Can a landlord be held liable for the infestation of bed bugs?

Saskatchewan, Canada

The following excerpt is from H.R. v Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd., 2017 SKORT 459 (CanLII):

In Hingston v Wolfe SK Q.B. No. 1275/10, Justice Allbright stipulated in paragraph 10 of his decision that there is a strict liability that applies to landlords, requiring landlords to provide rental units in a state that meets the criteria set out in section 49. The facts in Hingston v. Wolfe were that the unit was infested with bed bugs and cockroaches at the time that the tenants moved in and the landlord was unaware of the infestations. Justice Allbright wrote: Section 49 of The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, as earlier recited, places an obligation on a landlord to maintain residential property “in a good state of repair and fit for habitation, use and enjoyment …”. In this instance, it is clear from the evidence which was accepted by the hearing officer, that the premises had cockroaches and bedbugs on the premises when the tenants moved in. … While I am satisfied that the landlord in all probability was unaware of the condition of the premises as left by the previous occupant, and indeed to the landlord’s credit, undertook to attempt to deal with the infestation at an early stage upon being advised of it, that does not alleviate the landlord from the obligation to provide premises which meet the criteria set forth in s. 49. It is in my respectful view not simply a matter of the landlord being given notice by in this instance the appellants as tenants of the problem, and thereby attempting to remedy it within a reasonable time period. The fact of the matter is that the loss, which was occasioned by the tenants, occurred (without their initial knowledge) prior to the landlord’s attempts to have pest control personnel deal with the problem. The loss had already occurred. [emphasis added]

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