CPLEA is excited to announce the launch of our redesigned Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta website.
The new website features a modern, streamlined design with enhanced searching capability and the same excellent plain language content that Alberta tenants and landlords have come to expect from CPLEA.
The new website also features CPLEA’s brand new tip sheet for tenants who have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn and dropping oil prices. If your Employment Ends… Laws for Tenants in Alberta explains what options tenants have if they can no longer afford their rent and want to move out early.
CPLEA’s Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta program, including the redevelopment of the website, is generously supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.
With oil prices dropping significantly and Target closing its doors, thousands of Albertans have lost their jobs.
Many thousands more are worried everyday that they could lose their job.
Here at CPLEA, we can’t fix the economy, but we can help people understand the law. We have created a new tip sheet for Alberta tenants who are having trouble keeping up with their rent due to the economic downturn. If your Employment Ends… Laws for Tenants in Alberta, explains what options tenants have if they want to move out early.
For Albertans who own their homes and are thinking of finding a tenant to supplement their income, CPLEA’s free booklet Renting out a Room in your Home provides key information on the laws surrounding such living arrangements.
CPLEA’s Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta program is generously supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.
Question of the month from the Garvie Reading Room:
Can my landlord prevent me from displaying an election sign supporting a particular candidate?
This depends on the type of election. Both the Canada Elections Act (S.C. 2000, c. 9), section 322, and the Alberta Election Act (E.1, RSA 2000), section 135.5 state clearly that no landlord may prohibit a tenant from displaying election advertising posters on the premises nor may any condominium corporation prohibit any owner or tenant from displaying such posters. They do allow the landlord or condominium corporation to set reasonable limits on the size or type of posters and to prohibit such displays in common areas of the building. Common areas are usually those areas that all tenants can access, like the laundry room, parking lot and land surrounding the building.
However, the Alberta Local Authorities Election Act (E-21, RSA 2000), which governs municipal elections makes no reference to election advertising at all, other than to prohibit such displays at polling stations on election day. Many municipalities have bylaws or regulations related to campaign signs on municipal property and roadways. Generally they have no regulations about private property but do caution that placement of signs on private property must have the permission of the property owner. This would imply that in a municipal election the landlord can refuse for a tenant to display a campaign poster or ask a tenant to remove a sign that has been posted. There may even be a term in your lease governing such displays.
Because each province governs both their own elections and their municipalities, these rules may well differ in other provinces.
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.
I get the occasional question about tenants who are hoarders, and what rights the landlord has, and doesn’t have, to address this issue. The Residential Tenancies Act sets out the obligations that a tenant has, and one of them is to keep the premises reasonably clean. If the tenant is a hoarder, does that mean that the tenant has automatically breached the Residential Tenancies Act and can be evicted? The Access Review blog has tackled this question, and Sarah Eadie has wrote an informative blog post about human rights and accommodations.
Global TV Edmonton has also been covering the story of a family who is dealing with a mother who hoards. On their website, they have highlighted some of the services available in the province, and in Edmonton, to help.
I just got a question from a tenant. The landlord replaced all the windows in the rental property, and then gave the tenant a bill for half the cost of the renovations. Seriously.
The tenant doesn’t have to pay the landlord the money. There are some costs that are simply the costs of doing business, and maintaining the property by replacing windows is just one of many costs this landlord is going to run into.\
If the tenant had broken a window because, I don’t know, there was an intense game of indoor baseball going on, then yes, for sure, the landlord could charge the tenant for the repair and replacement of the window. Or the landlord could charge the tenant when the tenant moved, and keep some of the security deposit to cover the cost.
The Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t actually set out who is responsible for repairs and that’s why sometimes, there is confusion about what repairs the landlord can charge the tenant for, and what repairs the landlord can’t charge for. The common sense approach is that any “big” repairs are the landlord’s responsibility and “teeny tiny” repairs are the tenant’s responsibility. So, while the tenant can change the lightbulb, it’s the landlord that installs the new light fixtures when the old ones break.
