Finding off-campus housing can be difficult and time consuming for students. The SU wants to help make the process as easy as possible for you, so you can focus on studying and all the other things on your to-do list.
We’ve recently partnered with Places4Students Inc. to provide an online collection of numerous housing options. Places4Students provides students, schools and landlords with the highest quality, off-campus housing service. The website provides a large real-time database of student housing vacancies in our area, including photos and text, contact information and property features.
If you are a looking for a home away from home, search listings on Places4Students here:
Information for both landlords and tenants, tips on renting, rights and responsibilities, dispute resolution. Learn More …
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
It’s important to know your rights as a renter and to understand the responsibilities you and your landlord each have. In Canada, each province has slightly different rental policies and it is important to know exactly what you as a renter are entitled to and should expect when searching for and living in rental accommodations. Below is a guide to common scenarios folks may find helpful when navigating the rental market and living as a renter in Alberta.
Additional information regarding the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and how to resolve disputes can be found here or take a look at the SU’s “Renter Conflict Guide”.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR COSTS
Being aware of your costs and determining what you can afford for living accommodations is very important. Rental prices in Calgary have increased greatly over the past year, so it is essential that you are aware of the costs that accommodations may entail including rent, damage deposits, utilities, etc.
The University of Calgary has resources to help with financial planning, budgeting, and saving. Rent Faster also provides market statistics on the average prices of rentals and information that may help to understand your estimated costs. The Government of Canada’s budget planner may also be a helpful resource to estimate your costs.
Rental listings can be found on a variety of websites. The SU has partnered with Places4Students to provide a housing database for students. The University of Calgary also provides other information to consider when renting, here.
Viewings are crucial because they are often a time when you are making a first impression on the landlord, and they are making their first impression on you. During viewings, you also have to picture if the space would work for you, and if there could be any specific problems or red flags. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are viewing places and things to look for to protect yourself from being scammed.
Viewing rentals online through videos, or video chats is often a common way for international students or students moving from a different place to view rentals. Viewing rentals online limits many of the checks for red flags that in-person viewings allow for. With rental vacancies low, and the competition for rentals high it has become more common for scams to occur online. Asking a friend, family member, or trustee to see the place in person on your behalf may be very useful when possible. A recent article by Rentals for Newcomers and an article by Housing Anywhere may also provide some helpful tips to avoid being scammed.
Due to increasing competition for rentals, you should be prepared to fill out an application immediately (or very shortly) after viewing a place, if you would like to rent it. For this reason, it may be helpful to bring supporting documentation to in-person viewings (see Applying for Accommodations for examples).
APPLYING FOR ACCOMMODATIONS
Once you have found a place you would like to call home and have protected yourself from being scammed by looking for red flags, you will be required to submit a rental application. As part of your rental application, you will likely be asked to share documentation to support your financial situation and any previous rental history. These documents may include:
Proof of income
Landlords may ask you for a copy of recent pay stubs to demonstrate financial capacity to pay rent. If you do not have income or cannot provide evidence of income you may be required to demonstrate savings or have a co-signer. A co-signer could be a parent/guardian or trusted friend, who will then also be subject to the confines of your lease if you are unable to meet requirements such as making rental payments, or paying for damages when you move out.
It is often common practice for landlords to ask for references, usually someone that has known the potential tenant for at least 1 year. This may include trusted friends, employers, or previous landlords. It is within your best interest as a tenant to provide references that you trust can speak to your character and ability to be a reliable tenant.
A credit report is a summary of your credit history, which will be reflected in a three-digit score out of 900, showing any debts or bankruptcy. According to this metric the higher a credit score, the better. A credit report may be obtained by a landlord or requested as part of your applications.
If a landlord requests a full credit report, you can obtain it from various sources found here.
Credit reports can be an important tool landlords use to demonstrate an individual’s financial responsibility, but as a student, you may not have a credit history to obtain a sufficient credit report. If this is the case it is important to be honest with your landlord and it may be advantageous to provide alternative records to prove financial responsibility such as through proof of savings, or a co-signer.
