Know your rights as a tenant

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin.

As we enter the third week of the fall semester here at Concordia, many students are beginning to settle into their routines, their workloads and their living spaces. The experiences students have with their living situations vary widely: some are finding themselves in the apartment of their dreams with a landlord who is attentive and sympathetic, while others, unfortunately, are not.

It is not uncommon for landlords to take advantage of the inexperience of their student-tenants. This is why we at The Concordian hope to help educate students about their tenant rights and how to defend them. We’ve heard many horror stories of students being taken advantage of by their landlords. It’s for this reason that we’ve decided to address some of the injustices that are commonly inflicted on student-renters, and encourage students to stand up against them.

Believe it or not, landlords are not allowed to ask for any kind of deposit—for keys, damage or otherwise—when you first move in. This will come as a shock to some students, as we have heard countless stories of landlords asking for these payments. But it’s an important fact to be aware of.

Even some of our own editors at The Concordian have experienced situations where their landlord asked for a deposit of one month’s rent. Not knowing otherwise, they complied. Yet when they moved out, the landlord kept the $200, claiming it was for cleaning fees, even though the tenant cleaned the space before leaving without existing laws requiring them to do so.

One of our editors, Matthew Coyte shared his experience with renting apartments. He had found an apartment that seemed ideal on Kijiji, for $1,600 a month. But when he and his friends got to the apartment, it was the complete opposite of ideal.

“The place was run down, unfurnished,” he said. “The worst part was the landlord, who had demanded that if we were interested in renting the apartment for the coming school year, we would need to put down a security deposit, which would cost us the first two months’ rent.” When Coyte and his friends explained that Quebec renting laws make it illegal for landlords to ask for payment before the beginning of the lease, the landlord cited reasons of “making sure [they] would honour the agreement.”

These are just a few of the many situations students face when trying to find an apartment. As a renter, you sometimes have to use your own discretion when deciding whether what a landlord is asking for is fair. You should be aware of the risk you are taking if you decide to go through with renting an apartment.

Students should also be aware that landlords are, by law, required to clean an apartment before the move-in date, perform necessary repairs in a timely fashion and give 24 hours notice before entering the apartment. Concordia Student Union’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO) has a website listing all of the things landlords are and aren’t allowed to do, as well as a list of precautions to take prior to signing a lease.

François Saillant noted in the Montreal Gazette in 2016 that the average rent in Quebec was $712 per month ($744 in Montreal). “To pay such a sum without spending more than the standard of 30 per cent of your revenues,” he wrote, “you must have an annual income of more than $28,500, which is obviously not the case for many tenants.” With rent this steep, students need to make sure they get what they’re paying for. It’s your duty as a tenant to stick up for your rights, not only for your sake, but for the sake of other tenants. It’s much harder to fight injustices when they become the norm.

Landlords have been taking advantage of young people for a long time because, well, first-time renters are often naive. If you’re renting an apartment this year, take the time to learn your rights so that you know when they’re being violated. If you think something about your rental agreement or living situation seems unfair or unclear, the university offers a variety of services, including HOJO, where you can speak to someone about the issue. The important thing though, is to make sure you speak up about it.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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