What do Mohawk College students need to know about renting a place to live during their time at school? John Nikolaou, a Legal Assistant at the MSA, has provided the MSA with some valuable information to help students understand the process.
Here’s what he had to say.
Applying to Rent a Unit
Once you find a place you’re interested in renting you may be asked to fill out a rental application. This is normal and is a simple and common practice that landlords use to help screen potential tenants. Simply fill out the form provided.
Note: you may be asked to provide information such as current employment, credit score, net income, and references.
Housing is classified as a human right, therefore no one can be discriminated against when applying or acquiring a house, condo, apartment, rental unit and/or any other sort of housing.
When looking for a rental unit do your due diligence. Ask the landlord if you can speak to any of their current or former tenants, and look up online reviews. This is where you’re going to be living for at least the next year (in most cases your lease will be for one year) be proactive and stay away from landlords and/or units with red flags.
Signing the Lease
Once you are approved the next step is to sign the lease. A lease is simply a contract between two parties (landlord and tenant) that outlines everything regarding the tenancy i.e. payment of rent, length of the lease, notice, entitlements, utilities, etc. Read the lease over make sure you understand everything. If you have any questions, ask the landlord or property manager to clarify.
Just because something is in the lease doesn’t mean it’s legal or enforceable. If you feel that a clause in your lease is unlawful, seek legal advice from a paralegal or lawyer.
When you’re done signing your lease make sure you have:
A copy of the signed lease The landlord’s legal name and address Information on the landlord and tenant board Information on tenant rights and responsibilities Information on landlord obligations.
You will need to pay for first and last month's rent before you move in. The last month’s rent is held as a deposit - this will cover your last month’s rent when you decide to move.
It is important to note leases can be ‘frustrated’. Frustration of a lease is when there is no reasonable way for a party to meet its contractual obligations (i.e. the rental unit burns down).
Now, what do students need to keep in mind after they’ve officially moved in?
Unless your landlord has agreed to clean your unit, it is your responsibility. Familiarize yourself with the health codes and make sure you don’t violate them. Dirty clothes spewed everywhere, dirty dishes in the sink piled to the ceiling is a no go.
Be mindful of smells as well. If you have pets clean up after them. If you have any unpleasant smells coming from your unit and into other properties complaints can be made against you. Get enough complaints, and you might just get evicted.
This goes without saying, but you can’t harass obstruct, coerce, threaten or interfere with your landlord and/or any tenants, the same goes for your landlord - the landlord cannot withhold vital services.
If for whatever reason you want to change the locks, DON’T under the RTA (Residential Tenancies Act) tenants and landlords are prohibited from changing the locks to the rental unit. If you have any issues with maintenance for your unit tell your landlord - they’re obligated to fix it as soon as possible.
Every tenant is protected from uncontrolled rent increases, meaning your landlord can only increase the rent once per year, no more than the prescribed amount set out by the Landlord and Tenant Board. Landlords may apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to be able to raise the limit higher. Notice of this must be given to all the tenants before the hearing.
Note: If your landlord wants to enter the unit they must provide you with a least 24-hour notice with the exception being emergencies and or your consent. However, they can’t just enter for any reason. They can only give the notice to enter in the following circumstances:
a) To carry out work or repair to the unit
b) To allow a potential mortgagee or insurer of the residential complex to view the rental unit.
c) To allow a person who holds a certificate of authorization within the meaning of the Professional Engineers Act or a certificate of practice within the meaning of the Architects Act or another qualified person to make a physical inspection of the rental unit to satisfy a requirement.
d) To carry out an inspection of the rental unit, if,
i. the inspection is for the purpose of determining whether or not the rental unit is in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and complies with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards, consistent with the landlord’s obligations, and
ii. it is reasonable to carry out the inspection
e) Any other reason that is in the tenancy agreement
For the notice to be considered complete and legal it must have the reason for entry, the date that the landlord intends to enter and the time of entry within 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tenants have a duty to mitigate their losses as much as possible per the RTA. For example, if you rent a house and store items in the basement. In the event of a flood, your duty to mitigate your damages would be to do everything reasonably possible to minimize or prevent your items from being damaged.
Note: The MSA has partnered with The Personal Home and Auto Group to provide discounted insurance rates to Mohawk students.
Ending Your Tenancy
There are a few ways to end your tenancy. One way to end your tenancy is to fill out an N9 Form (found on the Landlord and Tenant Board website). Depending on whether your tenancy is monthly, weekly or yearly – this will dictate how much notice you must give before leaving. It’s always a good idea to give more notice than the minimum when possible. You can also sublet or assign your tenancy. Subletting is when you’re still the tenant and you ‘rent’ the unit to someone else. You must ask your landlord for permission first.
Note: When you sublet you are responsible for any damage or rent that must be paid. Further, you cannot charge more than what you pay for rent.
You can also ask your landlord’s permission for an assignment - when you have someone else take over the lease.
You can be evicted for a number of reasons, including:
1. Personal use of the rental property
2. Property has been sold and the new owner/ landlord intends to use the property for personal use
3. Not paying rent
4. Interfering with others
5. Damage to the property
7. Illegal acts
8. Miss representing income in rent geared to income rental
9. Causing serious problems in the rental unit or complex
10. Mutual agreement to end the tenancy
11. Demolition of unit
12. Extensive repairs to the unit
13. Convert to another use
14. City by-law
If your landlord wishes to evict you they must send you proper notice (a notice form created by the LTB). This notice is not an order by the LTB and if you wish you may dispute the eviction.
NOTE: Information in this blog is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as legal advice.
However, the MSA does offer free legal counselling to any Mohawk student who may need it. Students can book appointments between 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays to speak with Bill Reid. Reid is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and can counsel students on a range of topics including landlord/tenant circumstances, immigration questions, and more.