My First Rental: What do I need to know?

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Facts, Tips and Worksheets for First-Time Renters

The excitement of renting your own place for the first time is an amazing feeling. Finally, freedom is literally at your doorstep. You probably can’t wait to have your very own space, but you’ve probably got a few questions about how it all works:

  • How do you go about renting a place?
  • How do you know if it is the right place for you?
  • What is the lease all about anyway?

Not to worry. We’ve got all the answers to your puzzling questions about renting, as well as some useful worksheets to help you make the right decisions for you.

Before you sign a lease

During the tenancy

Ending the tenancy the right way

Tenancy dispute resolution

Additional Information

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A Good Place to Start

Sit down and really think about what you’re looking for in a rental space before you start your search.

Assessing your needs

Print off a copy of the Assessing Your Needs Worksheet to help you get started.

  • Roommates
    • Who do you want to live with?
    • How well do you know them?
    • Do they have similar ideas/values/habits as you?
    • Do you communicate well with each other?
    • Do you trust them?
    • Remember, you are all equally responsible for the apartment. If, for example, one roommate leaves before the end of the lease and refuses to pay the rent, the full amount of rent still must be paid on time or the landlord can begin the process of evicting the tenants. Tenants renting a room are only responsible for their own lease agreement.
  • Location
    • Do you need to walk to work or school? How far are you willing to walk?
    • Do you need to take the bus? How close do you want the bus stop to be? How much time are you willing to spend on the bus?
    • Do you have a car? Will you need a parking spot?
    • How close to grocery stores or other services do you want to live?
    • Do you want to live close to the action, or do you prefer a quiet neighborhood?
  • Accommodations
    • How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
    • What appliances do you want (laundry, dishwasher, etc.)?
    • Do you have a pet that you want to bring with you?
    • Do you smoke?
    • Do you want to share facilities?
  • Rent
    • How much are you willing to pay?
    • Do you want the utilities to be included in the rent?
    • When calculating how much rent you can afford to pay, remember to include all bills and other living expenses in your budget.
    • If you are setting up an electricity account in your name, be aware that you may be required to pay a deposit to the electricity provider. You should also consider telephone, cable and Internet services.

Where to look

  • online sources that list apartments for rent
  • Classified ads in newspapers (both print and online)
  • University websites/bulletin boards/newspapers
  • "For Rent" signs posted on buildings

Accommodation Comparison Worksheet

Choose the very best apartment, room or mobile home site for you by using this Apartment Comparison Worksheet to help you compare the places you see. With all the details clearly laid out, you'll be able to make a decision easily.

So You Think You Found It

Does it meet all your needs? Looking for apartments or other accommodations can be fun, but it can also be stressful if you don't have a lot of time to look or if you don't know the area. So, be sure to ask yourself if this rental really meets your needs. And be honest. You'll be there for a while.

  • Do you really want to live there?
  • Can you afford the rent and bills, as well as all your other expenses?
  • Is the landlord friendly and approachable?

Talk to the landlord: Walk through the premises with the landlord and inspect it from top to bottom. Be sure to ask the following questions:

  • What exactly is included in the rent?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • What kind of lease is it?
  • What’s involved in the application process?
  • What is the landlord responsible for?
  • What am I responsible for?
  • What are the rules for the apartment, room or building?
  • Who takes care of the garbage, recycling, shoveling and mowing?
  • What are the rules for the apartment, room or building?
  • Is the landlord willing to fix any issues?
  • Who do I contact if there are any problems?
  • Will you get along with the other tenants?

Sleep on it: Take some time to think about it. Talk it over with your family and friends. This is a big decision and it's important to be 100% sure before you sign the lease.

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Read it carefully!

Make sure you read the lease and rules carefully. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Remember, the lease is a legal contract so it's important you understand what you're signing. This will also help better prepare you to handle any difficult situations that might pop up.

Read it again!

You and your landlord must sign two copies of the lease. You should each keep a copy. Make sure you understand the following information in your lease:

  • What exactly is covered in the rent?
  • How much notice do I need to give if I want to end the lease?
  • Can I assign or sublet my rental?
  • Have any additional details that you and the landlord agreed on been added to the lease?
  • Remember, you and your roommates are equally responsible for the obligations in the lease, and you are all equally responsible for any problems or consequences. Tenants renting a room are only responsible for their own lease agreement.

