Can a Landlord Start to Charge For the Water Bill?
Generally, Unilateral Withdrawal of A Legacy Amenity, Such As a Previously Included Parking Spot or Previously Included Laundry Facilities, Is Unlawful. Even Where Certain Amenities Were Unmentioned Within a Lease, If Such Amenities Were Historically Provided Then Such Must Remain As Provided.
Similar Questions About Withdrawal of Amenities Include:
- Can a Landlord Substitute Pay Laundry When It Was Free Laundry?
- Does a Landlord Need to Replace a Fence If a Fence Was Always There?
- What Happens If A Dishwasher Breaks But Wasn't Included In the Lease?
- Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Start Paying For the Water Bill?
- Must a Landlord Keep a Gas Fireplace On Even If It Isn't Necessary For Heat?
Determining If Withdrawal of An Amenity or Service is Unlawful
A service historically provided to a tenant is a legacy service or amenity. Examples include parking, storage shed, fenced yard, laundry facilities, trash dumpster, various utilities, and many others. Often whether such service or amenity is included within the tenancy arrangement is absent, meaning silent, within the lease agreement, if any. In the absence of lease terms, or even when such was provided despite a contrary lease term, whether the service or amenity must remain available may be determined by review of conduct.
As per the case of P.T. v. V.R., et al, CET-74735-18 (Re), 2018 CanLII 88578 (ON LTB) it was said by the Landlord Tenant Board that:
11. The issue for me to consider here is whether the Landlords have substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit or residential complex by the Tenant or by a member of the Tenant's household by the male Landlord demanding the Tenant and her guests obtain his permission for them to park in the two unassigned spaces she has had the use of for about 4 years before September 2016 and arranging to have the Tenant’s daughter’s car and the Tenant’s guest’s car ticketed.
12. The lot survey submitted by the Landlord indicates that there is plenty of space to park along the eastern side of the Landlords’ house without encroaching on the right-of-way that is a dead end.
13. Indeed, the photograph of a car parked beside the Landlords’ house shows it is not on the right-of-way and yet that was where the Tenant’s daughter apparently was parked when she was boxed in for 3 hours by the male Landlord in late January 2018. The male Landlord called the City parking enforcement division to have the Tenant’s daughter’s car ticketed but because she was present the enforcement officer refused to do so.
14. The lease is silent on the issue of parking by the Tenant’s guests or occupants. However, examination of the parties’ conduct suggests that there was a long-standing and until fairly recently uncontested practice of the Tenant’s guests parking on the property.
 The general principle of estoppel by representation is aptly stated in Jill E. Martin, Hanbury and Martin: Modern Equity 16th ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2001), at p. 891:
[A] person who makes an unambiguous representation, by words, or by conduct, or by silence, of an existing fact, and causes another party to act to his determent in reliance on the representation will not be permitted subsequently to act inconsistently with that representation. [Emphasis added.]
16. Through their conduct the Landlords permitted the Tenant the right to unassigned parking spaces for her car and that of her guests. Having relied upon that representation, the male Landlord is estopped from claiming authority to revoke this right four years later.
17. Consequently, I also find for at least the past year the Landlords have substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit for all usual purposes by the Tenant and the Tenant’s son while he was an occupant of the rental unit by demanding adherence to arbitrary rules with respect to parking for the Tenant and her guests, including her family members, contrary to a long established practice whereby the Tenant’ has two parking spots to use for herself and her guests and guests were able to park behind her car.
As above, further to determining that the 'estoppel by conduct' principle was applicable and therefore the landlord improperly withdrew an amenity or service, the Landlord Tenant Board also found that the landlord engaged improperly by interfering in the right of the tenant to enjoy the rental unit in a state of peace. This interference arose due to the authoritarian manner in which the landlord demanded that the tenant comply with the landlord.
As such, a landlord, and presumably a tenant if the circumstances involved another issue, behaviour may be the determining factor of what amenities or services are included within the tenancy arrangement; and, once established as a included amenities or services, the withdrawal of those amenities or services is improper.
What Is the Short Answer?
A legacy amenity or service is an amenity or service that was provided or available throughout the tenancy relationship. As a legacy amenity or service provided historically within the tenancy relationship, such becomes an implied term of the tenancy agreement regardless of whether such is written in a lease or in some other way such as agreed to verbally. Accordingly, a landlord is unable to provide an amenity or service and then unilaterally choose at a later date to withdraw that amenity or service.