There is also the Minimum Housing and Health Standards that can help us to decide who should pay for repairs. One of the landlord’s responsibilities is to make sure that the rental property meets these standards. The standards set out that the windows must be in good repair, free of cracks and weatherproof. So, if the windows in the property do not meet this standard, then it’s the landlord’s job to make sure that the windows get repaired or replaced. If the property is not being maintained, then the tenant can call Environmental Public Health and talk to an inspector about the problem that they’re having with the rental.
What should the tenant do? The tenant should tell the landlord, in writing, that they are not going to pay for the windows. The tenant could put in reasons why they aren’t paying (and while it might be tempting to write that you aren’t paying because the charge is ridiculous, it’s probably better to refrain). Hopefully the landlord will just go away at this point. If the landlord still insists on being paid, then there are three ways the landlord may react.
- The landlord could sue the tenant for half of the cost of the renovation. The landlord is going to have to convince a judge that the tenant should have to pay for the windows, which seems unlikely.
- The landlord could keep the security deposit when the tenant moves out. If the tenant doesn’t agree with a charge made against the security deposit, then the tenant can bring an application in Provincial Court or through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service for return of the security deposit.
- The landlord could pass the bill to a collection agency. If the tenant is contacted by a collection agency, then the tenant can inform the agency in writing that the tenant is disputing the debt, and ask that the landlord prove the debt in court. If the tenant does that, then the collection agency cannot contact the tenant any longer. Service Alberta has a tipsheet about dealing with collection agencies.
In the meantime, the tenant might want to think about moving. If the landlord thinks that the tenant should pay for the windows, what else does he think the tenant should pay for?
After I wrote the blog post “Stuff I Wish I’d Known Yesterday,” which was about writing demand letters, I received a few questions. A lot of the questions were the same, so before I find myself repeating “that is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all” I thought a follow up post would be appropriate. (Free bookmarks to anyone who can identify the quote without using google.)
Let’s go back and think about when you may want to use a demand letter: you did something with someone else, something bad happened, and now you want the other party to do something to fix it. That’s it. If we were to go back to the example of the debt, then basically the situation is this: you loaned money, the other guy didn’t pay you back, and now you want him to pay you by a certain date.
You should not send a demand letter as a first step to getting your money back. Try to talk with the other party first and see if you can come up with an agreement. Sometimes it is true that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. A demand letter isn’t a first resort; it’s something you use after you’ve tried being a nice and haven’t gotten anywhere.
Don’t include details that are not important. This is not a confessional; stick to the facts that are relevant, and leave out the stuff that isn’t. What usually matters is that you loaned $500, not that you gave all that money in $20 bills.
Don’t admit things in the letter. Confession may be good for the soul, but it’s not so good when included in a demand letter. Sometimes, a demand letter can be the first step in going to court. That means that you have to be careful what details you include in the letter. Basically, by writing a demand letter, you are telling the other side “look, this is what I want you to do by this date.” If the other party doesn’t think that they should have to do what you want, then it’s up to them to prove why they shouldn’t. Don’t help them by writing down everything single thing you’ve ever done wrong; let them do their own homework.
That being said, don’t lie. Don’t stretch the truth, don’t mix up details, don’t embellish. Stick to the truth and the relevant facts.
Keep the letter short and sweet. If your demand letter is five pages long, you need to edit. Unless you’re a multimillion dollar corporation, your situation should be able to be summed up in a page or less.
Before you send the letter, think about the consequences. If you are sending the letter to someone that you have an ongoing relationship with (for example, someone from your wife or husband’s family), you have to consider what is going to happen after you put the letter in the mail. Are the consequences worth it for you? What if you are only owed a small amount? Is it worth your time to write it and the money to pay for registered mail or delivery? Before you send the letter, think about the worst case scenario and prepare yourself for that to happen. I suppose you could also prepare for the best case scenario (getting the money right away), but in my experience, and to throw around another cliché: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Until next time, enjoy writing your concise, accurate and succinct demand letters. Well, hopefully you don’t have to write more than one (and if you do, stop lending people money).
