With more than half of Canadians never expecting to own a home, renting has become the norm for many. Though renting means that you don’t have to deal with things like home repairs and property taxes, it comes with its own hardships.
Across the board, each province has protections for renters to help ensure that they aren’t living in dirty and unsafe conditions. But what are other things that should you look out for before you sign a lease? While it’s important to research your specific situation, learning about the rules for your province is a great place to start. With this in mind, we’re breaking down three things you should know before you sign a lease, province-by-province.
Pets: In BC, your landlord can require a pet damage deposit for up to half of a month’s rent to be paid at the start of your lease. And if you get a pet while living there? You may have to pay a pet deposit then. If your landlord decides that your pet “causes significant damage or unreasonably disturbs others,” your landlord can even evict you.
Document delivery: Text messages and social media messages aren’t recognized by The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). So if you or your landlord need specific documentation, don’t send it via text or social. Any notice that the RTA requires “in writing” should be delivered in-person or via snail mail. This includes things like signing your rental agreement, eviction notices or even your forwarding address to get your security deposit back.
Discrimination: There are a whole host of things a landlord can’t hold against a possible tenant. However, one thing that many landlords do discriminate on is income. But turns out you can’t be refused a tenancy if you’re on welfare or disability benefits, or if you have student loans.
For more information on renting in BC, visit the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre website.
Rent increases: Alberta law doesn’t limit the amount by which rent can increases every year, but landlords do have to wait a year from the start of your tenancy or a year after the last rent increase to give you a new rental price.
Withholding rent: While it may seem frustrating, tenants can’t withhold rent from a landlord — if they feel they aren’t doing their job.
Subletting: Tenants require the landlord’s written consent to sublet their rental. Not getting a response? If the landlord doesn’t respond to your sublet enquiry within 14 days, you can assume that the sublet is a go. It’s a bit tricky, but just keep everything in writing.
For more information on renting in Alberta, visit Alberta.ca.
You may also like: These are the Canadian cities with the cheapest rent in 2022.
Rent increase assistance: If you’re given a substantial rent increase that you can’t afford, you can tap into the Tenant Assistance Process to help you negotiate a more affordable rent increase with your landlord.
Rent-to-own: A rent-to-own property has a whole different set of rules and may require you to go to court to deal with it. You’ll want to consider hiring a lawyer to go over your rent-to-own contract.
Repairs: If your landlord won’t repair issues in the home, you can take your complaint to the Office of Residential Tenancies. This means you can order your landlord to make repairs, compensate you for doing the repairs yourself and/or reduce your rent until the repairs are done.
For more information on renting in Saskatchewan, visit Saskatchewan.ca.
Rental agreement: Manitoba doesn’t require a written rental agreement: it can be oral or implied. Written is recommended in case of any disputes.
Late fees: If you pay your rent late, your landlord can charge you late fees. So make sure to get rent in on time every month.
Moving out: Though a rental agreement doesn’t need to be in writing, a request to move out from your landlord requires a written form approved by the Government of Manitoba. The landlord even has to explain why they want you to leave! The amount of notice they have to give you varies by scenario. In certain situations, a landlord may even have to pay your moving fees.
For more information on renting in Manitoba, visit the Government of Manitoba website.
Rent increases: Ontario regulates rent increases. In 2023, your rent can’t go up more than 2.5 per cent (unless your landlord has received an exception from the government).
For more information on renting in Ontario, visit Ontario.ca.
Lease language: Leases in Quebec must be in French, unless you and your landlord agree upon another language. So if you’re an Anglophone, you may need to chat to your landlord about getting an English copy.
Breaking your lease: If you’re a victim of sexual violence, are moving into low-income housing or the apartment isn’t fit for living, you can break your lease without repercussions.
Heating: A landlord can’t determine a date when the heat is turned on and off , but check out the other rules about heating in Quebec (it’s so cold there that they have a whole rules section on heating).
For more information on renting in Quebec, visit Éducaloi, Quebec’s legal information website.
You may also like: Inside Kathryn Dennis’s $6.6K/month rental home.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Smoking substances: A landlord can prohibit you from smoking on the premises. So if you want to light up, check that rental agreement carefully.
Rent increase: Landlords can increase the rent before the usual year-long wait if they provide “additional services or privileges that were not provided in the original agreement.”
Breaking the lease: You can break your lease without repercussions in certain situations, like if you’re ill or if you have to leave to take care of a sick relative — but you do need to provide proof of all these situations if you’re hoping to get out the lease scot-free.
For more information on renting in Newfoundland and Labrador, visit the government’s website.
Prince Edward Island
Discrimination: A landlord can’t refuse to rent to you due to a disability, which includes an addiction.
Deposits: When it comes to security deposits, a landlord can’t request both first and last month’s rent, or a pet deposit. A security deposit equal to one month’s rent is OK, but you should check PEI regulations if the landlord is trying to charge you any other fees.
For more information on renting in PEI, visit Renting PEI, a government-run legal information site.
Application fees: In Nova Scotia, a landlord can’t charge you an application fee for a rental. If they do, that’s considered a security deposit.
Tenants’ insurance: A landlord may request that you purchase tenants’ insurance. This isn’t a bad idea in general, but for some rental properties, it’s compulsory.
House rules: Your new home may have rules from the landlord outside of the lease. If this is the case, make sure to get them in writing so that you can make sure you’re comfortable with them.
For more information on renting in Nova Scotia, visit the province’s website.
Rent increase: In 2022 only, New Brunswick limited rent increase to 3.8 per cent. But in 2023, the rent increase is less restrictive, and can be raised to “comparable units in the same geographic area.”
Security deposit: You can pay your security deposit directly to your landlord (get a receipt!) or to Service New Brunswick (where you’ll definitely get a receipt).
Evictions: Only a Residential Tenancies Officer or judge (or a sheriff working on behalf of the judge) can evict a tenant from any rented premises. So your landlord can’t just throw you out.
For more information on renting in New Brunswick, visit the government’s website.
You may also like: 10 questions to ask your potential roommate *before* moving in.
Renting has its ups and downs, but knowing what you’re getting into before you sign a lease is integral. Make sure to read your lease carefully and check your province’s tenants’ rights regulations to stay safe and protected as a renter.