By Sheryl Smolkin
In Part 1 of this series for renters we looked at things to consider when you are looking for a rental property. Part 2 will focus on the legal rights of landlords and tenants in Saskatchewan. These legal obligations are prescribed in The Residential Tenancies Act 2006 and The Residential Tenancies Regulations 2007.
First of all, it’s important to understand the types of accommodation that are not covered by these rules. For example, if you are living in a school dormitory, hotel, motel, cottage or resort home rented for less than six months, these properties are excluded from the protections and responsibilities outlined in the legislation. Other exclusions are health care facilities, personal care homes and farm homes rented by people cultivating the land.
Here are some FAQs and answers about the rights and responsibilities of Saskatchewan landlords and tenants.
- Do I need a lease?
You and your landlord can mutually agree to a fixed, periodic, month-to-month or week-to-week type tenancy and a signed lease is not required for periodic leases. A fixed term lease of more than three months has to be in writing, must detail the date on which the tenancy expires and, must contain the provisions required by the Residential Tenancies Act. If the lease is written out, your landlord is required to give you a signed copy within a period of 20 days of when it is signed.
- My future landlord wants a two month security deposit? Do I have to give it to him?
No. Deposits that are collected by the landlord cannot exceed one month’s rent and they can be used to cover the cost of damages to the rental property. Your landlord can demand a security deposit, but only at the beginning of the tenancy. It is also unlawful to charge tenants key money.
- My one year lease is expiring. Do I have to give notice that I am leaving?
Term leases always expire at the end of the set term. Your landlord has absolutely no obligation to give notice to vacate at the end of the period, nor do you. However, your landlord is required to provide you with two months of advance notice when telling you whether or not he is willing to renew your lease, and if the landlord is willing, he must provide you with the terms of the new lease.
- What if I want to break my lease early?
You can end your tenancy by simply giving the follow notice:
- A minimum of one month’s rent before the day of the month on which the rent is payable for a month-to-month tenancy
- A minimum of one week before the day of the week on which the rent is payable for a week-to-week tenancy
- One day’s notice if the landlord is in breach of a “material” term included in the rental agreement (for example, if the unit is in a state of disrepair and considered uninhabitable). In these circumstances, notice that is given must provide the reason the lease is being terminated, and if the breach can be remedied, you are required to give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the breach before ending the tenancy.
- My landlord told me I have to leave in 15 days. Is that legal?
It may be if your rent or utilities have been overdue for at least 15 days. Otherwise, a landlord may end a tenancy for any of the causes set forth in s.58 of the Residential Tenancies Act (i.e., repeatedly late paying rent; unreasonable number of occupants in the unit; putting landlord’s property at significant risk etc.) by giving the following notice:
- At least one month before the day of the month on which rent is payable for a month-to-month tenancy.
- At least one week before the day of the week on which rent is payable for a week- to- week tenancy.
- Earlier upon application to the Office of Residential Tenancies.
The landlord must give you a reasonable period of time to fix the cause for which the tenancy is being terminated if the reason can be remedied. You may dispute the notice by giving notice to the landlord within 15 days after receiving his notice.
- Can I sublet my unit?
If your tenancy is for a fixed term, you can sublet the property with the landlord’s written consent, and the landlord can only withhold consent when it is considered reasonable to do so. The landlord can charge you a fee of no more than $20 for considering or consenting to the sublease.
- I just moved in five months ago and my landlord wants to raise the rent effective immediately. Do I have to pay the increase?
You do not. Landlords are required to give one year written notice of a rent increase in the event of a periodic tenancy, unless they are a member in good standing of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association (SRHIA), in which case the landlord can give six months’ written notice of a rent increase. If a landlord ceases to be a member in good standing of the SRHIA during the six-month notice period, the notice given by the landlord will take effect after 12 months rather than six, and the landlord is required to inform the tenant of this in writing. Rent may be increased only once each year, unless the landlord is a member in good standing of the SRHIA, in which case rent can be increased twice each year. No notice of a rent increase can be served within six months of the start of the tenancy or the date of the last increase, whichever is later. Public housing authorities as well as non-profit corporations are exempt, as rent may vary with income.
- Can my landlord enter my apartment when I’m not home?
Your landlord can enter your rented unit in the event of an emergency, or if you agree. Otherwise, the landlord is required to provide you with 24 hours advance notice in writing for entry that takes place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. specifying a four hour period when they will be entering the premises.If you have provided a notice to terminate the lease, your landlord is allowed to show the property with your consent, or as may be agreed in writing with you or after the landlord has made a reasonable effort to give you two hours advance notice.
- Can I withhold rent for repairs?
It is not legal for you to withhold rent for repairs and may warrant an eviction for nonpayment of rent. If you have requested that the landlord make certain repairs and the landlord has not done so, you have two options other than withholding rent.The first option is to bring an application to the Office of Residential Tenancies for an order directing the landlord to do the repairs, and you may ask for a reduction of the rent until the repairs are completed.The second option you have is to contact municipal authorities to determine if any local bylaws that set minimum standards for rental properties have been broken. If so, you can ask for the property to be inspected by an official. If officials find any repairs that need to be done, an order will be issued to the landlord to fix the problems immediately.
- Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have a cat or I smoke?
Yes. Pets are permitted in the rental unit only if they are explicitly allowed in the lease or if the agreement does not address this issue. The landlord can also include a no-smoking cause in the lease.
For general information about renting in Saskatchewan contact:
Office of Residential Tenancies
120 – 2151 Scarth Street
Toll-free: 1-888-215-2222 (within Saskatchewan)
Toll-free fax: 1-888-867-7776 (within Saskatchewan)
See Web site for contact information for all offices.