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Today, 33% of Canadians rent their homes. This number is even larger in bigger cities, where housing prices are high.
Many rules guide the business of rental properties, including rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) lays out those rights and responsibilities. The Alberta Government also released the RTA Handbook, to help explain the rules and regulations laid out in the RTA, in plain language.
Laws around rentals vary between countries, and even between provinces in Canada. Before renting a space in Alberta, or purchasing an investment/rental property, it’s important to be aware of landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities.
Landlords and tenants have responsibilities that aren’t always explicitly mentioned in their lease agreements. Here are the responsibilities of a tenant and a landlord:
A tenancy agreement in Alberta either has a specific beginning and end date or is a periodic agreement (month-to-month) without a specific end date. Most agreements are in writing, though verbal agreements are also recognized by the Albertan government. Although Alberta doesn’t have a standard Residential Tenancy Agreement form for all landlords, landlords can purchase a template from either the Alberta Residential Landlord Association or the Calgary Residential Rental Association.
Here are the components of a typical tenancy agreement in Alberta:
Landlords might ask tenants for a security deposit, which proves a tenant’s intent to move into the unit. Sometimes security deposits are known as “damage deposits,” which landlords return to the tenant unless the tenant damages the unit.
A security deposit cannot increase with a rent increase, and cannot be higher than the amount of one month’s rent.
Landlords must keep security deposits in a trackable account – specifically, an interest-bearing trust account in a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.
Tenants have a right to their security deposit upon moving out, as long as the following criteria are met:
If these conditions aren’t met, the landlord can keep part of or all of the security deposit to cover the costs listed above. Additionally, a landlord can take a tenant to court to claim more money if the security deposit doesn’t cover the costs.
Unlike other provinces in Canada, there are no rent increase limits in Alberta. However, a landlord cannot increase the rent amount under a tenancy agreement until one year has passed after the last rent increase.
To increase rent for a periodic tenancy (commonly month-to-month), the landlord must inform the tenant in writing. The notice must include:
The amount of notice required varies depending on the tenancy type. A landlord must give 12 weeks’ notice of a rent increase for a week-to-week tenancy, 3 months’ notice for a month-to-month tenancy, and 90 days’ notice for any other periodic tenancy.
Learn more about rent control laws across Canada.
Both landlords and tenants can terminate a lease early under certain circumstances.
If either the tenant or landlord commits a substantial breach of the tenancy agreement, either party can provide a 14-day notice to end the tenancy. Personal circumstances can also contribute to ending a lease early.
Landlords aren’t under any obligation to end a lease early; however, if a tenant experiences a life event such as job loss, they can negotiate with the landlord to end the lease early. Perhaps the tenant can assist the landlord in finding a new tenant, to make the lease termination more reasonable for the landlord.
When it comes to necessary repairs to the rental, whether the damage was accidental or caused by negligence, both the landlord and tenant have certain responsibilities.
Landlords are responsible for maintaining safety in rental units at all times, including through repairs. If a tenant requests a repair that is consistent with the Public Health Act and Housing Regulation, a landlord must complete the repair with reasonable effort.
If a landlord does not complete an eligible repair, tenants must either apply to the RTDRS or court to:
Note: Even if a landlord does not complete a repair, a tenant cannot withhold rent without consequence.
If you damaged your rental unit, the landlord cannot automatically keep your damage deposit. Instead, the landlord must give the tenant a notice of termination, and/or request that the tenant cover the cost of the damages. If the tenant refuses to pay, the landlord can go to the Landlord and Tenant Board to dispute the issue.
Landlords can evict a tenant for a few reasons. The most common reason for eviction in Alberta is a tenant’s failure to pay rent. Some other reasons for eviction include:
Tenants have the right to dispute evictions, except in cases where the cited reason is non-payment of rent.
Being both a tenant and a landlord comes with lots of responsibilities. Although the Residential Tenancies Act lays out an extensive list of rules for each party, landlords and tenants can discuss and negotiate amongst themselves to sort out issues with the rental as well.
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