Renting a Place to Live/Tenants/Lease & Residential Tenancy Agreement

From Canadian Legal FAQs

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Lease & Residential Tenancy Agreement


Does the landlord have a right to decide what guests I have in my apartment?

Unless you agreed in your lease agreement that certain people could not visit the apartment, your landlord cannot typically prevent you from having particular guests. If a guest is in effect living in the premises, your landlord can serve a notice requiring that person to leave.

Further, you have an obligation to ensure that the rights of the landlord and other tenants are not interfered with, that no illegal acts or nuisances are carried out on the premises, and that the property is not damaged in any way. If you or any of your guests breach any of these obligations, your landlord can serve notice to end the tenancy.

My boyfriend and I want to move into an apartment. He is over 18, but I am not. Can I sign the lease?

The general rule is that those under the age of majority cannot make contracts, but an exception is made for items that are considered to be necessities of life, which includes shelter. As long as you understand the implications of signing the contract for the lease, you can sign it.

My friend and I rented an apartment and both signed a lease saying that dogs and cats are not allowed in the building. Now my roommate wants to get a snake and I don't want to. He says that the lease allows it, so he can do it. Is that right?

If the lease only mentions specifically dogs and cats, then you are not prevented by the lease from keeping snakes. It will then be up to you and your roommate to come to an agreement on whether or not a snake could be kept.

I signed a lease for one year, but I want to move out early. The landlord told me I must pay rent until the end of the lease. Is there a law or regulation in Alberta that allows me to leave early and pay 2-3 months rent for breaking the lease?

No. You have a fixed-term tenancy for a period of one year. In Alberta, the law states that if you break the lease early, the landlord can claim the rent from you that is owed for the rest of the tenancy. The landlord has to reduce his losses as far as possible, which means that he must try to rent the premises again. It is possible for you to try to negotiate an earlier end time to the lease with your landlord. Be sure to have any agreement you reach in writing and signed by both you and your landlord.

I have heard that there are rules about how many people can live in a house or apartment. Is that right?

Public health laws require an owner of property to ensure that all occupants have an area for sleeping space. Public health laws also require certain sanitary and health standards that might be compromised if more than a certain number of people live in the premises. In addition, local municipal bylaws might impact the number of people that can live in a house or apartment.

Certain landlords, such as social housing agencies, might impose a requirement about levels of occupancy in their lease agreements. In fact, any landlord could include this as a term of a lease. It is then up to a prospective tenant if that term is acceptable or not.

To determine if one of these conditions applies to you, check your lease or any other information you received when you moved in.

Are there rules about putting boys and girls together in the same bedroom?

The Residential Tenancies Act in Alberta does not make any reference to this issue.

However, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation sets National Occupancy Standards for the affordable housing that it funds, so your rental home may be subject to these guidelines. You should check with your rental agency.

I am going to rent an apartment from my cousin. She says that we don't need to put anything in writing as long as I know what the rent is and what the rules are in the building. Is this a good idea?

It is perfectly legal to have a rental agreement that is based upon an oral agreement. However, it is preferable to have a written agreement so that you and your cousin are clear about your obligations and can avoid future misunderstandings. If you need to, you can get a standard tenancy form from your nearest Landlord and Tenancy Advisory Board. In Calgary, the forms are also available from the Calgary Apartment Association.

In one particular situation, when an oral agreement is for a fixed term exceeding three years (or for a lesser term, but the rent is so large that it exceeds two-thirds the value of the land), the courts may not enforce it.

I had a general chat with the owner of several apartment buildings when I met him at a party. He said I could rent one of his apartments. He sent me an agreement, but it is a bit vague about exactly which apartment I would be renting. Is it a good idea to have the agreement worded in this way?

No. A residential tenancy agreement is a contract. In order to be enforceable, a contract cannot be vague. It is possible that if your contract did not define specifically enough which apartment you were to rent, the contract could be invalid because of being too uncertain. Alternatively, the courts could say that by agreeing to such a vague definition, you agreed by implication to accept whichever apartment you were offered.

What terms should be included as a minimum in a tenancy agreement?