Check out these FAQs on Leases for more information. Also be sure to learn more about the Office of the Rentalsman and the Residential Tenancies Act with these General Tenancy FAQs.

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Security Deposit

Your landlord might ask you for a security deposit, which can be no more than a full rent payment. (So, if rent is $500 every month, the most you'll have to pay for a security deposit is $500.) The security deposit acts as protection for the landlord against any damage, necessary cleaning, unpaid rent or unpaid utilities (heat, water, electric power or natural gas services, etc.) that are provided by the landlord but not covered by the rent and late payment fees. You can pay the security deposit to your landlord or directly at any SNB Service Centre.

Check out these FAQs on Security Deposits for more information.

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Move In Day

Move In Time: You can expect to move in at a reasonable time on the morning your lease starts. This should be agreed on with the landlord in advance.

Inspection: Before you start moving your things in, you should walk through the rental with your landlord and inspect it thoroughly under good light. Look at the condition of the walls, floors, counters, appliances, and everything else in the unit. Write down any damage in an Inspection Report.

Both you and the landlord should sign and date the document and you should both keep a copy. Taking photos can also be useful.

Tenant’s Insurance: The landlord's insurance does NOT cover the rental's contents. You are responsible for insuring your personal belongings. If you're a student, ask your parents if you are covered under their insurance plan. If not, it is worth looking into. What would happen if the building burned down or your laptop or bike got stolen?

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Your Responsibilities

Remember that you are living in a rental that someone else owns and cares about. It's important that you keep the rental clean (including things like the fridge and stove). You should also ensure that you and your guests respect your neighbors, and that you repair any damage that you or your guests have caused.

Check out these FAQs on Tenant’s Obligations and Repairs and Maintenance - Respective Responsibilities for more information.

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Your Landlord’s Responsibilities

Your landlord agrees to provide and maintain the rental (and provided items like stoves and fridges) in a good state of cleanliness and repair and fit for habitation. The landlord also promises to keep the common areas clean and safe and follow health, safety and housing standards.

Check out these FAQs on Landlord’s Obligations, FAQs on Entry by Landlord and Repairs and Maintenance - Respective Responsibilities as well as Health, Safety, Housing and Building Standards for more information.

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Being a Good Tenant

Developing a strong and respectful relationship with your landlord and other tenants has many benefits. Here are a few things you might want to keep in mind:

Pay your rent on time: A happy landlord is one that gets paid on time, every time. See the FAQs on Payment of Rent for more information.

Fire Safety: Never leave candles unattended and be careful with cigarettes. Check that the smoke alarms work. Plan an escape route in case there's an emergency.

Noise: Keep the noise down. Be respectful of those around you - whether they are old, young, working or relaxing, nobody wants to be unnecessarily disturbed. Remember that others around you may have different schedules than you. Yelling, foul language and loud music are not appreciated by anyone, especially at night.

Garbage: People take pride in keeping their neighbourhoods clean. Make an effort to keep garbage, old furniture, beer bottles, newspapers and cigarette butts stored properly out of sight. Be sure to put your garbage out every collection day to avoid unwanted smells and rodents.

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Moving Out

Notice: You need to give your landlord proper written notice if you want to move out. For a fixed-term lease it automatically ends at the end of the agreed period of time. For month-to-month leases, you need to give a month's notice and for a year-to-year lease, you need to give three months' notice before the anniversary date. Remember to check your lease if you aren't sure. For more information, see the FAQs for Ending a Lease.

Subletting: Check the lease to see if you need permission from your landlord to sublet, or if you are simply not allowed. If you are allowed, remember, the subletter must follow the rules as laid out in the lease that you signed. You are responsible for your subletter, so choose wisely. If the subletter doesn't pay the rent or damages the rental, it is your money on the line. See the FAQs on Subletting for more details.

Assigning: If you need to move out before your lease is up, you may be able to assign the lease. Assigning the lease means that someone else takes over your lease, and you would no longer be responsible for rent or damages. Check the lease to see if you need permission from your landlord to assign, or if you are simply not allowed to. For more information, see the FAQs for Assigning.

Viewings: Your landlord must give you proper notice to show the rental to prospective tenants unless it is clearly specified in the lease that no notice is required during the last month of tenancy. More details.

Move Out Time: You must be out of your rental by midnight on the last day of your lease. More details.