Proof of Tenant Insurance
Proof of tenant insurance won’t be required in your application, but most landlords will require it within a specific time frame to finalize your rental process. Tenant insurance helps to protect you from any accidents-causing damage or injury to the apartment or your contents in it.
You can expect tenant insurance to cost you $20-30 per month as a renter and can be purchased from anywhere that sells insurance. For example, if you are paying for car insurance you can purchase your tenant insurance through the same provider. Download the SU Quick Tips on “how to get tenant insurance” for a step-by-step guide to obtaining tenant insurance.
If utilities must be paid directly from the tenant to the provider, you may also be required to demonstrate proof that you have set up an account before moving in.
Although your landlord will commonly ask for these documents when applying for accommodations, it is important to note that landlords do not have the right to ask personal questions such as your religious beliefs, ethnicity, or if you have any mental illnesses. This article may help provide insight into some of the questions that a landlord cannot ask and what to do when you feel that a question may be discriminatory.
Once you have had your rental application accepted, your references, and/or your other documents have been verified you will be required to sign a tenancy agreement (also referred to as a lease). Before signing the tenancy agreement, it is important to thoroughly understand the agreement and be confident in your rental choice. It may be useful to go through this checklist of questions to ask your landlord before signing the agreement.
Alberta has two types of tenancy agreements:
Fixed Term agreements
Fixed-term agreements begin and end on specific dates. According to the Residential Tenancies Act, it is assumed that a tenant will move out by the end of the tenancy agreement unless other arrangements are made.
At least one month before the end date of the tenancy agreement, the Tenant and landlord should discuss plans for when the tenancy agreement ends. At that point, tenants can confirm that they will be leaving the place or form an agreement with the landlord to continue residing in the residence.
Periodic agreements have a start date but no end date. In this case either the landlord or tenant may end a periodic tenancy by giving notice. Often periodic tenancies are month to month, but this will depend on each specific agreement.
Although tenancy agreements are a contract of terms between a landlord and tenant, it is important to remember that a tenancy agreement cannot take away any of your tenant rights outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act.
Anything that does so in the tenancy agreement is void. You can refer here to see what is commonly included in tenancy agreements.
Examples of clauses that cannot be included in your agreement are:
Restriction on guests
However, if a landlord has reason to believe that an additional person who is not on the tenancy agreement has moved in, they may take steps to remove them.
A landlord in Alberta is not allowed to ask for more than one month’s rent as a refundable security deposit.
Payments for repairs
A landlord cannot require tenants to pay for any repairs that fall under the responsibilities of the landlord. This includes things like plumbing, heating or electrical services. Landlords are also not allowed to charge tenants for things that are deemed normal wear and tear.
Many clauses are within a landlord’s right to include in a tenancy agreement, these may include:
Landlords have the right to allow or restrict pets, including specific breeds or sizes. Landlords can also charge a non-refundable fee for a pet.
A tenancy agreement can outline who is responsible to pay for utilities such as gas, water, heat, electricity, and cable. This may vary from lease to lease greatly.
It may be necessary for the tenant to set up utilities prior to moving into a rental unit. If this is the case, you will be required to contact your utility company in advance to set up services or to schedule transfers. Step-by-step instructions and helpful tips for setting up your utilities can be found
A tenancy agreement may include a clause regarding smoking and, the use of tobacco and cannabis.
Tenancy agreements may include restrictions regarding subletting or require the approval of the landlord to sublet the property.
LIVING WITH YOUR LANDLORD
Living with your landlord is one scenario where many of these rights and responsibilities discussed in this guide fail to hold up, because the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply. This may impact what clauses can be included in your lease, such as limiting the tenant’s ability to have guests over, setting household responsibilities, quiet hours, etc.
Additionally, since the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply when you are living with your landlord, tenants are not protected from eviction or tenancy terminations in the same way.
If you are living in a shared living space with your landlord, it is a very good idea to have a contract clearly stating the rules that both parties are expected to follow. A sample of what this may look like can be located here, from the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta. Filling out a contract will help to provide basic protections for tenants living with their landlords.
