The Off Campus Housing Service is pleased to provide students with some general tips on tenant rights and responsibilities in Quebec. While we aim to keep our information as up-to-date as possible, students are advised to check with the Regie du Logement (Rental Board) before making any decisions.
Signing the lease
Q: On the application form, it asks for my bank account number, passport number, and Social Insurance Number. Do I have to give those?
It is illegal for the landlord to require this information. As for the bank account number, if you give your branch name and phone number that should be sufficient.
Q: After I've filled out the application form, how long should it take the landlord to get back to me?
Most of the time, it will take around 2 days for the landlord to run the full credit check.
Q: I've already signed the application form, the landlord hasn't got back to me yet, but now I found another really nice apartment. What should I do?
You need to get in touch with the first landlord to see if you are the first in line for that apartment. If you aren't, make sure he agrees to tear up the application form before you fill out the application form for the new place.
Q: What are the important parts of the lease I need to check before I sign it?
Make sure that the following information is written on your lease:
Q: How long after signing the lease can I change my mind and back out?
From the moment you sign the lease, you are responsible for carrying the lease until the end of its term. You cannot back out.
Q: Do I get a copy of my lease right away?
Usually, you get your copy within ten days of signing the lease. If its been ten days and you still don't have a copy of the lease, make sure to contact your landlord.
Q: What if I don't have a written lease?
A verbal agreement is just as binding as a written agreement, however a verbal agreement is harder to prove in court so we encourage you to obtain a written lease.
Q: If I want to rent a room in someone's house, do they normally give you written leases?
No, they don't usually fill out the formal lease, but make sure that you have a written agreement of some sort. For example a formal letter with all the details that would normally be given in a lease would be appropriate.
Q: Do I have to pay all twelve months in advance?
No, you pay month by month. Usually the landlord will ask for the first month's rent up front, when you sign the lease.
Q: How do I have to pay my rent?
Some people pay cash (in which case, make sure to get a receipt for it) and some by checks (in which case your bank statement will serve as a receipt.) It should specify on your lease which method of payment you will use.
Q: Does the tenant have a reasonable delay to pay his rent?
No, you must pay on the first of the month unless otherwise specified on your lease. However, unless you have been late more than once OR you are more than three weeks late, the landlord cannot evict you for one late payment.
Q: Where should I pay my rent?
It should be specified on your lease.
Q: What happens if I do not pay my rent on time?
If you are late paying your rent and as a result your landlord is late making his own payments, he can sue you for the interest charges on his late payments. Also, if you are repeatedly late or more than three weeks late, your landlord can file at the Rental Board to evict you from the apartment.
Q: Do I have to give my landlord a notice if I want to renew my lease?
No, your lease is automatically renewed unless you tell your landlord you want to move. If you do not want to renew your lease you should let your landlord know about the non-renewal at least 3 months before the end of your lease. There are models of different notices on the Rental Board website.
Q: How much notice does the landlord have to give before raising the rent?
For a 12 month lease he must send the notice 3 to 6 months before the end of the lease, and the increase will only take effect once the current lease term is up.
Q: Can the landlord raise the rent by any amount he chooses?
No, every year the Rental Board comes up with a calculation form which depends on how the building is heated, whether or not the landlord has done any renovations, by how much the municipality taxes have gone up or down, and other factors. The Rental Board also releases average rent increases that you can find on their website.
Q: What if your landlord is asking for an unreasonable rent increase?
If your landlord is asking for an increase much higher than the average rent increases released by the Rental Board and you think it is not justified then you should try to negotiate with him. If you are not able to come to a reasonable negotiation with your landlord, then send him a registered letter within one month of receiving his notice of rent increase, telling him that you do not accept his rent increase and that you wish to remain on the premises. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter for yourself and the receipts from the registered mail. At this point, the landlord will take it to the Rental Board. They will decide the appropriate rent increase based on the landlord's cost to maintain the building. Whatever increase the Rental Board decides is binding.
Q: What do you do when you receive a rent increase notice?
When you received a rent increase notice you must get back to the landlord within 30 days of receiving the notice otherwise your lease will get renewed at the higher rent proposed for another year.
Breaking the lease
Q: Can you break the lease whenever you need to?
The only three reasons you can break a lease are:
- If you are accepted into government issued Low Cost Housing.
- If you can no longer occupy your apartment due to a physical handicap.
- If you are admitted permanently into an elderly long term care centre.
If you do not fit into one of those categories, but you have to get out of your lease, you have the choice to either sublet your apartment or to assign the lease (otherwise known as a lease transfer.)
Visiting the premises
Q: Is my landlord allowed to access my apartment whenever he wants?
No, your landlord should give you a 24 hour notice verbally or in writing before visiting your apartment. If he is coming to show the apartment to a potential tenant, he can come between 9am to 9pm. If it is to make repairs, he can come between 7am and 7pm. And if it is an urgent repair, he may come with no notice at any time.
Sublet/Option to renew or transfer lease
Q: What is a sublet?
Subletting your apartment means you are allowing someone else to take over your apartment for a temporary period of time.
Q: What is the difference between subletting and assigning?
If you are leaving temporarily for a trip and you wish to avoid paying rent for the apartment while you are not living there, then subletting is your best option. When you sublet your apartment, you are still the legal tenant and you are still responsible for the apartment. You can return to you your apartment when the sublet term is over.
If, on the other hand, you are leaving your apartment permanently, then you would be better off transferring your lease (otherwise known as assigning the lease.) By assigning the lease, you are renouncing your right to return to the dwelling, and you are no longer responsible for the apartment.
Q: What do you do if a repair needs to be done in your apartment?
First you should try to contact your landlord in person or over the phone to ask him to make the repair. If you cannot reach him or he refuses to make the repair or if he does not do it on time then you should send him a letter through registered mail. In your letter, you should explain what repairs need to be done and give him a time limit (usually 10 days) in which you expect him to complete the repairs. Explain that if he does not complete the repair you will be forced to file for a rent reduction at the Rental Board.
Q: Can I do the repairs myself and then withhold the costs from my rent?
You may do this only if the problem you want to repair poses an immediate health risk that you absolutely cannot wait to fix. For regular repairs, you cannot do this unless you have the written permission of your landlord before hand.
Q: When does my landlord have to put the heater on?
There is not a specific date on which the landlord must turn on the heating. He just has to maintain a temperature of at least 21 degrees Celsius all the time. If the landlord is unable to restore heating rapidly, he should supply emergency services (e.g. electric heaters). Where heating problems are concerned, even a 24-hour delay can be unacceptable and temporary rehousing of occupants may in fact be required.
Q: What do I do if my apartment is too cold?
You should send your landlord a registered letter explaining that he needs to maintain the temperature at 21 degrees, and if he fails to do so then you will file at the Rental Board. If you do file at the Rental Board make sure to have a record of what temperature it has been in your apartment each day since you sent the letter.