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Roommates & Rental Law (in Brief)

In Alberta, the relationship between a landlord (owner/manager of a property) and a tenant (person paying to live in the property) is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Although the RTA does not address the relationship between roommates, it still applies to shared accommodations as long as the landlord is not one of the tenants.For details regarding your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, visit the Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board, or call +1 780.496.5959. Here are some common rental terms you should become familiar with:

Security Deposit

This is a sum of money that is held by the landlord when a tenant moves into rented property. The sum is held on conditions that are set out in the lease, and if damage occurs to the property, the cost can be deducted from the security deposit when you move out. If the terms of your lease have been met, you should receive the full amount back when you move out. Read your lease carefully before signing, especially regarding cleaning requirements a the end of your tenancy.

Lease

A written agreement where the landlord agrees to rent premises to a tenant, and sets out the conditions under which that rental will take place. This should include:

  • Amount of the rent
  • When rent is due
  • Amount of the security deposit
  • Who is responsible for paying the rent
  • Who is responsible for making repairs to the property
  • What the conditions of the property should be when the tenants move in, and when they move out.

Landlord

A person or company that owns property and rents some or all of it to someone else. This includes persons such as building managers who stand in the place of the owner in dealing with the tenants.

Tenant

Person or people renting property from the landlord.

Inspection Report

A written report that the landlord and the tenant complete together at the beginning and end of the tenancy. The inspection report at the beginning is often called the move-in inspection report, and the one at the end is called the move-out inspection report. The reason to have the inspection is so that both the landlord and the tenant have a common understanding of the condition of the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

Finding & Choosing a Roommate

Sharing your accommodation with another person is a great way to reduce your cost of housing. One way to find a roommate is to post an ad on the free Concordia Off Campus Housing Registry <link>. Choose your roommate carefully! Taking a pro-active approach to your living arrangement can protect you. Think carefully before agreeing to any living arrangement. Never agree to a living arrangement that makes you feel unsafe or causes you discomfort. Sign a written agreement with your roommate(s) and include details such as:

  • How much rent will each of you pay?
  • How much notice must a roommate give to the others before she/he moves out?
  • What basic “house rules” must all roommates adhere to? It is best to address concerns early in the term of the living arrangement.
  • Inform your landlord when you change roommates and put the new roommate on the rental agreement.
  • When deciding on a roommate, you should ask…
  • Schedules
  • Does one of you like to wake up late, while the other gets out of bed early?
  • Does one of you need quiet at all hours, while the other needs constant “background” music?

Study Habits

  • Does one of you study at home frequently, while the other does not?
  • Socializing
  • Do you prefer to have a quiet home, or to have parties on a regular basis?
  • Are overnight guests acceptable?

Cleanliness

  • What are your expectations?

When looking for suitable accommodations, you should ask:

  • Type of accommodation desired
  • Cost of accommodation
  • How much can each person afford?
  • How much is the security deposit?
  • How will you share costs?

Before signing a lease, you should know:

The landlord can collect all of the rent from any one of the tenants who have agreed to live in the rental unit under a residential tenancy agreement. This means that if a roommate moves out without paying the rent, or misses a payment, the other tenants are still responsible for the full rent or damage done to the rental unit. It is a good idea to have a written agreement between roommates that is separate from the tenancy agreement. Roommates can agree about responsibility for bills, how rent is to be shared, and the possibility of reimbursing each other for a share of the security deposit should one tenant leave before the end of the tenancy. A tenant who leaves during a tenancy agreement will not generally be able to recover his/her share of the security deposit when they leave. The return of the security deposit from the landlord can only be dealt with when the tenancy is ended, unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise or another agreement is made.

If Conflicts Arise With Your Roommates…

Talk to your roommates. Remember to speak calmly, and explain yourself clearly. Put yourself in your roommate’s shoes. Try to see things from their perspective. Be aware of how your behaviour is affecting them, not just how they are affecting you. Assume they are not annoying you purposefully, but from a lack of communication or different expectations. Be respectful. If you have trouble speaking to your roommate face-to-face, try writing them a note. Explain why you are writing a note, so they don’t think you are just avoiding them.