Moving Day: What You Need to Know About Residential Leases

Canada Day is coming. For many Canadians that means drinking beer and watching fireworks, but for most Quebeckers, Canada Day is moving day. With overwhelming numbers of young people unable to afford buying a home, most of us will end up renting. Thousands of residential leases end on July first and those who choose to move on will fight tooth and nail to get a mover to take their meager belongings to new digs.

But moving day isn’t all about the movers.

It’s also about leases and in order to live happily in an apartment you need to know what’s expected of you and what your rights are as a tenant. Luckily, that’s pretty easy to find out because your landlord is legally required to mention it in your lease, which he has to give you a copy of within 10 days of signing it.

Here’s some of what the law says about leases.

You are legally required to pay your rent on time – meaning on the day of the month specified in your lease. Most leases will say it’s the first of the month but it’s really up to you and the landlord. The landlord, in turn, must be able to receive the rent, meaning that if he says he’s going to pick it up between 5 and 7pm on the day the rent is due and he doesn’t, the fact that the rent is late is a strike against him, not you, and he can’t hold you responsible.

Your landlord is bound to guarantee that the property is fit for habitation and to maintain it for that purpose. Neither you nor your landlord can change the form or use of the property during the lease. That means you can’t up and turn your apartment into a restaurant or your rented house into a B&B. The lease can’t say otherwise and any clause to that effect is invalid.

Standard Quebec lease form, image
Standard Quebec lease form, image

Your landlord has to guarantee the property against legal disturbances like noise complaints and disturbances of the peace. If another tenant is making too much noise or putting you in danger, call or send a letter to your landlord. He, in turn, will have to act by investigating and, if necessary, warning the offender that further problems will result in eviction.

As a tenant you are legally bound not to act in ways that would keep other tenants from enjoying their property. That means no gratuitous stomping on the floor, no loud noise during crazy hours, and no criminal activity. Act that way and you’re legally bound to make reparations for the harm done by you or anyone you let use or have access to the property.

That means, for example, that if you let someone use your apartment while you’re away on vacation and she regularly runs baths that overflow, showering the neighbors below, you’ll be responsible for the damages. If it happens too often or you refuse to make amends, your landlord can apply to the rental board to have your lease ended early.

If you notice a serious defect or deterioration of the property, you are legally bound to inform your landlord. If you do everything you can to inform your landlord or you tell your landlord and he takes too long to fix it, you can fix it yourself or hire someone without a court’s permission but only if the required repairs are “urgent and necessary to ensure the preservation or enjoyment of the leased property.”

If your landlord realizes your intention and comes to his senses, he can intervene at any time to make the repairs himself. If you end up paying for the repairs, you’re legally entitled to reimbursement of the cost and, if necessary, can withhold the cost of it from your rent.

In order to save yourself any legal hassles from a landlord who’s being a jerk, be sure to send him a registered letter explaining that you tried to get him to fix things and his lack of response has forced you to do it yourself. The beauty of a registered letter is that he has to sign for it so you’ll know for sure he got it.

If you want to sublet your place or transfer your lease, you need to give notice to your landlord. The notice has to include the name and address of the person you intend to transfer the property to and you can’t sublet or transfer your lease without the landlord’s consent.

However, the landlord cannot refuse the new tenant without a serious reason and his refusal has to reach you within 15 days of his receipt of the notice. If you don’t get his refusal within that time, you’re allowed to consider that he accepted the new tenant.

A rent increase is considered a modification of your lease. Your landlord is obligated to inform you of an increase no less than three months and no more than six months prior to the end of your lease.

That means that if your lease ends January 1, 2017, your landlord has to let you know of an increase between July 1 and October 1, 2016. You have one month after receiving the notice to indicate whether you accept the rent increase and agree to renew the lease. If you don’t get back to the landlord in time, the lease is considered renewed with the rent increase desired by the landlord.

You ARE allowed to renew your lease and refuse the rent increase at the same time. You can then either try and negotiate with your landlord or if he’s being particularly obstinate, tell him to go to the Regie du Logement who will set the rent according to the costs related to the dwelling i.e. if electricity is included.

Knowing your rights is important especially regarding something as sacred as a home. Read your lease and know your rights.

* Featured image by Ashley Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

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