The Residential Tenancies Act in New Brunswick regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants. Although this is a very important document for students renting apartments and houses, it remains largely unknown. Renting as students can be a risky situation. Knowing your rights in relation to the Act is extremely important, especially when it comes to information pertaining regulations surrounding your landlord’s actions.
Jessica Bernier, Chief Residential Tenancies Officer for Services New Brunswick, says it is important for students to become familiar with the Act so they can protect themselves.
“The most important approach as a renter is to make requests to landlords in writing and keep copies,” says Bernier.
The Residential Tenancies Tribunal (RTT) has a section on their website entitled I Am a Tenant that has quick links to necessary information for tenants. Within this header, under “Moving in or Moving Out?” students can learn about what those processes should look like, as well as the recommendation that all students have tenant insurance.
RTT also has a Quick Reference Guide, which has condensed information from the Act into subsections on restrictions and requirements for landlords and tenants, as well as information on how to end a lease and notice of entry by landlords.
Additionally, there are many forms on the RTT site to use, such as a Form 6—Standard Form Lease agreement and an Accommodation Inspection Form. They also have a form for roommate agreements if students are planning to rent with others.
If you feel your landlord is not following the Residential Tenancies Act, there are steps you can take to protect yourselves. There exists a wealth of resources out there for students to access—including the RTT—which all tenants can contact. There is also the Bulletins section under the Forms & Resources subheader on RTT’s site and Residential Tenancies Act.
On campus students have access to the Student Legal Information Centre (SLIC). Christopher Lutes, who works there, says that students can come to them for advice, especially around tenancies. As they are not actual lawyers they cannot do everything, but they can point students in the right direction—for example recommending lawyers if need be.
Your lease is an important document and should not be taken lightly. As you read through it, Lutes recommends flagging anything that seems restrictive.
“Often times that is because the landlord has put something in there they are not supposed to,” he said.
A common example that they see with SLIC is restricting overnight guests. And even without a lease or any sort of agreement with a landlord, you still have rights similar to someone who has signed an actual lease.
One of my friend’s landlord controls their thermostat and will not let them freely change the temperature. This is another perfect example of something a landlord should not do. Lutes points out section 3.1 A of the Residencies Tenancies Act that states: “A landlord or his agent or representative shall not deliberately interfere with the supply of heat, water or electric power services to the premises except in an emergency or where it is necessary to enable maintenance or repairs to be carried out”.
This means that in my friend’s case her landlord may be infringing on her rights and possibly taking advantage of her.
The first step would be for my friend to give her landlord a complaint notice. She would have to report to her landlord in writing, sign and date the notice, and include the location of where the alleged breach occurred. RTT has a copy of this form on their site under the Forms & Resources header, within the Forms for Tenants subsection, and under Dispute Resolution.
After submitting this form to her landlord, my friend would have to wait some time to allow the landlord to correct the error/breach of rights. The Act does not specify how long one must wait, but if your landlord does not fix the situation, then the next step is to go to the RTT and give them a copy of the notice sent to the landlord. The RTT will then try to intervene on your behalf.
In terms of security deposits, Bernier says that students should receive an official receipt from the RTT a couple of weeks after their landlord has submitted their deposit. If you do not receive an official receipt from the RTT, you would need to follow up with your landlord and request that they submit the security deposit. She mentioned that is is always important to get agreements like this in writing.
“It is best to make this request in writing to pursue the matter if they do not comply,” said Bernier.
An example of something your landlord can restrict is subletting. Bernier says you can find out within section 6 of your lease agreement whether you are able to sublet. RTT also has a form online that interested tenants can fill out to request permission to sublet.
If you are entering into a subletting situation the original tenant becomes the landlord for the subletter. The subletter inherits the rights and regulations of the tenant. This also means that if you are subletting your place you become responsible for damages and unpaid rent by the person subletting.
Lutes recommends students use the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Students can reach them at 1-888-762-8600, via email email@example.com, or in-person at your nearest SNB location.
Another resource is the Fredericton Legal Advice Clinic, which is open approximately twice a month, where anyone can go and get legal advice from an actual lawyer. Lutes also says that the internet can be a useful tool as well, contingent on what sources you are finding.
Below are some important links to websites mentioned in this article:
Residencies Tenancies Tribunal (RTT) webpage: http://www.snb.ca/irent
Student Legal Information Centre: https://www.unbsu.ca/slic
Fredericton Legal Advice Clinic: http://frederictonlegaladviceclinic.ca/