Over the years, I’ve experienced numerous tenant issues. Most are pretty straightforward, but some have sent me on a mission to uncover the answers or solutions. From fixed/periodic leases, breaking the lease to requests for personal information, I hope the following tenant FAQs and answers are helpful to you.
Tenant FAQs: I only have to give you XXXX notice or I don’t have to give you notice to vacate.
Many tenants are great to deal with until it comes time to move out. I’ve frequently had tenants argue (very convincingly with their own rules) about the amount of notice they believe they are required to give or that I was required to provide them.
As a landlord, it’s necessary to specify whether your tenant is signing a fixed or periodic lease. A fixed- term lease does not require any notice from either the landlord or tenant. It ends when the duration of the tenancy expires. A tenant for a periodic lease is required to provide you with 1 weeks’ notice for a weekly periodic lease, 30 days’ notice for a monthly periodic tenancy, and 60 days’ notice for a yearly notice. Landlords, however, are only allowed to give periodic tenants notice for five reasons, and after those reasons are met, the landlord must provide 1 week’s notice for weekly tenancies, 90 days’ notice for monthly tenancies, and 90 days’ notice for yearly tenancies.
Tenant FAQs: If I have to break the lease because of an emergency or job loss, I can only have to tell the landlord I’m leaving, I don’t owe the landlord anything else.
In many leases, including the one I use from CRRA.ca, a re-rental clause specifies that if the lease is broken, the landlord can charge XXX fee plus the cost of advertising for re-rental. If you are writing your own lease, it’s good practice to include a cancellation clause.
Tenant FAQ: I want a copy of the contents of my tenant file
Tenants are allowed to request a copy of their personal information. However, they must ask in writing, and you have 45 days to respond. You can ask them the purpose of the request and who the information will be disclosed to and under what circumstances the information will be used. You can also refuse information that is protected by legal privilege or that is proprietary or is part of a legal proceeding.
If they want to see any complaints filed against them, they can access the complaint, but you must block out the “servers” identity. You can also deny access if it would result in safety or security concerns.
The good news about this extra work is that you can charge a “reasonable” fee for this service.
A word of caution about keeping paper or digital copies of the tenant’s credit score. This information must be disposed of immediately according to PIPA requirements. Identify theft is real and thriving and you need to ensure the tenant’s privacy is protected.
Tenant FAQs: I didn’t know I couldn’t have a dog, cat, wolf. boa constrictor, giraffe… in my condo unit
Condominiums are their own little cities with their own set of legislation that fits under the Condominium Act and the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) umbrella. Condominium boards can set the restrictions for the type, breed, height, weight of pets, enforce a pet lease, and charge a pet fee. These restrictions are listed in the Condominium bylaws. To clarify the bylaws and avoid misunderstandings, I’ve given tenants a copy of the bylaws, had them read each page and initial each page, then sign, date on the last page indicating they have read and understood the condominium bylaws.
Tenant FAQs: I refuse to pay the pet fine from the condo
If the tenant doesn’t know the condo bylaws regarding pets or disregards the condo bylaws, the condo board issues a fine. Tenants never like paying fines, and sometimes refuse to pay. If the tenant doesn’t pay the fine, the condo board adds the fine to the condo owner’s account. Luckily fines can be deducted from tenant’s security deposit at the end of their lease.
Tenant FAQs: My neighbor is crazy and keeps harassing me
Unfortunately, in condos, townhouses, and houses you can choose your tenants, but you can’t choose the neighbors. A couple of things can be done, file a complaint with the condominium property management office or call the police if the neighbor is dangerous. None of these are great solutions, and frequently tenants decide to leave to avoid the hassle of dealing with the added stress.
I had a situation a few years ago where a crazy neighbor lived in the unit below. The neighbor constantly filed noise complaints against the tenants with the board and left notes under their door. The tenants felt harassed and ended up leaving. I thought I had the problem solved by moving in a new tenant who worked nights. He ended up leaving because a woodpecker kept hammering away at his bedroom wall during the day. After he left the owners sold the condo.
Tenant FAQs: I have bedbugs or mice -you need to pay to fix the problem. I’m breaking my lease because you haven’t gotten rid of the pests.
Ten years ago, it was uncommon to hear of bedbug infestations; today its common. People and products travel (until COVID ) or used to travel constantly, bringing unwelcome vermin along. Properties on the main floor near rivers or fields frequently have bugs and mice.
