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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This tape will discuss the responsibilities and rights of people living in rented premises. Once you have moved into your self-contained suite, apartment, duplex or house, you and your landlord continue to have rights and obligations. These are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act. Consult with the Landlord Tenant Advisory Board in your community for further information.
Landlord’s rights and obligations: The landlord has a continuing obligation to maintain the building according to building, health, fire and safety standards. The premises must be made available for your use or occupation at the beginning of the tenancy. The landlord will not disturb in any significant manner the tenant’s possession or peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
When you enter into a residential tenancy agreement with a landlord, the landlord shall serve you with a “notice of landlord” within 7 days after the day on which you take possession of residential premises. Here “notice of landlord” means a written notice that is dated and signed by the landlord with his full name, postal address in Canada.
The landlord may enter your premises between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to make repairs, to inspect the premises, or to show prospective buyers of the building, without your consent, but only after giving you a written notice, at least 24 hours before entry. The written notice can be served personally, posted on your door or sent by registered mail. In emergency situations the landlord can enter to attend to the emergency matter without giving prior notice.
If you have a fixed term tenancy, such as a lease, once you or the landlord have given each other notice that you are moving out, the landlord can show your apartment to new tenants during the last month of the tenancy. If you have a periodic tenancy, such as a weekly or monthly rental agreement, the landlord can show the apartment to new tenants after notice of your moving out has been served by the landlord or yourself. Again the landlord must serve you with written notice at least 24 hours before the time of entry and entry must be at a reasonable time.
The landlord can change or add locks if the landlord gives you the new key as soon as the change or addition is made. It is an offence, punishable by a maximum $5,000 fine, if either you or the landlord change or add locks without the other’s permission. You are still free to install a security device, such as a chain lock, on your door. However, neither the installation or removal when you move out can cause any damage.
If you have a periodic tenancy, the landlord can raise the rent but must give you written notice of the increase in rent, if you are in a weekly tenancy the landlord must give you at least 12 tenancy weeks notice of a rental increase. If you are in a monthly tenancy the landlord must give you at least 3 tenancy months notice of a rental increase. If you are in any other type of periodic tenancy then the landlord must give you 90 days notice of rental increase. The landlord is limited to 2 rental increases per year; however the landlord is not limited in the amount of any rental increase.
If you have a lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent during the lease, but can notify you in writing of an increase for the next lease period. Check your lease for the notice period it sets out for rent increases. If after receiving a notice of increase you do not give “notice to vacate”, or notice that you are moving out, you are bound to pay the increased rent.
The landlord can give you a 14 day notice of eviction if you commit a “substantial breach”. The breach can be a number of things which every residential tenant is obligated to do, such as to pay rent, not damage the premises, etc. The notice must be in writing, be signed, and state the details of the substantial breach and the date which you must leave.
As well the landlord can give a 48 hour notice of eviction to a tenant if the tenant has committed either significant damage to the residential premises, the common area of the property, or has physically assaulted the landlord or other tenants. If the tenant does not move out, the landlord must then apply to have the matter resolved in Court within 5 days of the 48 hours notice expiring.
If you do not pay rent, the landlord can file a document called a “Distress Warrant” with a Civil Enforcement Agency who can then seize and sell enough of your property to cover the rent you owe. The Civil Enforcement Agency must leave you with certain “bare necessities” such as beds and ordinary clothing for you and your family. Consult your Landlord Tenant Advisory Board for further details.
Tenant’s rights and obligations: Your most important obligation is to pay rent on time as due. If you have a dispute with the landlord, you cannot stop paying rent, even if the dispute is over repairs. In this case you must continue to pay rent, make the repairs yourself and take the landlord to Civil Division Court.
The following obligations are listed in the Residential Tenancies Act: and is a pan of every residential tenancy agreement, even if not actually listed on your agreement. As a tenant, you must:
- keep the premises reasonably clean;
- not interfere with the rights of the landlord or other tenants (such as having loud parties late at night);
- do not carry on illegal businesses in the premises (such as selling drugs);
- do not cause danger to others (such as by carelessness with flammable items);
- do not allow damages other than normal wear and tear (such as allowing your dog to destroy the carpets).
A breach of any of these above conditions could result in the landlord giving you the 14 day notice of substantial breach. You may object to this by serving the landlord with a written notice stating your reasons for objecting before the 14 days are up. If you do so the landlord’s 14 day notice is not effective. You then have to settle the dispute with your landlord or go to Court to have the Judge decide whether or not you must leave.
Landlord and tenant disputes are sometimes heard in Provincial Court. Civil Division often called Small Claims Court. This is an informal Court where ordinary people often conduct their own trials without the help of lawyers, although you may bring a lawyer if you wish. If you sue your landlord for whatever reason, the Provincial Court Civil Division may award you damages either in money, reduced rent, or compensation for the cost of carrying out the landlord’s obligations. However, any matter whereby the landlord seeks to evict you will be heard before the Court of Queen’s Bench.