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Rental Season Part 1: Before You Sign

april 28, 2021 | landlord tenant
legalshield reviews lease agreements

The residential rental season is upon us and whether you are looking to upsize, downsize, switch neighbourhoods or cities, there are some universal – and important – things to consider before you sign on the dotted line. And know this: Right now, it is a renter’s market in Canada’s big cities, with some landlords offering free months, helicopter rides and sky-diving to sign up, so look around, ask the right questions, and negotiate!

First up: Stay safe

With Covid-19 still active in 2021, it is essential that you respect your province’s safety regulations if you want to visit properties in person. If the landlord can take you on a live guided tour via Zoom, and answer questions on the go, all the better. If you visit, wear a mask and keep your distance. And once you have decided what kind of rental you want – a beautiful walk-up on St-Denis, Montreal or maybe a sky-high condo over the water in Toronto – it’s time to do your homework. 

Your current lease

If you are currently renting, are you certain your lease is up? In Quebec, for example, if you do not inform your landlord of your intention to leave the property in a specific manner and time period, your lease may renew automatically – and you’ll be on the hook for the rent. And if you are subletting (subleasing) or assigning (transferring) your lease, did you give the landlord proper advanced written notice and get permission? The rules for these two actions, plus terminating a lease, are different from province to province. Talk to us before you consider moving into a new place. We can advise you on how to exit your place without hassle.

Be wary of scams

While many renters use centris.ca or realtor.ca for bigger or more expensive rental options, most people rely on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji or Craigslist to find a flat. Be very wary of scams here. People post beautiful photos of “their” apartments on these sites, advertising low rent to get people to respond, and then they ask for a fee upfront to “hold the apartment” or some other reason. You send the money and soon learn the apartment was not theirs to begin with or never existed at all. And now you can’t reach them. This kind of scam is even more common during Covid-19 because it’s become normal to view places entirely online.

 To avoid scams, make sure you see the property in person or are given a live virtual tour of the inside of the property via FT or Zoom. Make certain the person opens the front door with their key. Ask for proof of ownership – and check your provincial land registry or similar site to verify. Check market value for the rent. If the price seems too low, it may be a scam. Is the person asking you for money before a visit? Red flag! And be very wary of last minute subleases or lease assignments because advanced written notice and permission from the landlord, are almost always required.

 The East Coast’s The Chronicle Herald sums up popular rental scams here. And if you’ve been a victim of a scam, you can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

So You’ve Done Your Homework…

You’ve narrowed your search to a few key places and you’ve confirmed that the person advertising the rental – and the rental itself – are legit. Great. There is more work to be done. Do not rely on property rental sites for information, including the rental price, even from the management company itself, because that info can be out of date. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Ask for one or two free month’s rent. Ask for lower monthly rent. Or free parking. So make a list of questions to ask each landlord. Here are some good ones to get you started:

1.     Are you asking for a deposit/security - and if so, what exactly is it for and what is the process for returning it? Some provinces, like Quebec, do not allow a landlord to ask for money upfront, so know the rules of where you live. And don’t forget, we can help.

2.     Is the price of the rental what I see online, and does it include water, electricity, and heat?

3.     Are you open to a month or two of free rent?

4.     Is there parking? If not, is there locals-only availability on the street  – and how much does it cost?

5.     When do you want the occupancy to begin? You may need time to terminate your lease and they may want someone yesterday.

6.     What work will be done on the apartment before it is rented?

7.     Is this apartment suitable for younger people? If you are younger, then great if the answer is yes. If you’re older, lots of student neighbours may not be your thing.

8.     Is smoking allowed in the units? Are there dogs or cats in the building? Do you have a guest policy?

9.     Ideally, what kind of time commitment do you prefer from your tenants? A one year lease? Longer?

10.  Is there someone on site to handle requests for repairs? What is the process?

11.  What mode of payment do you accept for rent?

12.   What services are in the unit/building (laundry, gym, etc.)? Are they in good working order?

The Take-Away

It’s important to know the laws where you live because they are frequently changing. As of now, provinces like Ontario and BC have rental hike freezes. Not too long ago, there were bans on evictions. LegalShield Canada has experienced local lawyers who can help you navigate the laws, terminate your current lease, send notices to the landlord, review your new lease, explain how to get your security deposit back, rent control and what to do if you can’t pay your rent, plus advise you on your rights regarding smoking, pets, noisy neighbours, etc. 

Coming soon: We will look at your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

Articles on the LegalShield.ca website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or opinion in any manner. Laws mentioned in the articles vary from province to province. Any links to third-party sites in our articles are for general information purposes only and LegalShield is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, the content of linked sites. It is always advisable to seek legal counsel - and LegalShield can help.

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