Beginning of a tenancy: rights and responsibilities of landlords

Landlords have certain rights and obligations at the beginning of a tenancy (lease). You’re allowed to ask a prospective tenant to complete an application form. You’re also allowed to conduct credit and background checks on prospective tenants. You can ask for a security deposit and post-dated cheques once a lease has been signed.

At the beginning of a tenancy, a landlord has certain rights and responsibilities. These guidelines include information on the application process, security deposits, post-dated cheques, when a tenant moves in and signing a lease.

Application process

You can ask a prospective tenant to complete an application form that collects standard information, like name and contact information, information about their employment, and personal or landlord references. You can’t charge an application fee. If you take any money before the lease is signed or before rent is due, it’s considered a security deposit.

You can conduct credit and background checks on prospective tenants, but you aren’t allowed to force tenants to provide their Social Insurance Number.

Security deposits

When the tenant signs the lease, you can ask for a security deposit. The deposit can be up to half of 1 month's rent.

You have to put the security deposit in a trust account. The trust account stays with the property and not with the landlord. If you sell the property, you have to transfer the deposit to the new owner.

At the end of the tenancy, you can use your tenant’s security deposit to cover any unpaid rent or damages. A certain amount of wear and tear on a unit is considered normal, and the deposit can’t be used to pay for repairing this.

To use some or all of the security deposit, you need to get your tenant’s permission in writing. If there is a disagreement, you may apply to the Residential Tenancies program to keep the deposit.

Post-dated rent cheques

You can ask tenants for post-dated rent cheques, but you can’t ask them to pay for more than 1 month (or week) at a time.

When a tenant moves in

You or your staff should inspect the premises with the tenant and write down the condition of the premises. You can use the Rental Unit Condition Report Form for the inspection. Sign and date the inspection. It’s a good idea to get the tenant to sign it as well.

The inspection and signed form allows you to hold tenants responsible for any damage done during their tenancy. Without this inspection, tenants may claim that damage existed before their tenancy began.

Standard form of lease

The Residential Tenancies Regulations contain a Standard Form of Lease. This is the standard lease landlords and tenants sign when entering into a written lease agreement. You don’t have to use this lease, but whatever lease you use can’t remove any rights the tenant is given in the Standard Form of Lease. If there is no written lease, the tenant and landlord need to follow all rights and responsibilities in the Residential Tenancies Act. All provisions of the act and the Standard Form of Lease also apply.

On the lease, you need to give the tenant your name, address and telephone number or the name, address and telephone number of a person responsible for the rental unit. The tenant needs to give the landlord the names of anyone who will live in the unit.

Types of leases

There are 2 kinds of leases:

  1. A periodic lease is signed for a year, month or week. The tenancy can continue year-to-year, month-to-month or week-to-week until the tenant gives notice that they don’t want to renew it.

  2. A fixed-term lease has a specific start and end date. If a tenant doesn’t leave, or isn’t asked to leave and continues to pay rent, a month-to-month lease begins after the end date in the original lease. A tenant and landlord can agree to additional fixed-term leases. If a tenant doesn’t leave, or isn’t asked to leave, a month-to-month lease begins after the end date in the original lease.

Co-signer

Based on the tenant's finances, you can ask to have a co-signer on the lease. The person who co-signs the lease can be held responsible for the payment of rent and damages.

Documents

When there is a written lease, it needs to be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. You need to give a signed copy of the lease and a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act to at least 1 tenant named on the lease within 10 days of whichever of these things happens first:

  • the tenant signs the lease
  • the tenant receives keys
  • the tenant moves in

If you don’t provide the tenant with a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act, the tenant can give you a written notice to end the tenancy and leave. The tenant needs to leave within 3 months of giving this notice.

You can provide a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act at the beginning of a new lease in 1 of 3 ways:

  • paper copy of the act
  • electronic copy of the act
  • link or web address to the act published by the Speaker of the House of Assembly or the Queen’s Printer