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Renters, know your rights

by Archives October 21, 2008

There are some myths about renting apartments in Quebec. Tenants tend to take their landlord’s word as gospel, never questioning motives or considering the law.
CSU’s Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank coordinator Jonathan Elston says most of the misconceptions he hears from students concern housing laws.
Here we set some of these myths straight.
Myth: You have to accept rent increases when renewing your lease.
“Some people have this idea that landlords can increase rent by as much as they want, whenever they want,” said Elston. But this is only part of the story.
While it’s true that a landlord can ask for any increase they want, the tenant can refuse the increase, forcing the landlord to have a rent-fixing hearing with the Régie du Logement. “We get students coming to us, telling us they’re going to be evicted if they don’t accept the rent increase,” Elston said. “But landlords have no right to evict a tenant on that basis. The tenant has every right to refuse an increase, regardless of the amount.”
He warns, though, that there are guidelines to refusing an increase, and a tenant must continue to pay rent while the increase in being contested.
Every year, around January, the Régie sets rent-increase guidelines. The Régie considers whether or not heating is included, whether the landlord will pay more in municipal and school taxes and whether the landlord invested any money in renovations over the past year.
Myth: Landlords can charge whatever they want when opening a new lease.
The same rules for rent increase apply when signing a new lease. The landlord can’t charge more simply because a tenant is signing a new lease.
There’s a section in the lease where the landlord is supposed to indicate how much the previous tenant was paying in rent. If this section is left blank, or if the price indicated is higher than what the tenant was paying, you can apply for a rent fixation hearing with the Régie. This can come in handy in areas like the Plateau, where apartments are highly sought after and there is a high turnover of tenants.
Myth: Landlords can demand damage and key deposits.
Because rental boards are provincially run, students sometimes come to Montreal misinformed about Quebec rental laws. One big difference between Quebec and most of the other provinces is that there is no damage deposit in Quebec – the landlord can’t ask for anything more than the first month’s rent.
Elston said the landlord might ask for the first month ahead of time to hold the apartment.
Payment: You have to accept the payment method your landlord wants.
The landlord has no right to demand that rent be paid in cash, nor can they demand any sort of fee for late rent or a bounced cheque. Establish a method of payment with your landlord and stick to it.
For more information on the law and guidelines around renting in Quebec, you can drop in to talk to someone at the CSU Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank office, located in the Hall building, or visit them online. Their services are free of charge and open to all students.

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