Renting Responsibly: Tips for Residential Lease Agreements

Renting Responsibly: Tips for Residential Lease Agreements

Fall is here and that means school is back in session. The start of the fall semester usually fuels our city’s rental market as students come from all over to attend the Medicine Hat College. The arrival of students means a number of Landlords and Tenants are signing residential lease agreements.

As with other types of contracts, lease agreements can be challenging to navigate.  Whether you are an excited student renting your first apartment or an experienced Landlord trying to find the perfect Tenant, I hope to provide you with a few tips and suggestions so you can enjoy a positive renting experience.

For Landlords, there are many different forms of lease agreements available. Many can be found online or through the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society. Use caution when selecting the right agreement for you and your Tenant. There are many poorly drafted lease agreements available that create confusion instead of clarity. Choose an agreement that is clear, simple and easy to understand.

The Residential Tenancies Act (Act) governs all residential tenancies in Alberta and can be found online. The Act requires all written lease agreements to contain the following provision:

“The tenancy created by this agreement is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act and if there is a conflict between this agreement and the Act, the Act prevails.”

The Act provides Landlords and Tenants with basic, non-negotiable rights and obligations. This means the parties cannot contract out of these rights and obligations.  The Act also governs certain components of lease agreements, such as inspection reports, security deposits and rent increases. If a party breaches the lease, the Act outlines remedies available to the innocent party.

For topics such as pets, smoking and parking, where the Act has no mandatory rules, the Landlord and Tenant are free to negotiate and include their own terms in the lease.

It’s important for both parties to understand the terms and conditions of the lease before signing.  Landlord-Tenant disputes often stem from misunderstandings of lease provisions. Poorly drafted and ambiguous clauses in your lease can create confusion and legal uncertainty resulting in conflict.

Here are some commonly disputed clauses:

  1. Termination clause – Under what circumstances can a Landlord or Tenant terminate the lease? What is the notice period required for such a termination? How is the notice to be delivered?
  2. Sub-lease – Can the Tenant sublet the property to another person? Does the Tenant require the Landlord’s approval?
  3. Condo by-laws – As a Landlord, it’s important to ensure your Tenants are aware of and understand the condo by-laws (noise restrictions, parking regulations, etc.). The lease should clearly outline the consequences of by-law contraventions.

Open communication between Landlord and Tenant can go a long way to create a positive rental experience for both parties. Keep the lease agreement simple and clear. Whether you are a Landlord or Tenant, review the Residential Tenancies Act before signing the lease to ensure you understand your rights and obligations.

Taking the time to do some thoughtful planning before the lease is signed may save you time and money down the road.

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Hilary Pritchard
Hilary Pritchard helps you navigate the turning points of life. She is a Student-at-Law with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP. Contact Hilary at (403) 527-4411 or at hpritchard@pritchardandco.com