerous to themselves and/or other tenants through the Health Authorities. Explain that you are at the point of evicting your tenant.

6. A police officer or constable may apprehend and immediately take a person to a physician for examination if satisfied from personal observations, or information received, that the person

(a) is acting in a manner likely to endanger that person's own safety or the safety of others, and

(b) is apparently a person with a mental disorder.

When all prevention and intervention strategies have been exhausted and the situation has not improved, rental property owners may consider eviction. Owners may end a tenancy if the tenant has seriously jeopardized the health or safety or lawful right or interest of the owner or another occupant, or put the owner`s property at significant risk (RTA Section 47). A written breach letter must be served on the tenant as a final warning giving a reasonable date to rectify. If the situation is not corrected within a reasonable time, One Month Notice To End Tenancy can duly be served. Ensure that you keep a journal of every incident to corroborate evidence should the tenancy lead to eviction.

Rental property owners have the duty to ensure for other tenants in the building their rights to safety and security. When faced with these types of problems act promptly, document, and ensure you do your due diligence to take care of your tenan`s needs, your property, and yourself.

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