Just Starting? Get Informed

When searching for tenants, can you exclude people with children? When a tenant is in your premises but is not paying rent, can you evict? How do you evict a tenant? To run your business effectively, you should learn the relevant rules and regulations in the province or territory where you rent. Regardless of how you acquire the knowledge, getting informed helps you respond appropriately if and when challenging issues arise.

Understand the Tenancy Legislation that Affects You

Each province and territory has its own legislation. While similarities often exist between jurisdictions, some surprising differences are worth noting.

For example, while you can collect a security deposit in most places, you cannot do so in Ontario or Quebec. In Ontario, you can collect only a rent deposit and the landlord cannot use the money collected to cover damages to the rental premises. In Quebec, landlords cannot ask for any kind of deposit. In Alberta, unless there is an agreement in writing interest on the security deposit is paid annually.

In most places, a breach of a lease over an issue not addressed directly in the provincial/territorial legislation, such as owning a pet when the lease stipulates pets are not allowed, is not grounds for eviction. In a handful of provinces, however, this breach would be grounds for eviction.

Legislation is not fixed: it changes over time. Rules are not absolute: the court or Tribunal's interpretation of the legislation determines what each rule really means to landlords and tenants.

You can learn about these rules and regulations in many ways. The Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets are a good start. You can also look in your local area for books, booklets or guides published for new landlords. Check to make sure that the publication is not out of date.

Another option is to spend a few hours with a legal expert to discover what you need to know in order to run your business without violating rights or laws. If you decide to do this, invest in a few hours of consultation with an expert in landlord and tenant issues in the province or territory where you rent. This is a specialized area of law, so don't settle for a lawyer who primarily focuses on other areas of law. Ask for a referral to a specialist.

Privacy Laws

New privacy legislation in Canada may affect the way that you collect and keep information on prospective tenants. Be sure to check that your list of candidate questions is in compliance with these new laws. For example, you must now tell your tenants why you are collecting this information and what you plan to do with it.

To learn more visit the Privacy Commissioner’s website at:
www.priv.gc.ca/index_e.asp

Or contact the Privacy Commissioner by phone at 1-800-282-1376 or by mail at 30 Victoria Street, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 1H3.

Research Relevant Bylaws

Does the building you are renting comply with local and provincial bylaws? What about building codes?

In addition to the guidelines set by provincial or territorial legislation, you must also comply with provincial and municipal bylaws. These bylaws stipulate guidelines and standards for fire and building safety. Municipal bylaws also cover issues like zoning and permits. To get started, contact the main branch of your local municipality, which you can find in the blue pages of your telephone book.

Research Current Market Pricing

Before you set the rent, find out what comparable units in the area rent for by checking sources where landlords advertise. Some provinces keep rent registry databases with rent information for units over the past several years. CMHC also produces annual local Rental Market Reports for a fee.

Keeping Records

By law, you are required to keep records and receipts for all financial transactions relating to your business. If you are not familiar with business bookkeeping, consult with an accountant. You'll need to learn how capital assets differ from expenses, and will need assistance setting up a Chart of Accounts — the ledger used to track income, expenses and other financial information — for your business.

In addition, it's important to document and track the condition of the rental premises. When a tenant moves in, complete an initial inspection of the premises and have both parties sign and keep a copy of the inspection worksheet. In some jurisdictions this is required by law and there is a standardized form to use. If your province or territory does not provide a standardized inspection template you can use the Initial Inspection Worksheet in this Guide.

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