Here at CPLEA, we receive hundreds of questions about landlord and tenant issues every year. While a majority of them are relatively straightforward, we occasionally receive some questions that leave us scratching our heads or in a state of disbelief (or sometimes a bit of both). In this article, we’ve compiled answers to some of the most memorable tenancy questions over the years. From radon testing, criminal record checks, tenants cooking crystal meth, questionable video surveillance to rent decreases (yes, you heard that right, rent decreases and not rent increases), we hope that the following questions and answers will be informative to you.
Am I required to test for radon in my rental property?
Radon is an odorless, radioactive, cancer-causing gas that can be found in new and old buildings. In Alberta, there is no legislation currently in force that directly addresses the issue of radon or radon testing.
That said, landlords should keep an eye out for the Radon Awareness and Testing Act as well as any regulations associated with it. The provincial government passed the Act in December 2017 but the law is not yet in force. However, within one year of the law coming into force, the Minister (responsible for the Act) must develop educational materials that encourage homeowners to measure and take action to reduce radon levels. The Act also enables the Minister to make regulations establishing standards for radon testing and reduction in residential dwellings.
While there is currently no law in Alberta (at least in force) that directly addresses radon, radon may be considered a tenant health issue that falls under the Public Health Act and Residential Tenancies Act. Furthermore, Health Canada and housing industry authorities recommend that homeowners and landlords test for radon.
For more information on radon, refer to the following resources:
Government of Canada webpage on Radon
Government of Alberta webpage on Radon myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=ty6131
Real Estate Council of Alberta Information Bulletin on Radon
I heard that a sex offender is moving into the area where I have rental properties. Can I request a criminal record check from prospective tenants? Is there a way to check if a prospective tenant is a sex offender?
No, a landlord cannot request a criminal record check from tenants or prospective tenants. Asking for one is considered personal information beyond what is necessary to provide tenancy. For more information on privacy law and landlord-tenant matters, refer to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner of Alberta’s resource, Privacy and Landlord: Tenant Matters FAQs, available on its website: www.oipc.ab.ca.
As for whether there is a way to check if a prospective tenant is a sex offender, the answer is no. The National Sex Offender Registry is a national registration system for sex offenders who have been convicted and ordered by the courts to report annually to police. The public does not have access to the Registry; only law enforcement agencies can access and use the Registry. For more information, refer to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s website: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
I suspect that my tenants are cooking crystal meth in my rental property. What can I do about the situation?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), if the tenant commits any illegal acts in the property, then the tenant has committed a substantial breach of the tenancy agreement and can be evicted by the landlord with a 14-day written notice. However, in an eviction situation (where the reason for eviction is not unpaid rent), a tenant can write a letter of objection if they do not agree with the eviction. The tenant must serve the notice of objection on the landlord before the termination date. If the tenant does not serve a notice of objection, then a landlord can seek an order to remove the tenant.
You should also consider contacting Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN), a unit of the Alberta Sheriffs. SCAN initiates investigations on properties that are suspected of being used for illegal activities and can help landlords to facilitate an eviction or resolution. For more information on SCAN, go to the Government of Alberta’s website: www.alberta.ca or call the following toll-free number: 1-866-960-SCAN (7226).
My landlord started installing cameras in and around our building. I noticed that one of the cameras in the building courtyard points directly into my bedroom. Can my landlord do that?
A landlord can only install video equipment in public areas for reasonable purposes such as security concerns. The landlord must give adequate notice to tenants and visitors that the premises are monitored by video surveillance for security purposes. Furthermore, the video should not be used or disclosed for any other purposes. If you are concerned about the placement of the camera and the use of the video, you can speak to your landlord about your concerns and try to work out a solution. For more information on privacy law or to make a privacy complaint, refer to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner of Alberta’s website: www.oipc.ab.ca.
My landlord recently decreased my rent. Are there rules about rent decreases? Does the rent decrease mean that the amount of my security deposit should be reduced too?
No, there are no rules about rent decreases. You and your landlord can agree on whatever amount of rent you think is appropriate. There is no law that sets pit fair rents. A landlord can offer a place at a certain rent and it is up to you as a tenant whether you take it at that price or not, or negotiate a different price. The only rent issues covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is how and when rent can be increased, and what happens if rent is not paid.
As for the question about the security deposit, there are no rules in the RTA specifically addressing what happens to security deposits when rent decreases. The RTA only specifies that the amount of a security deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent under the residential tenancy agreement and that the security deposit cannot be increased as rent increases. However, as the security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent, your landlord should return the difference between the original security deposit amount and the newly decreased rent amount.
Tip: A landlord cannot require a tenant to pay an increase in a security deposit during the term of a tenancy. For example, this means that a landlord cannot increase the security deposit during a periodic tenancy. However, if a landlord increases rent at the end of a fixed-term tenancy and enters into a new fixed-term agreement with a tenant, then the landlord can increase the security deposit. For more information on security deposit increases, refer to Service Alberta’s RTA handbook section on security deposits: www.servicealberta.ca/pdf/RTA/Security_Deposit.pdf.