Each province has one law that applies to most renting situations, and then other laws that you may need to know about depending on the kind of property that you are renting. For example, if you are renting a condominium unit in Alberta, you’d want to know about the Residential Tenancies Act and the Condominium Property Act, because both laws apply to the landlord and the tenant in that situation.
For a more information on roommates and subletting, visit https://www.landlordandtenant.org/roommates-and-subletting/
But what happens when the main renting law in your province excludes the kind of property that you are renting? For example, in most provinces, if you rent a room in your landlord’s home, then the relationship between you and your landlord is probably not covered by renting law. In other words, if you share living space with your landlord, then chances are the law will not apply to you or to your landlord. So let’s take a look at an example.
Betty owns a house that has a basement suite. She decides that she’s going to rent out the basement suite, which has its own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and entrance. She rents the suite to Tim, and Tim pays his rent on the first of every month. Betty and Tim hardly ever see each other, other than to say the occasional ‘hello’ as they leave for work in the morning. The renting law in their province applies to them, because they don’t share living space (they don’t share a kitchen, bathroom or living room).
Now let’s say that Betty decides that she’s going to get a roommate too. She rents out a room to Jane, and they share the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Jane pays her rent on the first of every month. The renting law in their province probably doesn’t apply to them, because Jane shares living space with her landlord.
Let’s say that at the beginning of the month, neither of Betty’s tenants paid their rent. What can Betty do? Well, renting law applies between Tim and Betty, so Betty has to follow the eviction procedure that is set out in the law. For example, if this situation were happening in Alberta, then Betty could follow the eviction procedure set out in the Residential Tenancies Act and give Tim a 14 day termination notice. Tim would have 14 days to pay the rent, or else he’d have to move out.
But what about Jane? Does Betty have to give her 14 day notice? No, because the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply to their relationship. Betty could tell Jane that she has to pay the rent with 24 hours, or 48 hours, or 7 days, or immediately, whatever period of time Betty thinks is reasonable. Betty can do this because there is no law, and no eviction procedure, that applies between them.
Now, if Jane thought that Betty was being unreasonable, then Jane could take Betty to small claims court to cover Jane’s damages. Let’s say Betty gave Jane three days to pay the rent, or else Jane would have to move. Jane didn’t get the rent money to Betty, so then Betty changed the locks. Jane had to stay in a hotel for a few days before she found somewhere else to live. Jane could sue Betty for the costs of the hotel stay, and it would be up to the judge to decide if Betty has to pay that money to Jane.
How can you find out if the law in your province will apply to you? Well, you could go directly to the law and look at the definition and application sections. You could also take a look at the CMHC provincial fact sheets. Those fact sheets set out what property the law does and does not apply to, and has contact information for organizations that can help you understand the law if you have any questions.
If the law doesn’t apply to you, how can you best protect yourself? You should make sure that you have a written agreement that sets out what will happen if there is a breach, and how the agreement will be terminated. The agreement should also include any other terms and agreements that you and your landlord want to be included (security or damage deposits, inspection reports, rent increases, etc.). By having a written agreement, both the landlord and the tenant know what is expected of them, and what the consequences are should the agreement not be followed. You can take a look at a sample living with your landlord agreement.
This column was produced with the generous support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.