Whether you currently rent a living space or not, it’s always the right time to brush up on your rights
by ciara trapp, contributor
This article serves as information, and is not a substitute for legal advice.
Whether you seek out rentals on Facebook Marketplace, VarageSale, Kijiji, or other rental advertising websites, you may have noticed the skyrocket in both the cost and availability of rental housing. While suites for rent are posted and almost immediately leased and removed, finding and securing safe and affordable rental housing can be challenging, let alone as a student subject to time-sensitive pressure. In this unforgiving market where prospective tenants are often under the microscope for vetting, students and new renters alike can often overlook the screening of landlords.
That said, we bring you this article today to ensure university students in Regina are empowered to make informed decisions now and avoid tricky tenancy situations down the line.
We’re fortunate to live in a time where technology can work in our favour, and Gen-Z minds make for excellent internet sleuths. When viewing apartments and meeting potential landlords, it certainly doesn’t hurt to take to Google, Reddit, or other sites you frequent for a quick search for any apparent red flags. A lesser-known residential tenancy goldmine, the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII), can yield information on past applications filed by or against a landlord. Hearings can include anything from security deposit disputes to failing to maintain a rental property and many other scenarios.
When reviewing these hearing outcomes, using your best judgment is essential. Hearings through the Office of Residential Tenancies do not factor in potential disagreements or frustrations between a tenant and landlord, which may have contributed to an application for a hearing. Hearing officers tend to stick to the root cause of the specific hearing rather than discussing all potential frustrations or grouping multiple hearings into one. In addition to the considerations made by hearing officers based on precedent hearings, The Residential Tenancies Act 2006 sets the standard for all residential tenancy matters, including the outcomes of residential tenancy hearings, the creation of tenancy agreements, the process of evictions, and – equally as importantly – the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.
After vetting your potential landlord, if both parties decide to proceed with the formalities of entering into a tenancy agreement, there are essential details to consider such as the information included in a lease agreement and security deposit regulations. The Residential Tenancies Act 2006 requires the following of all tenancy agreements:
-Include the legal names of the landlord and tenant(s).
-Indicate the address of the rental property.
-Specify the responsibility for the payment of utilities.
-Indicate the facilities or services provided in the rent.
-Clarify the rent amount, the date it is due, and whether the rent varies based on
the number of people living in the space.
-Indicate the rental term (one-year, six-month, or other period of time).
-Indicate the security deposit amount and when it is required to be paid.
As a tip for students, if a security deposit equals one month’s rent, up to 50 per cent of the total deposit could be required before you move in but the remaining 50 per cent of the security deposit may be paid within two months after the date you move in.
-Provide a copy of the Standard Conditions.
-Include the commencement date of the tenancy. The tenancy agreement must
also indicate the end date if it’s a fixed-term contract where a definite lease end date has been agreed upon. If the contract does not include the end date, then the lease should be considered to run monthly.
-Specify the telephone number and address of service for the tenant and the
landlord or the agent acting on behalf of the landlord.
-Indicate the emergency contacts for both the tenant and landlord.
Tenancy agreements, like all contracts, are legally binding. Before signing it, you must ensure that you understand and agree to all terms and conditions. Ensure you thoroughly read and understand any penalties should you break the lease, who is responsible for which utilities, which facilities are included in the rent, how much needs to be paid for the security deposit, or other clauses. The rule of thumb is to always ask questions if you may require clarification!
As a tip for students, if it is not explicitly mentioned, ask your landlord if you can opt for a lease term that covers you until the end of the school year if you plan to move back home over the summer.
After everyone involved has signed a tenancy agreement, tenants have responsibilities to abide by and rights that must be adhered to by landlords. Responsibilities include the payment of rent and utilities (if applicable as per the tenancy agreement), abiding by all terms of the tenancy agreement, reporting maintenance issues at their earliest convenience, maintaining the rental unit and premises in clean and sanitary conditions, repairing or paying for damages caused, and adequately notifying the landlord when they intend to move out.
Regardless of all else, tenants have the right to quiet peace and enjoyment of their rental property; the right to live in a property that adheres to Saskatchewan safety, health, and building codes; the right to access their rental unit without prohibition from their landlord; and the right to display election signage during applicable election periods. The landlord’s rights and responsibilities in Saskatchewan can be found within The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006.
This article does not scratch the surface of how tricky the world of residential tenancies can be. If I can leave you with any further advice, it would be to document all of your interactions with your landlord, especially if they are verbal or otherwise not in a written format. In addition, as a tenant, your security deposit ultimately belongs to you, and the landlord cannot benefit from the security deposit after you move out. Instead, the landlord can only mitigate their loss and return the remainder of the deposit.
Further, because I can’t stress it enough, read and understand your lease agreement! Taking a proactive and informed approach to residential tenancies allows for peace of mind and the confidence to advocate for yourself as a tenant in Saskatchewan.