LIVING WITH A ROOMMATE
Choosing to live with a roommate or roommates can help to lower your financial costs as a renter. Committing to living with someone is a big decision, and it is important to make sure you will be compatible as roommates before choosing to move in together. Here are some questions you may want to ask a potential roommate before deciding to move in with them. For additional questions to ask a potential roommate click here and for some tips on living with roommates click here.
The Residential Tenancies Act doesn’t address roommate situations. This means that roommate obligations and responsibilities are to be discussed and agreed upon among roommates. It may be beneficial to create a roommate agreement to address things such as:
How rent will be split and how it will be paid to the landlord
How other bills will be split
How the accommodations are to be shared
How chores will be assigned
If there will be any restrictions to guests, parties, quiet hours etc.
A sample of a roommate agreement can be found here from the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
A landlord cannot increase rent under a fixed term or periodic tenancy agreement until a minimum of one year has passed since the start of the tenancy or the last rent increase. Alberta does not have a limit on the amount by which a landlord can increase rent. Landlords are required to provide written notice of the rental increase before it is set to go into effect. The amount of notice required will depend on the type of tenancy. You can refer here for more information.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF YOUR LANDLORD
Landlords have specific responsibilities that they must follow in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act and the rules agreed upon in the tenancy agreement.
If there is a written lease the tenant is given a signed copy of the lease within 21 days.
Providing the tenant with the landlord’s contact information
Providing adequate notice before increasing rent
Paying interest on security deposits
Additional obligations may be included in the tenancy agreement. These are called contractual obligations. This may include additional responsibilities of the landlord such as shovelling snow or cutting the lawn.
Similar to a landlord, tenants are also obligated to fulfill their responsibilities set out by the Residential Tenancies Act and the tenancy agreement.
This includes (but is not limited to):
Paying rent as stated in the tenancy
Abstaining from interfering with the rights of the landlord or tenants in other units and not endangering or threatening other people or property in the rental unit.
Refraining from changing the locks without permission from the landlord.
Following agreed-upon terms when moving out of the rental.
Additional responsibilities may also be outlined in the tenancy agreement. It is important to uphold your responsibilities stated in the Residential Tenancies Act and the tenancy agreement, because if a tenant fails to do so the landlord may have grounds to evict them.
An eviction is a formal notice that requires a tenant to vacate a property by a specified time. This most commonly happens as a result of not paying rent.
In Alberta, a landlord can evict a tenant on reasonable grounds. Although, a tenant may choose to dispute the eviction unless it is for non-payment of rent. Besides the failure to pay rent, eviction can occur for a variety of other reasons such as:
Breaking the lease terms
Serious threats or damages
Disturbing or endangering others in the rental premises
It is important to be aware of the protocols and procedures that are necessary to follow when ending a tenancy. This varies greatly depending on each situation, type of tenancy, and conditions within your tenancy. The Alberta Government provides some helpful resources, to address some of these different situations. One of the main things to be aware of in all situations is if you are required to give notice and the amount of time that is required to give notice before moving. This should be stated in your tenancy agreement. Visit the SU’s Quick Reference “Move-out Checklist” for more information regarding moving.
GUIDES FOR TENANTS
We’ve provided a quick breakdown of the guides to help make your tenant experience as hassle-free as possible:
Safe and affordable housing for students is a key concern of the SU.
The Housing site offers a range of links to Landlord and Tenant information from local, provincial and national sources. The SU strongly recommends that you become informed by checking out these sites. This information has been placed on the site only for your reference and is independent of the SU and the Off Campus Housing site services.
AN INFORMATION SITE ONLY
The site is not an advocacy or referral site. It is important to know that the SU does not screen renters who post a listing or potential renters who respond to an ad. Landlord/tenant issues including quality of property, missed rent, unreturned damage deposits or other issues are matters solely between the student and the landlord. It is the landlords and renters responsibility to be informed on current municipal/provincial guidelines including tenant and landlord rights.