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Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Tenant Rights When the Landlord Sells the Rental Property

November 22nd, 2012 Comments off

There are few situations that bring home the somewhat tenuous nature of renting more than when the landlord puts the rental property up for sale. Does the tenant have any rights to object to showings? Does the landlord have to even tell the tenant that the place is being sold? Can the landlord end the lease early?

You can find the answers to these questions and more by going to our new publication What You Need to Know if the Place You are Renting is Sold.

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More Stuff I Wish I’d Known Yesterday

February 17th, 2012 Comments off

Do you know what I’m struggling with today? I’m struggling with the concept of tough love. I feel really bad for all of the tenants who have had horrible things happen to their rental buildings lately, but I also think that this is (in a phrase I never would have used before working here!) a “teachable moment.” How can you avoid being the tenant on the TV who has lost everything? Get tenant insurance. Just go out and get it. It doesn’t cost that much (you can even spread the cost over the year by paying in installments), and your lease probably requires you to have it in the first place.

Why do you need it? So that if your apartment burns down, falls down, is broken into, or gets up and walks away, you will be able to buy new stuff. One of the most common things I hear from tenants is that “my stuff isn’t that nice anyway, so it’s not worth it for me to spend the money on insurance.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! Let’s break it down: let’s say you pay $200.00 for one year of content insurance. Let’s say that your place is destroyed, and all of your stuff is lost. If you spent the $200.00, then you pay the deductible, and replace your crappy stuff with brand new stuff. How great is that? If you don’t buy the insurance? Well, hello, free couch in the back alley that may or may not be crawling with bed bugs.  Hello, internet café, where no one washes their hands before they touch the keyboards. Get it? You will have nothing: no couch, no laptop, no TV, nothing.

The other common thing I hear from tenants is “if the place burns down, the landlord has to buy me all new stuff because it’s his fault.” Really? Does anybody actually believe this? Guess what would happen if you went to court to try to force your landlord to pay for all new stuff for you? The first question would be “Were you required to have tenant insurance under your lease?” You’d have to say yes, and then your case would be thrown out and you’d still be left with nothing. Well, actually, worse than nothing, because you’d probably have to end up paying your landlord’s court costs.

Use your head, and go buy insurance.

Until next time, make sure you think ahead and take the spoon out of the sink before you turn on the water or you’re going to have a big ol’ mess on your hands…

You can find out more about insurance and renting here.

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Movin’ on up, movin’ on out (Part 3)

February 9th, 2012 Comments off

Welcome back to the last of the “how the heck do I give notice to move out” posts. You can read the first one here, and the second one here. This post is going to talk about fixed term tenancies and what steps you can take to end one.

First, let’s talk about what a fixed term lease actually means. The way a fixed term tenancy works is that both the tenant and landlord are bound by the terms in the lease, including the period of for which the property is going to be rented. The tenant gets some bonuses (the landlord can’t increase the rent during the term of the lease, the landlord can’t end the tenancy during the term of the agreement unless the tenant has done something wrong, etc.), and so does the landlord (the landlord knows that the property will be rented for a guaranteed period of time for a specific amount of money). Most issues come up when one side decides that they don’t want to be bound by the lease anymore. For example, the landlord decides to sell the property and wants the tenant to move out early, or the tenant’s job moves, or is lost, and the tenant needs to move somewhere else.

So, how do you end a fixed term tenancy? You cannot just give a month’s notice like you would for a monthly periodic tenancy. You signed a contract, and one of the terms that you promised to follow was the length of time you would rent the place. The nature of a fixed term tenancy is that the tenancy only ends under the terms of the contract (for example, the tenancy will end on the date stated in the lease), or if the landlord and the tenant agree to end the tenancy early. You can always try to talk to your landlord to see if the landlord is okay with an early end date. If you are able negotiate and come up with an agreement, you should put this agreement in writing. Remember, your landlord does not have to release you from your obligations that you have, so it’s a good idea to think of some negotiating points (“this will give you time to paint the apartment like you said you wanted to do. With all new paint, I bet you could charge more rent”) and to be nice. You are asking for a favour from your landlord, so be courteous and act in a reasonable manner.

