Finding one of your rental units in the state can be a nasty surprise.
Not only might one of your rental properties be slowly depreciating in value because one of your tenants is collecting trash in his place, but this kind of mess attracts and poses a fire hazard to your building and other occupants.
What to do ?
The first step is to decide what kind of garbage bear you’re dealing with. If you’ve got three students living together and they’ve forgotten to take out their beer bottles and wash the dishes, a little pressure might solve the problem. While an apartment is leased, if you’re not trying to re-rent, perhaps it’s best to simply accept a bit of mess. Different people have different hygiene standards, and as a landlord you are not really allowed to impose your standards on others.
That being said, if you need to be showing the place or if you fear the tenants will leave the unit in a mess, it is possible (in Quebec) to go after them with the Régie even after they have left. You can claim clean-up fees. Usually a threat will suffice to get some action on the cleanliness front.
Real problems start, however, when your tenants’ mess exceeds the « normal » level of dirty. The reality is that tenants with mental health problems, and/or drug- and alcohol problems can allow their places to degenerate to a level where their living conditions pose a threat to other tenants and to the building.
In this case, you need to take action.
Step 1 is to call the borough office that deals with your area (311 in Montreal), and ask the service that deals with sanitation to intervene. The City offices have an inspection service that will go deal with your tenants in the name of public sanitation. This is really the best course of action, because a tenant who lives in such squalid conditions would clean up if he or she were able to. Sanitation services have qualified professionals that are used to deal with these types of problem cases that often have to do with a tenant’s mental health. This department is also able to issue fines, if ever the your tenant does not comply.
Step 2 is to call the fire department. Filling up an apartment or common areas with junk is a fire hazard for your building and other tenants. The fire department has a special service that is dedicated prevention. They can intervene to order your tenant to clean up or be expelled.
Basically, it’s up to you as the landlord to make the call of whether your tenant will be able to react positively to a bit of pressure to clean up. If the answer is that the person is too far gone to respond properly, you need to involve public services. Not only is it your responsibility as a landlord, but it’s the best way to protect your investment and the safety of your other tenants.