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 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?
From time to time people call us looking for help finding legal information. Recently I spoke to a woman about an issue she was having with a tenant. We conversed for awhile before I realized that she was calling from Florida. Yikes! We provide Canadian legal information. She’s living under a whole different set of laws and a very different legal system. Her internet search had led her to us and she didn’t even realize that she was calling Canada. That’s the problem with the internet. Good information is available, but you have to be on your toes to check if it is relevant and accurate for your situation.
Good news, everyone!
Our much cherished publication, LawNow Magazine, is going to be completely free as of September 2012.
We are very excited about this new phase in the continual development of LawNow. We believe this change will allow greater access to LawNow’s valuable content and will help us reach new audiences.
In addition, based on feedback we received from many of our subscribers, the LawNow website is being completely redesigned. You can look forward to easier to read articles, greater searching capabilities, and no login! LawNow will continue to include all of the features and articles that showcase the best in practical public legal information and education.
To keep up-to-date with what’s happening with LawNow subscribe to the LawNow Updates.
We are confident that you will enjoy the new LawNow, and encourage you to visit the new and improved website at www.lawnow.org in the fall.
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?
Are you a social worker, community worker or lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence? If so, have we got a learning and networking opportunity for you!
Community Initiatives Against Family Violence and the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta are excited to announce, Moving Forward: Legal and Psychological Supports for Victims of Domestic Violence Conference on April 24, 2012 at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre in Edmonton, AB. This full day conference will feature keynote speakers and multiple breakout sessions by presenters who work in the family violence and legal fields to support victims as they move forward in their journey. It will also be an opportunity for delegates to learn more about domestic violence from both a legal and a psychological perspective and to become more aware of the wide array of services available to victims of domestic violence. The registration fee is $45.
Domestic Violence is a societal issue that affects 1 in four women and 1 in 7 men at some point in their lives. The Edmonton Police Service received 6500 domestic violence related calls in 2010. We do know that only about 25% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police (Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2011). Alberta has the second highest reported incidence of domestic violence in Canada. We are tied with Saskatchewan.
This conference is an opportunity for professionals to increase their knowledge base on legal issues and community supports, build relationships with other professionals, and reflect on their practice.
We gratefully acknowledge the Department of Justice Canada Victims of Crime Fund for providing funding for this event. Every year Justice Canada chooses a theme for Victims of Crime Week. For 2012, the theme is “Moving Forward.” This theme acknowledges both the journey that victims of crime undertake as they make changes in their lives and the work done in the last 30 years to improve services for victims of crime.
The conference brochure is available here.
You can view a listing of presentations and register at www.ciafv.com.