Written by Elisa Krovblit
It's just about time for the new school year to begin, and for many students in college and university, it means leaving Casa del Mom'n'Dad and moving off to a new apartment at school. It's usually the first time leaving home, the first time having an apartment and the first time having to pay all of the bills.
Students should enjoy and make the most of this new-found freedom, but they should also be aware of their new-found rental rights and responsibilities.
Seasoned renters will have learned the ropes -- either through their own research and experiences or through the experiences of friends and neighbours, but one of the first things college and university students should learn is the basics that are included in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Regardless of which province you live in, the RTA will help guide you to understanding your rental rights and responsibilities.
Each province differs slightly in their rules, so it's important to understand the rules in the province in which you will be residing.
The basics rental rights that are important to understand are:
Entry - Your landlord must give you notice to enter your apartment and cannot just come in whenever they want (unless a valid emergency is involved).
Rent - There are rules dictating how much rent your landlord can charge, including how often the rent can be raised and how much notice the landlord has to give you before raising the rent.
Pets - Some provinces allow pet restrictions and if it's in the lease, you can be evicted for having pets. Other provinces allow pets and anything pertaining to pets in the lease is void. Find out what applies to you before you pick up a furry friend.
Deposits - Some provinces only permit a deposit equal to last month's rent - and this money can only be applied to the last month's rental payment. Some provinces allow damage deposits and/or pet deposits. There is a legal limit to deposits.
Repairs and maintenance - The landlord is obligated to keep the apartment and common areas clean and in good repair. Know the process for submitting maintenance requests. Don't feel you need to live in unhealthy, dangerous or otherwise sub-par conditions because you're a student.
Locks - Neither you nor the landlord can change the locks to lock the other out.
Eviction - There are numerous valid reasons for eviction, but each includes a legal process that needs to be followed. Once the legal process is completed, the only one that can change the locks and physically remove the tenant is the Bailiff or Sheriff. Make sure you're not getting put out illegally.
Sign a lease - This is a contract that defines all expectations -- from the cost of rent to what is included in the rent. It also outlines the landlord's expectations. This contract is enforceable and you need to stick to the terms or you can be evicted. It cannot include illegal terms. Make sure you understand what you're signing. If it's not in writing then it doesn't count.
Repairs and maintenance - If problems arise, contact your landlord immediately. This is both for your own comfort and for the protection of the property. Many small problems can turn into major issues if left unremedied, and you're obligated to look after the property.
Terminating residency - When you want to move out -- whether going back to your parents' home or moving on to a new apartment -- you need to give proper notice. There are forms that you can use, provided by your local Landlord and Tenant agency or provincial services agency. There are also specified notice periods set by each province. If you do not give your landlord the proper notice, you may be on the hook for rent payments until the proper terms of termination are met.
Human Rights - Everyone is also protected under Canadian Human Rights Code as well as the provincial code. You cannot be discriminated against for your age, sex, sexual preferences or gender identity, marital status, religion, ethnicity or many other basic principles.
How to ensure your rental rights
Make sure you get a copy of the lease you signed at the time of signing and keep this document. If any issues arise, contact your landlord in writing. Keep a log of any times you need to contact your landlord. This is important if issue end up escalating or you feel you're not being treated fairly. A log showing repeated requests with no response will stand up as evidence if you need to pursue issues in the courts or Landlord Tenant Tribunal that cannot be resolved simply between you and the landlord. Make sure you always get receipts for your rent - at the time of payment, especially if you're paying cash. Keep all documentation of any expenses incurred due to issues that are the landlord's responsibility.
Treat your landlord and neighbours with consideration and you should enjoy your first rental experience and your first time away from home, on your own. Most landlords do treat their tenants well and look after their responsibilities, but as a new renter and a student, ensuring you understand your rights and responsibilities is important and should be taken seriously.
If you cannot resolve issues with your landlord, or want further information about the RTA specific to your province, please visit:
Alberta: Service Alberta
British Columbia: Residential Tenancies
Manitoba: Residential Tenancies Branch
New Brunswick: Landlord and Tenant Services
Newfoundland: Services NL
Northwest Territories: Department of Justice, Rental Office
Nova Scotia: Residential Tenancies
Nunavut: Department of Justice, Residential Tenancies Act
Ontario: Landlord Tenant Board
Prince Edward Island: Office of the Director of Residential Rental Property
Quebec: Regie du logement
Saskatchewan: Office of Residential Tenancies
Yukon: Residential Tenancies Office
*Dorm rooms and student campus residences do not fall under the LTA
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