The terms that you should have as a minimum in a residential tenancy agreement are as follows:

  • names of the parties to the contract, i.e., the landlord and tenant or tenants;
  • date of the agreement;
  • names of all those who will be living in the premises including children and a description of pets (define as occupants, not tenants);
  • description of the premises to be rented by address and by anything else necessary to further define the accommodation, for example, 'basement suite'. In addition, an apartment rental agreement may describe other facilities that are included in the rental such as parking stall, or storage area. Be aware that inclusion of other facilities as part of the rental premises allows any of your property left in other areas area to be subject to seizure in the event of enforcement proceedings for non-payment of rent, for example, a vehicle in a parking stall or your belongings in the storage area;
  • description of the privileges that you are entitled to as a tenant, for example, use of a swimming pool, exercise room, etc. Many apartment leases do not expressly state that you may make use of such facilities, and it may therefore be open for the landlord to close or deny access to the facilities at any time;
  • date the tenancy is to start and the term of the lease. This will determine whether the tenancy is periodic or fixed term;
  • amount of rent to be paid, when it is to be paid, how it is to be paid, and any late fees that apply;
  • amount of security deposit;
  • details of who pays for utilities and other services, such as cable TV;
  • details of extra fees like parking and key deposits;
  • details of any furniture or appliances included in the rental agreement;
  • details of what pets are allowed;
  • responsibility for maintenance and repairs;
  • responsibility for jobs like snow shoveling;
  • rules outlining whether you can sublet or assign the lease;
  • insurance requirements;
  • procedures if you have to end the tenancy early due to employment relocation;
  • details of other rules relating to the building that you will have to keep and that are not mentioned specifically in the contract, for example, condominium bylaws or the building regulations governing matters such as refuse storage and collections, smoking;
  • all other terms to which the parties have specifically agreed. If a promise made to you or your landlord is not contained in the terms of a written lease, the courts would probably not enforce the promise.

Two of my friends and I are going to rent an apartment while we are going to university and will all sign the lease. Does this mean we all have the same rights and obligations?

Yes. As roommates who are all signing the lease, you will each be bound by both the terms of the lease and the terms of the Residential Tenancies Act (as long as it is not a tenancy excluded by the Act, for example, where you share living facilities with your landlord).

Even if one of you moves out, he is still bound by the rules set out in the agreement, for example, the obligation to pay rent. To deal with this issue, the tenant who is leaving can ask to be taken off the tenancy agreement by his roommates and the landlord. This new agreement should be in writing and signed by everyone to avoid later difficulties.

It is more likely that if one tenant moves out without making a new agreement, the landlord will ask the other tenants to pay the rent, including the share of the person who has left. The landlord is able to do this because each tenant is liable for all the rent. It would be up to the remaining tenants to recover the rent from the tenant who has left.

When I got a copy of the tenancy agreement from my landlord, I saw that he had included a term to say that he could enter the premises to make repairs at any time. Is he allowed to do that?

No. The Residential Tenancies Act provides that in order to enter to do repairs a landlord must give notice to you, except in the case of an emergency. Because the term that your landlord has inserted is in direct opposition to the Act, it has no effect. Your landlord must adhere to the rules that govern the entry of premises that are set out in the Act. However, you may want to point out to him that his term about entry isn't legal under the Act, and ask him to remove it or cross it out in the agreement.

The building in which I rent an apartment has been sold to new owners. Does my tenancy agreement continue or do I have to make a new agreement with the new owner?

If you have a monthly, weekly, or annual periodic tenancy, the new owner automatically becomes your landlord with the same tenancy agreement. This will also be the case if you have a fixed-term tenancy for up to three years. A lease agreement for a fixed term of over three years in length has to be noted by a note called a caveat on the certificate of title of the building in order for the new owner to be bound by the lease agreement. However, if the new landlord accepts rent from you in that situation, he or she may be taken to have confirmed your tenancy.

My lease says nothing about payment of utility bills. I had assumed that it was included in the rent like the last place I lived in, but now my current landlord says I have to pay the bills myself. Is this right?

Yes. If your lease does not mention who is responsible for utility fees and it was not discussed between you and your landlord prior to agreement about the lease, the utilities will be your responsibility.

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This page was last updated in January, 2007.