Definition

Unfit housing is generally defined as a dwelling where conditions are unhealthy and/or dangerous to the well-being of the people living there. This applies to apartments as well as individual houses. Unlike the United States and Canada, which use Common Law, in Quebec, all matters concerning relations between citizens are governed by a civil code. In this specific case, a lease is a contract between tenant and landlord. Basically, the civil code states that a rented apartment must be delivered and maintained in a convenient condition, and the tenant must pay his (her) rent.

As specified in the civil code:

Art. 1913. The lessor may not offer for rent or deliver a dwelling that is unfit for habitation. A dwelling is unfit for habitation if it is in such a condition as to be a serious danger to the health or safety of its occupants or the public, or if it has been declared so by the court or by a competent authority.
Art. 1915. A lessee may abandon his dwelling if it becomes unfit for habitation, but he is bound to inform the lessor of the condition of the dwelling before abandoning it or within the following ten days.
A lessee who gives such a notice to the lessor is exempt from rent for the period during which the dwelling is unfit for habitation, unless the condition of the dwelling is the result of his own fault.

Unfit housing expertise

Unhealthy housing inspections differ from pre-purchase, litigation and other types of inspections. The emphasis being mainly on people's health and safety. The inspector should be competent and a recognized expert-witness.
An unfit housing or habitability inspection is used to examen the dwelling to see if it has serious problems limiting or preventing its normal use and to determine if the tenant or the landlord’s allegations are founded. If such is the case, the inspector must determine who is responsible for the situation. The landlord isn't always at fault for the degradation of his building. For example, some tenants are downright filthy, and a horder can be a danger for himself and to others living in the same building. But most often, in cases I have experienced, the leesor is a slumlord.

When we speak of unhealthy housing, we automatically think of mould. But many other problems can render your house or apartment unfit for housing. For example, electrical problems, gas emanations from sewers, no emergency exits, faulty stairs and handrailing, vermin, inadequate heating, contaminents, etc.
If the apartment is dangerous to the health and welfare of the tenant and/or the other occupants of the building, it can be defined as being unfit for living. The inspector will then write his report, with a clear conclusion.


Mould

There are thousands of types of mould, ranging from ordinary to deadly. Mould is NEVER good for health. Children are particularly vunerable to mould. In a house, it's not the mouldish stains that you see on wall, ceilings or windows that are dangerous, it's what you can't see that is dangerous: microscopic spores the occupants breath in, eventually causing sickness and breathing problems. The four "wining conditions" that favor mould growth are the following:
  1. Water and/or humidity
  2. Absence of direct lighting
  3. Absence of ventilation or air movement
  4. Organic support to feed the mushroom base (ex. drywall, wood)

When the expert is given a mandate, he is usually informed of the problems affecting the property. He can then look for the causes of the problems. For example, when mould is found, it usually involves water infiltration or condensation. When told there are rats and mice, the expert should look for garbage build-up, or insects inside the house or apartment.

Mould growth

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