Beginning of a tenancy: rights and responsibilities of tenants

Tenants have certain rights and responsibilities at the beginning of a tenancy (lease). The landlord can’t ask you to pay an application fee. The landlord can ask for up to half of 1 month’s rent as a security deposit. You don’t have to pay more than 1 month (or week) of rent at a time.

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

Everyone named as a tenant on a lease is equally responsible for the rental space. If you’re living with others, involve them in all of your renting decisions.

If you and the landlord have agreed that repairs or renovations will be done before you move in, you should put this agreement in writing and include a completion date. If you have agreed to make the repairs yourself, make sure that any financial compensation is included in the agreement. The landlord and tenant should both keep a copy.

Application fees

A landlord cannot charge you an application fee for residential premises. The landlord can ask you to complete an application form.

The landlord may also ask you to provide your Social Insurance Number, employment information and some references. You don’t have to disclose this information if you don’t want to.

If a landlord takes any money before the lease is signed or before rent is due, it’s considered a security deposit.

Security deposits

When you sign the lease, the landlord can ask for a security deposit. The deposit can be up to half of 1 month's rent. The landlord needs to put the security deposit in a trust account. The deposit will earn interest at rates set by the Residential Tenancies Regulations.

The trust account stays with the property and not with the landlord. If the landlord changes, the deposit becomes the responsibility of the new landlord.

The landlord might want to use your security deposit when you move out to cover any unpaid rent or damages. A certain amount of wear and tear on a unit is considered normal, and the deposit cannot be used to pay for repairing this.

The landlord needs to let you know if they intend to keep your security deposit. They can only keep it if you agree to it in writing. If there is a disagreement, your landlord may apply to the Residential Tenancies program to keep the deposit.

Post-dated cheques

A landlord can ask you to provide post-dated cheques for your rent, but a landlord cannot ask you to pay more than 1 month (or week) of rent at a time.

Moving in

You should inspect the premises when you move in. The inspection can be done with or without the landlord, though it is better if you do it together.

Make a written record of the inspection.

Sign and date the inspection. If possible, get the landlord to sign it as well. If the landlord can't or won't sign, send a copy with your signature to the landlord. Keep a copy.

Take pictures of any damage you find when you move in. Use the date stamp on your camera.

Standard form of lease

The Residential Tenancies Regulations contain a Standard Form of Lease. A landlord doesn’t have to use this lease, but whatever lease the landlord uses can’t remove any rights the tenant is given in the Standard Form of Lease. If there is no written lease, the Standard Form of Lease applies. On the lease, the landlord needs to give you their name, address and telephone number or the name, address and telephone number of a person responsible for the rental unit. You need 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. The lease doesn’t renew after the end date. A tenant and landlord can agree to additional fixed-term leases. 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.

Co-signers

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

Documents

When there is a written lease, it needs to be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord needs 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:

  • you sign the lease
  • you receive keys
  • you move in

If the landlord doesn’t provide you with a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act, you can give a written notice to the landlord to end the tenancy and leave. You need to leave within 3 months of giving this notice.