If your landlord won’t agree to end the lease early, what can you do? Well, you might be able to sublet or assign your place. Generally speaking, this means that you would find someone who wanted to rent your place, and then that person would move into the property and you would move out. Under an assignment, you would generally give your entire interest in the property over to the new tenant. In a sublet, you would remain responsible, along with the new person, for all obligations of the original lease. So, if your subtenant did not pay rent, then your landlord could come after you to collect the unpaid rent. You must request your landlord’s permission in writing before you assign or sublet. If your landlord does not respond to your request within 14 days, then you can assume that the landlord consented.

What happens if none of these options work for you, and you go ahead and move out anyway? Well, there are consequences that you have to weigh. You remain responsible to pay the rent until the tenancy ends (either because the landlord rents to a new tenant, or the end date in your fixed term occurs). This means that if, for example, you moved out in March and you were supposed to live there until September 30, then you must continue to pay the rent until either the place is rented out again, or until September 30 comes. Your landlord must try to rent out the property again. The landlord has to do all of the things that s/he would normally do to find a new tenant. And if you’re thinking right now that you can just ignore the landlord’s demands for payment, think again. The landlord can contact a collection agency to try and collect the debt, or can make an application against you.

The chances of you getting your security deposit decrease as well. Your lease might have a term that says that if you break the lease, then you must pay the landlord some money in fees, and these fees, if you don’t pay them, can be deducted from the security deposit. You can find out more about these fees in Service Alberta’s Voluntary Code of Practice here. Also, you might be paying rent on your new place and won’t be able to afford to pay rent on the old place, and the landlord can deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit.

Well, we’ve covered most of the common concerns that come up when a tenant wants to move out of the property. Until next time, stay away from those home design magazines at the check-out counter, as they will only lead to a vague feeling of dissatisfaction when you get home.

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Movin’ on up, movin’ on out (Part 2)

February 2nd, 2012 Comments off

And we’re back! If you’re new to the blog, go back and read my last entry, as this post is a continuation of it.

So you’re renting a place and you’ve decided that you want to move out. You looked at the lease that you signed and you realize that you’re renting under a monthly periodic tenancy, and that the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) applies to you and your landlord. What steps do you have to take now?

First, you have to give written notice. The notice must give the address of the place that you are renting, you must sign it, and you must also give the date that you will be moving out. There are organizations in Alberta that have developed written notices that you can use. You also have to serve the notice on your landlord.

The RTA says that a tenant in a monthly periodic tenancy must give one full tenancy month’s notice. If the tenant does not give enough notice to the landlord, then the written notice is still effective to end the tenancy, just not for that date. Here’s an example.

If you have a monthly periodic tenancy that begins on the 1st day of the month and ends on the last day of the month, and you give your notice on, for example, February 2 to end the tenancy on February 29, your notice would work to end the tenancy, but not for February 29. See, February 2 to February 29 is not a full tenancy month, but March 1 to March 31 is a full tenancy month. This means that if you gave your notice on February 2, your tenancy ends on March 31. You have to pay the rent for the entire notice period. The tenant must move out by 12 noon on the last day of the tenancy, unless there is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant that states otherwise.

You can talk to your landlord about making a different agreement in relation to the move out date and time and the amount of rent that is due, but your landlord does not have to negotiate with you. Sometimes, if you are a problem tenant, or if the landlord can find a new tenant that wants to move in right away, then the landlord will agree to an early end date. I once spoke to a woman who had been given multiple notices for noise violations from her landlord. She decided she wanted to move out immediately so she spoke to her landlord, and he was more than happy to have her move out right away (I’m sure he would have offered to help her pack if he thought he could have got her out a day sooner). If you can come up with an agreement with your landlord, then you should put this agreement in writing.

