Copyright © 2020 Federation of Students, University of Waterloo operating as Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association
Student Housing Crisis
Whether a leasing pro, first-time lease hunter, or a student still relaxing in the comforts of residence, you’ve probably come across at least one horror story of life in off-campus student housing… rats in the rooms, key deposits that mysteriously never return to their owners, and landlords that violate tenant rights left, right and centre. It seems the stories go on… and on… and on.
Disclaimer for anyone deterred from living off-campus as a result of the stories that have been circulating: it will be okay!
Making that transition to independent living is a scary, but ultimately rewarding experience that every student should experience at least once in their lives. However, the reality that students have to deal with is that horror stories do happen, and not every landlord and rental company is an honest one. Best way to have a good off-campus housing experience? Know your rights!
That’s what the Tenant Rights Seminar, hosted in E7 on November 12th, aimed to help students achieve. Through knowledgeable representatives of the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services [external link] the goal of the seminar was to educate students on the importance of knowing what rights they have as a tenants.
Deconstructing RTA myths and misconceptions
The Residential Tenancies Act[external link] is the piece of legislation that covers landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. The Act itself is likely not most people’s idea of a leisurely read, but nonetheless it is important to be familiarized with.
*The important thing to note about the Act is that it does NOT apply to tenants who are sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the landlord’s spouse, child or the landlord themselves.*
During the seminar some key topics that students encounter during their housing endeavours were discussed, and the RTA is used to breakdown the myths and misconceptions surrounding these topics.
- Your landlord cannot evict you for having a pet– TRUE. A lot of lease agreements will outline “no pets allowed”, however that is not a legitimate standard that landlords can enforce.
- Tip: Just make sure your fuzzy friends don’t disturb other tenants!
- Rooming/Boarding houses are covered under the RTA– TRUE. Rooming and boarding houses (multi-tenant houses) are covered by the Act.
- Tenants are required to sign a new lease annually– FALSE. However, signing a new lease every year does the increase the potential for your tenant conditions to change year to year (ie. rent could be increased)!
- To force the landlord to do maintenance, stop paying rent– FALSE. Rent is rent, maintenance is maintenance. First step when dealing with maintenance is notifying your landlord.
- Tip: Do this in writing, take pictures, and make sure to add a timeline!
- Tip: If maintenance is not being done and issues are severe, next step is to contact your local property standards unit (City of Waterloo Property Standards Unit[external link])
- Your landlord can collect a last month’s rent deposit prior to moving in– TRUE. The deposit secures your spot in the unit.
- Tip: Key deposits can only be charged for the legitimate cost of the key… key deposites should never cost $500!
- My landlord must go through the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict me– TRUE. Landlords must have a successful order from the Landlord and Tenant Board[external board] to evict you.
- My landlord is allowed to complete a credit check before accepting me as a tenant– TRUE. A common business practice, as long as the landlord is not requesting information that violates your rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code[external link].
- Someone in my building complained about the smell of marijuana coming from my unit. I can be evicted because of this– TRUE. If you are interfering with someone else’s enjoyment of living in the unit you can be evicted. Rules apply to cigarettes, barking dogs, etc.
- My landlord has invoiced me $500 for bed bug treatment. I am responsible for paying this fee– FALSE. Any pests, general repair work, etc. is the responsibility of the landlord.
- My current rent is $1000/month. My landlord gave me notice that he is increasing the rent by $100. I am now responsible for paying $1100/month– FALSE. Landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months, must give 90 days written notice, and can only increase it by the amount outlined by government guidelines.
- Tip: In 2019 this amount is 1.8%, and in 2020 this amount will be 2.2%.
- If you have a question about your tenancy you should call the Landlord and Tenant Board– FALSE. Customer service representatives at the LTB are not allowed to give you legal advice, and often advice is not accurate or correct.