Student groups offered extensive knowledge on student housing
The Student’s Society of McGill University hosted a “How to not get Screwed Over by your Landlord” workshop in collaboration with members of McGill’s Legal Information Clinic and Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Center.
The Jan. 12 event featured tips and information on everything housing.
Julianna Duhloke, from the Legal Information Clinic, shared some slides with legal information. Here is the rundown.
Signing your lease
Duhloke began with essential advice: “A landlord should never ask you for a security deposit.” She then explained that, when signing the lease, they may ask you to pay the first month’s rent upfront, but nothing more.
When negotiating the rent, she said you have the right to ask what the lowest paid rent was in the last 12 months. However, she specified that you have to ask to fix the rent within the first 10 days of moving in. Your landlord is also obliged to give you a written copy of your lease within 10 days of signing.
Duhloke explained that in section H of the lease, you may choose to make yourself responsible for the entire rent of your apartment if your roommate opts out of the lease, but you may also choose not to.
Finally, she stated that your landlord is allowed to stop you from having a pet, “but they are often open to negotiation.
Repairs, maintenance and renovations
Duhloke emphasized that your landlord should always pay for repairs, “excluding small repairs like getting a new lightbulb.” However, she noted that they may not be responsive at the moment you need an urgent repair. In a situation of urgency, she said you may choose to pay for it yourself, but keep your receipts and proceed with caution.
She also mentioned that if your landlord is doing major work in your unit, they have to let you know with a 10 day notice. However, if they only want to visit, they should let you know with a 24 hour notice.
Duhloke was very clear on the fact that your landlord cannot evict you for renovations. If they choose to, they have to give you a six months notice that they will not renew your lease for this reason and will only be able to evict you at the end of your lease. Even then, you can object. She added that your landlord is also responsible for compensating three months rent and reasonable moving expenses if you agree to move out.
Rent increases and lease renewal
Duhloke explained that you can refuse a rent increase if you respond within 30 days with a notice.
She also noted that leases automatically renew in Quebec; “if you do not wish to renew your lease, you have to give a three months notice.”
“Your landlord cannot stop you from subletting your unit unless they have a serious reason,” explained Duhloke. “You need to, however, provide them with notice that you will sublet your unit.” She further explained that if your landlord does not respond within 14 days, legally, it is as if they said yes. However, the unit is still your legal responsibility and you are the one responsible for contacting your landlord about the unit, not your subletter.
Alex Apostolidis, an assistant at Concordia’s HOJO shared anti-gentrification information as well as legal advice.
Apostolidis started their presentation by giving out tips on staying away from gentrification when looking for apartments.
They said, “when looking into a neighbourhood to live in, inform yourself of the neighbourhood. Research its history, its demographic and the rent’s pricing average.” They also explained that the pricing average of a neighbourhood may be quite lower than the rent being asked for available units; this can happen because there are people that have been living in the area for over 10 years and have refused rental increases as their leases went by, which affects the average rent price of the area.
Apostolidis encouraged student housing, explaining that if you choose to live in a student housing unit, you will not be displacing anyone in need of housing. Student units are designed around the needs of students and give you ample opportunity to make friends in your school. However, Apostolidis said “they are often overpriced.”
Apostolidis noted that if you are living in a building no older than five years or in a cooperative, you cannot refuse rental increases.
They also advised that when sending legal notices to your landlord, you should always send them by registered mail so there is legal proof that your landlord received them. They added, “if you send the document by email or by text, they could refute it in court saying they never received it.”
Apostolidis said that if you and your landlord cannot decide on a rental fixation within a month of your denial of a rent increase or of your demand for negotiation, a court hearing will be opened. They explained that the tribunal will then take into account factors like the rent average in your area, the size of your unit, recent renovations, etc. Finally, they were clear about this: when the tribunal decides on a rent price, you cannot refute it.
If you wish to transfer your lease, which you may do at any time, Apostolidis recommends that you add a cover page to the notice with proof that the new tenant will be able to pay the rent and previous landlord references so your landlord will feel more inclined to accept the transfer. However, they said to never give your social insurance number or that of the person you are transferring the lease to.
If you choose not to renew and move to a different place, Apostolidis said to leave one or many copies of your lease hidden around the unit so the next tenant knows what you were paying and what the conditions of your lease were. Last but not least, they said multiple times to always pay attention to section G of your lease.
Apostolidis also promoted Woodnote, a housing cooperative in the Plateau that offers affordable housing to Concordia students. They mentioned that HOJO hosts multiple events and workshops throughout the school year about housing, finding internships, and finding work.
For all legal notice templates and more information, Duhloke recommended going to the Tribunal Administratif du Logement’s website.
You can go to Project Genesis’ website for free legal information and advice.
You can call Arnold Bennett’s Housing Hotline for free legal information, (514) 488-0412.
You can contact the Service téléphonique du logement du Barreau du Québec for free legal information, (514) 954-3411 or toll-free at (1-844) 954-3411.