If you decide to just walk away and not pay rent for the notice period, then your landlord can keep some or all of your security deposit to cover the unpaid rent. Your landlord could also make an application against you (which isn’t hard, so don’t think your landlord won’t do it). Did you know that a court order in Alberta is good for ten years? That means that if your landlord gets an order against you now, s/he has ten years to collect the money from you. I know many university students out there who may not have money now, but will within ten years, and the last thing they should want is some unpaid court order out there waiting to swoop into their bank accounts and garnish next week’s mortgage payment.

Come back next week to learn about what you can do if you have a fixed term lease and you want to move out.

You can read more about ending a periodic tenancy on the Laws for Tenants in Alberta website here or in Service Alberta’s Voluntary Code of Practice here.

You can read about enforcing a court order on the Alberta Courts website here.

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Movin’ on up, movin’ on out (Part 1)

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

With a new year comes a time of reflection, when people often think about where they are in their lives and where they want to be, and make decisions about how best they can get there. I’m sure that we’ve all woken up one morning, opened a bleary eye, looked around at the place we’re renting and wondered: “How did I get here? And how do I escape?” in a not-entirely-joking kind of way. Apparently, that’s what a lot of tenants were thinking about when they rolled out of bed on January 1, and many of them decided that they want to move out now; as in today, not tomorrow, not next month, but right now! Can a tenant just pack up and go? What are the laws that a tenant has to follow to end a lease, and what can happen when a tenant doesn’t follow these laws?

First, under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) there are two types of tenancies within Alberta. There is a periodic tenancy, which means that there is no end date stated within the lease, and the lease simply continues on indefinitely, until something happens to end it (for example, if the tenant gives notice to end the tenancy). The most common type of periodic tenancies are month-to-month tenancies. Periodic tenancies can also be week-to-week, or year-to-year.

The other kind of tenancy is called a fixed term tenancy. This means that there is an end date stated directly within the lease. The most common type of fixed term lease is a one year lease, but they can be for periods of time longer or shorter than one year. The tenancy automatically ends on the date stated in the lease. If, at the end of the fixed term, the tenant continues to rent the property but does not come up with a new agreement with the landlord, then the tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy.

Each type of tenancy has different rules for how the tenancy ends. Now that I have you all aquiver with anticipation to learn about this subject, I’m going to pull a realty show move and tell you to tune in next week to find out what the rules are to end a tenancy. Insert evil laugh here.

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Another bed bug story…

January 13th, 2012 Comments off

Well, bed bugs in rental housing has come up again, at least in the Edmonton news. There is a lot of information out there that can help you figure out if you have bed bugs, what you should do to deal with them, how you can prevent getting them in the first place, and how you can avoid passing them along to someone else.

Sandra Hamilton, a health inspector with Alberta Health Services, was interviewed on CBC and you can listen to the interview here.

The Edmonton Apartment Association has a lot of information on their website, including the Edmonton Bed Bug Guide, and a Bed Bug Info Sheet.

If you are a renter who thinks you have bed bugs in the rental premises, you can find out which Alberta Health Services, Environmental Public Health office you  should contact to receive more information here.

Until next time, while it may be true that no man is an island entire among itself (yes, I have just “Donne” that), the same can’t be said about your bed

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To inquire publicly, or not to inquire publicly, that is the question…

August 24th, 2010 2 comments

Whether ’tis nobler in the parliament to suffer
The slings and arrows of outraged citizens,
Or to send a ship into that sea of troubles
And, by investigating end them….

Ay, there’s the rub


When something goes colossally wrong in Canada, there is often a call for a public inquiry. This just happened with the whole G20 thing in Toronto. This, of course, begs a few questions: what exactly is a public inquiry; when can we/must we have one; who gets to decide that; and what are the alternatives? Let’s start at the beginning….

When there is an important legal or political issue on the table, our democracy has numerous problem-solving mechanisms that can help, including: striking up a parliamentary or legislative committee to make recommendations, passing a law to make changes, or going to court to take an accused to task. Each of these mechanisms has requirements, each has limitations, and each can lead to certain results. But what happens when the problem is so big, the issue so complex, or the blow to public confidence so large, that none of those options, on their own, can provide an adequate response? Enter the public inquiry…. a residual mechanism of government, invoked when it is believed that nothing else will work.