The term living “common-law” is often used in everyday language to describe a couple that lives together, with or without children, but is not legally married. The Canadian government recognizes “common law” relationships for income tax purposes, but the Alberta government does not. In Alberta, the phrase Adult Interdependent Relationships (“AIRs”) is used instead of common law.
AIRs are interesting because they can include non-sexual relationships of interdependence. For example two friends or relatives that live together may be considered to be in an AIR if they meet certain criteria.
CPLEA has made a new brochure about AIRs. This brochure answers some of the most common questions people have and provides examples of what AIRs look like. Check it out here
When I first started working at CPLEA I was given the task of finding out what youth need to know about the law. After consulting with youth in our city and the groups that work with them, we came across a serious problem. Young people, especially those in vulnerable situations, are being taken advantage of. Youth often do not know their legal rights and responsibilities when renting.
Finding a safe place to live is one of the biggest challenges facing youth who have moved out of their homes because of abuse, neglect, or being kicked out.
At CPLEA we have created a video with some basic tips to help renters. It is a great resource for young people and anyone else that rents. The video focuses on ways to prevent things from going wrong and how to have a positive relationship with your landlord.
I went out of town and a friend was staying at my place to look after my dog. My landlord caught him smoking pot on the balcony, and now the landlord is trying to evict me. Can my landlord do that?
Probably not. Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), if the tenant commits any illegal acts or carries on an illegal trade in the property, then the tenant has committed a substantial breach of the tenancy agreement, and can be evicted by the landlord. But, the issue in your case is that you were not the one who was committing an illegal act; your friend was.
Generally speaking, if you did not have knowledge of or control over the illegal acts, then your landlord cannot evict you for them. In the 2007 case Fairmont Hotels Inc. v. Zwir, from the Provincial Court of Alberta, the landlord tried to evict the tenant for a similar reason. The tenant’s cousin had come to stay with her, and while she was in another apartment, the cousin smoked a joint in her place and got caught by a security guard. The landlord tried to evict her for committing an illegal act, and the Judge wrote at paragraphs 16 and 17 that:
The illegal act here is a criminal act and under criminal law, in these circumstances where the tenant neither knew nor authorized the illegal activity, it is not likely the tenant did anything illegal.
Accordingly, I am not convinced that the tenant, Ms. Zwir, has breached Section 21 of the Act and accordingly I am not convinced that the illegal act here puts Ms. Zwir in substantial breach so as to justify summarily terminating her tenancy.
In your case, ignorance is bliss!
So what to do if your landlord serves you with a 14 day notice terminating your tenancy?
If you don’t want to leave, then you can serve your landlord with a notice of objection. The notice of objection should state the reasons why you do not agree with the termination notice. You must serve this notice on the landlord personally, or by registered or certified mail, before the termination day in the landlord’s notice. If you meet these requirements, then the landlord’s notice terminating your tenancy is ineffective and your tenancy stays in place. If your landlord still wants to evict you, then he has to make an application to terminate your tenancy.
Remember that if you are going to object to the notice, you need to follow the rules and serve the landlord properly and on time.
If your landlord does make an application to terminate your tenancy, then your landlord will serve you with more papers, and you will have a chance to respond to the application and tell your version of events.
And next time you’re out of town, you might want to give your dog a vacation at one of those fancy pet hotels instead.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What if the landlord does not give the proper amount of notice?
- Can the tenant move before the notice takes effect?
- What if the landlord does not use the property for the reason stated in the notice?
- What happens if the tenant does not give the proper amount of notice?
- If the landlord has done something wrong, but it’s not a substantial breach, what can the tenant do?