Lease-AgreementThere are two perceptions out there that I would like to address.  The first perception is that the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is fundamentally unfair towards landlords.  The second perception is that tenants can run roughshod over landlords despite written agreements.

Is the RTA unfair?  This perception draws its roots in the belief that contractual relations between parties is based in equality and balancing of power and expectations.  This is a misguided notion.  The courts see the relationship between landlords and tenants as being unequal to begin with.  The preamble of the RTA recognizes this:

1.  The purposes of this Act are to provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and unlawful evictions, to establish a framework for the regulation of residential rents, to balance the rights and responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants and to provide for the adjudication of disputes and for other processes to informally resolve disputes. 2006, c. 17, s. 1.

Because the RTA is to “protect” tenants and to “balance the rights and responsibilities” between landlords and tenants, therefore, parties in a residential tenancy are not free to contract as they wish.  More importantly, landlords and tenants cannot have lease terms that run contrary to the Act.

For all tenancy agreements, whether verbal or written, the following apply:

  1. Landlords are to provide the tenant with this information sheet.
  2. Landlords are to provide the tenant with a written notice of the landlord’s legal name and address for service of documents within 21 days (do not use the tenant’s address unless you actually live at the same place as your tenant).
  3. The tenancy takes effect when the unit is available for occupation, not when the tenant actually moves in.
  4. “No Pet” clauses are void and have no effect.
  5. Acceleration clauses are void and have no effect (you can only claim rent when rent is due).
  6. Parties that claim a breach of contract must take steps to minimize their losses.
  7. Landlords cannot withhold property of the Tenant for non-payment of rent.
  8. The landlord cannot require post-dated cheques to pay for rent.  However, you can both agree to have rent paid in advance.

There are a few more things on this list that I have left off.  I didn’t want to get too technical here.

Notice that there are no smoking rights.  Smoking inside a residential unit can be a grounds for an eviction.  A clause that says no smoking inside the rental unit is key in this situation.

You can also contract who will do the snow shovelling and the yard maintenance.  Technically, the landlord is responsible for these things, but may assign those responsibilities to the tenant by agreement.  If the tenant fails to do the snow shovelling or mow the grass, you should consider raising the rent.  This will be a topic to be covered in the future.  It is suffice to say that there are special rules to follow dependent upon your situation, therefore, please feel free to contact me in the meantime to discuss your options.

Lease agreements will also help you define what are common spaces on the property and what are areas that are for the exclusive use of the tenant.  Should there be a dispute in the future as to what services are included with the rent, the lease agreement will define matters rather succinctly.

Your lease agreement should determine what utilities are to be paid by the tenant or the landlord.

Inspections can be scheduled in the agreement as well.  Case law limits this right to about four visits a year to check up on the upkeep of the rental unit.  You will also have to follow the rules established by the RTA, namely, giving 24 hours notice between the hours of 8 AM to 8 PM to enter the premises.  The only exception is when there is an emergency.  An emergency can include no heat inside a residential unit.

The second perception:  your strength in the Landlord and Tenant Board is dependant upon how strong your lease agreement is.  As long as you realize that you cannot contract out of the Residential Tenancies Act, you should find yourself on solid footing.  Retaining proper legal representation anchors your lease agreement.

If you have a Landlord/Tenant issue, please do not hesitate to contact me here.