Public inquiries (sometimes called “Royal Commissions”) have been around for a very long time. Hundreds of years ago, English monarchs could use what is known as their “prerogative power” to appoint a commission to investigate and report on matters of public concern. This tradition was incorporated into Canadian democracy and, today, both the federal and most provincial/territorial governments, including Alberta, have laws allowing them to call public inquiries. More specifically, the laws give cabinet the authority to appoint a commission by way of an Order-in-Council (OIC). That OIC provides the commission with the powers necessary to conduct the inquiry (they can be very broad) and it can also outline the exact items to be investigated, any expectations for recommendations, and a general time-line. This then becomes known as the “terms of reference” for the inquiry.

In general, there are two different kinds of public inquiry: the policy-researching kind, and the fact-finding kind.

Read more…

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The Power of Regulations III – Carole’s Vue Weekly podcast

July 19th, 2010 Comments off

Carole’s blog posts from June 25 and June 30 have garnered some attention! Carole was interviewed this past week by Vue Weekly about some of the legal issues raised in Toronto at the G20 protests one month ago.

Listen to the 10-minute  podcast where Carole speaks about free speech, what your rights are in a protest and some of the implications of the mass arrests.

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The Women’s Court of Canada launches new website

July 8th, 2010 Comments off

The Women’s Court of Canada is a group of lawyers, academics and activists who have rewritten Supreme Court of Canada decisions in the spirit of substantive equality.

The WCC has launched a new website featuring their judgements, providing resources, and highlighting feminist organizations.

The site also features a blog where members comment on current cases and legislation.

I blogged about the WCC last summer when I interviewed WCC member Jennifer Koshan for CJSR‘s Adamant Eve. You can listen to us speak about the WCC and about Newfoundland vs. NAPE here (to download audio, right click arrow icon and select “Save link as”).

The Women’s Law Forum of the University of Alberta hosted the  WCC last year. You can listen to the panel presentation, which featured Gwen Brodsky, Sharon McIvor and Melina Buckley, as well as Koshan, here.

Congratulations on the new site, WCC!

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Is there a Blogosaurus Lex fan at The Current?

July 7th, 2010 Comments off

It seems the producers at CBC’s The Current may be reading Blogosaurus Lex! They covered two topics yesterday that correspond with our recent posts.

The first segment of the show examines a poll suggesting that two thirds of Canadians feel the force and tactics – including those violating civil rights -  used by the police during the G20 were justified. The Current asks whether Canadians are too quick to give up their civil rights in the name of order.

The LRC works to inform people about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and finding this balance while exercising civil liberties has been a repeat topic on Blogosaurus Lex. Marilyn has written about whether the police have the right to stop and question people. Carole wrote on the balance of rights and responsibilities of police and protesters earlier this year during the lead up to the Olympics and again before and after the violence in Toronto.

For more information about civil liberties, check out the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.

In the second half of The Current, the topic is elder abuse, specifically financial abuse. The segment opens with the story of Francine Grimaldi, a well-known actress and cultural columnist in Quebec, who lost her retirement savings when she was scammed by a close family friend. The show then moves on to a panel discussion of the financial abuse inflicted on Canadian seniors.

This is especially timely for us at the LRC, as our new website for the Older Adult Knowledge Network www.OakNet.ca has just been launched. OakNet features information on abuse of older adults, including financial abuse.

OakNet presents information in a variety of ways.  Eileen’s Story is a fictional depiction of how someone might experience financial abuse and provides information both for the individual and for those supporting them. Just the Facts describes types of abuse and has information on what the law says about abuse.

The recent expansion of the website means OakNet now provides older adults with information on many topics. In addition to information about abuse of older adults, there is information on planning for the future, personal and family relationships and much more.

Now at this point we’re not sure if someone at The Current is a Blogosaurus Lex fan, or if the timing of these topics was coincidence. But if they start talking about charities and accountability and Salman Rushdie, I think we’ll have a little more evidence for our case.

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