Preparing to Move Out: To get your full damage deposit back, you'll need to clean the rental and all the provided items, like stoves and fridges. You'll also need to repair any damages that may have occurred, other than normal wear and tear. Be sure to take all your belongings with you when you leave. More details on belongings left behind.

Final Inspection: On Move Out Day, you and your landlord should do a final inspection of the rental. Use the Inspection Report that you both signed on Move In Day, and photos if you took them, to determine if anything has been damaged. Make notes of any damage, and then both sign the report. Be sure to return all the keys to the landlord.

Security Deposit: At the end of your tenancy, you need to fill in the Application for the Return of the Security Deposit. If no claims are made by the landlord within seven days of the end of the tenancy regarding damages, necessary cleaning, unpaid rent or unpaid utilities (heat, water, electric power or natural gas services, etc.) provided by the landlord but not covered by the rent and late payment fees, the Office of the Rentalsman will send you a cheque for the full amount. For more details, see the FAQs on Security Deposits.

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Common Tenancy Disputes

The most common disputes tenants might face during a tenancy often involve:

  • Security deposits
    • Payment of a security deposit
    • Return of a security deposit
    • Transfer of a security deposit
    • Claim against a security deposit
  • Repairs and maintenance required from the landlord
  • Disregard by the landlord of health, safety, housing and building standards
  • Revision of notices issued by the landlord
    • Notice of change to a tenancy agreement (lease)
    • Notice of rent increase
    • Notice of termination
  • Notice of termination
    • Landlord's deliberate actions interfering with the delivery of utilities or making the premises unfit for habitation
    • Non-payment of the security deposit
    • Landlord's illegal entry
    • Change of locks
  • Tenant's eviction
  • Withholding tenant's personal belongings
Protection under the Act

If a tenant makes a complaint against a landlord, he or she is protected under the Act from being evicted from the day on which the complaint was made until one year after that day if:

(a) the tenant advises a Rentalsman in writing within fifteen days after the receipt of the Notice of Termination that he or she intends to contest the notice, and
(b) the landlord does not satisfy the Rentalsman that he did not serve the Notice of Termination because the tenant made the complaint.

The Tenancy Dispute Resolution Process

The resolution process follows five steps. They are:

Step 1 - Dialogue

If you run into any problems during your tenancy, you should always talk about it with your landlord first.

Step 2 - Formal complaint

If that doesn't work, then you can give your landlord a written complaint. He or she has seven days to fix the problem.

Step 3 - Request for assistance

If the landlord doesn't fix the problem within seven days, then you should should complete an "Application for Assistance" and submit it to the Office of the Rentalsman for assistance.

Step 4 - Rentalsman investigation

The Office of the Rentalsman will assign a Rentalsman who will investigate your case

Step 5 - Rentalsman resolution

The assigned Rentalsman will try to mediate a solution to the tenancy dispute between the landlord and the tenant. If a mediated solution cannot be reached, he or she will render a decision based on the Residential Tenancies Act and relevant facts presented by both parties.

Tenancy Information

Please click on the following for a complete list of Information Bulletins, the Tenancy Dispute Resolution Process and Forms .

Note: In the case of an emergency, you may contact the Office of the Rentalsman immediately without going through the above procedure

Check out these FAQs on the Dispute Resolution Complaint Process for more information. You'll also find information on the process a landlord must follow to make a complaint against you. What can the tenant do if the landlord doesn't live up to his/her obligations? What can the landlord do if the tenant doesn't live up to his/her obligations?


Quick Tips
  1. Ask around. See what others think of your potential landlord.
  2. Trust your roomies. You should each sign the lease, so be sure you can count on each other.
  3. Slow down. Keep your money in your pocket until you've inspected the place and signed the lease.
  4. Put it in writing. Protect yourself by having your lease, inspection report and any other issues documented in writing.
  5. Get it fixed. As soon as you notice an issue, let your landlord know right away. And put it in writing!
  6. Pay up on time. Happy landlords get paid on time. If you are late, the landlord can begin the process to evict you.
  7. Don't forget the notice period. You must give advance written notice to move out. Check your lease if you can't remember how much.
  8. Pack it up. Take all your belongings with you when you leave.
  9. Questions? Contact the Office of the Rentalsman.

The information in this guide is general in nature. For more information, please refer to the Residential Tenancies Act or contact the Office of the Rentalsman.

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