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Are parents responsible if their children destroy property?

In some provinces, there is legislation that is often called either the parental liability act or parental responsibility act, which states that a parent is financially responsible for the damage his or her child causes to the property of another person.

This legislation has been put in place because the law sought a way to recompense people whose property had been damaged by minors, who often don’t have the means to repay damage they caused.

What does the legislation say?

In provinces that have it, the legislation allows for the parent of the child who caused damage to be sued by the owner of the property in small claims court.

The British Columbia Parental Liability Act states, “if a child intentionally takes, damages or destroys property of another person, a parent of the child is liable for the loss of or damage to the property experienced as a result by an owner and by a person legally entitled to possession of the property.”

What does the legislation allow to be done in cases where children destroy property?

In Ontario the legislation does the following:

  • It holds parents financially responsible for property loss, damage or destruction intentionally caused by their children who are under 18 years of age;
  • It allows property owners, renters and lessees whose property has been intentionally damaged, destroyed or stolen by minors to bring a claim against the child's parents in the Small Claims Court;
  • It permits victims to use documents under the federal Young Offenders Act and Youth Criminal Justice Act to help prove their case where the youth has been found guilty of that property offence in youth court.

What defence could a parent use?

There are a few lines of defence a parent can use:

  • The child didn’t commit the damage intentionally;
  • The parent(s) exercised reasonable supervision and tried to prevent the damage; and more.

If the parent claims that he or she exercised reasonable supervision, the small claims court will look at a few factors to determine this claim.

For example, the Parental Liability Act of Manitoba says that to establish that reasonable supervision was exercised, some of the factors that have to be looked at are:

  • The age of the child;
  • The prior conduct of the child;
  • The potential danger of the activity;
  • The physical or mental capacity of the child;
  • Whether the danger arising from the child's conduct was reasonably foreseeable by the parent;
  • Whether the parent was responsible for the care and control of the child at the time when the child engaged in the activity that resulted in the property loss.

If you’re a parent being sued or a property owner who is thinking of suing a parent, then you may want to consult with a lawyer.

Read more:

The Parental Responsibility Act Ontario

Parental Liability Act British Columbia

The Parental Responsibility Act Manitoba