It’s difficult if not impossible, to prove who brought in the vermin, and most of the time, the landlord must absorb the cost of extermination. If you can prove the tenant brought in the pests, you may have them foot the bill.
Tenants could break the lease if they notified you of the problem and you did nothing to fix it or didn’t act quickly enough to resolve the issue.
Tenant FAQs: Oops, I missed my maintenance appointment
People would call and complain about a maintenance issue. I’d contact a tradesperson and arrange a suitable time with the tenants. The maintenance person would arrive, and the tenants weren’t there for their appointment. The maintenance person was mad because they wasted their time and didn’t get paid, and I got to start the dance all over again. This was always one of the most frustrating parts of the property management job.
Owners of numerous properties frequently use a property management software program where tenants can submit their own maintenance requests that are forwarded to the appropriate maintenance person.
If you are a property owner of one or a few properties and don’t have property management software, there are a couple of solutions. Install a lockbox on the property or install a lock with electronic access. This way you can let the maintenance person in remotely or give them an access code so they can enter and complete the task. To be on the safe side, post a 24-hour notice of entry on their door and the reason and take a date-stamped picture of it as proof.
Tenant FAQs: I want you to fix this problem, but I don’t want a stranger in my house
There were times tenants reported a problem yet made it impossible to bring in a maintenance person to get the job done. I’ve had tenants who complained about a faulty water heater, appliances, or mould, but didn’t want to let my plumber/handyman in because they didn’t want strangers in their house. Initially, I tried questioning to understand, and even offered to attend the maintenance appointment or offered gift cards for the trouble. When I realized there wasn’t anything I could do to fix the maintenance issue as long as they were the tenants, I got rid of the tenants.
If the tenants prevent you from keeping your property in a safe and habitable condition, they are in breach of the lease.
Tenant FAQs: I know I’m responsible for changing the furnace filters, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, but I don’t’ have time and I don’t want to do it.
Back to the lease, my lease has a clause that states the tenant is responsible for these actions, and if you have required maintenance expectations, yours should too. An education session on changing furnace filters or using the lawnmower could help the tenants feel more comfortable and get the job done. Providing a maintenance schedule or even having automated reminders to change the filter or turn the outside water supply off are a good tool.
If they indicate they really don’t like or want to do those tasks, you could offer to hire lawn mowing or snow shoveling services and tack those fees onto the lease.
Tenant FAQs: I’m going on vacation, is there anything I need to do?
Yes! Tenants need to ensure someone is checking in on their property when they leave. They are required to notify their tenant insurer.
If the furnace shuts down, or tenants leave the windows open and the water pipes burst causing significant damage, or someone slips on an un-shovelled driveway and breaks something – the tenant is responsible. This is why it is a good idea to enforce tenant’s insurance.
Tenant FAQs: I have a medical condition and want to smoke/grow cannabis in my rental property.
Most leases have clauses restricting/forbidding cannabis production or smoking of any kind on the property.
Tenant FAQ: I want to open a day home, hair salon, etc. at my rental unit
Residential leases state the property is for residential premises only. If you are alright waving that clause for specific businesses/tenants, you need to check to see if your area is zoned for an HBB, and what type of business is allowed. Your tenant would then go through the municipality to apply for a business license, and you have to produce an amendment to the lease. Depending on the business, business insurance is frequently required.
Tenant FAQs: I just got back from a party and I can’t find my key, can you let me in right now?
No one likes being woken up in the wee hours of the morning by a drunken tenant who can’t find their key. Most leases state a charge will be applied – it’s up to you to specify how much and the procedure. Digital locks are another way to bypass having to show up altogether.
Tenant FAQs: I didn’t give you permission to give a reference to my new landlord
On the bottom of the last page of the lease on our lease – a little box gives me permission to provide a landlord reference to another landlord. If the tenant signs and dates it, they have given you permission to provide a reference.
Tenant FAQs: If my boyfriend/girlfriend moves in with me and you approve them, will you charge me more rent or utilities?
As much as you’d like to, no, you can only increase rent upon renewal of a new lease; you can’t change the terms of the lease during the lease.
Tenant FAQs: There are 12 people in our family, and we’d like to rent your two-bedroom 1000 square foot, 1 bathroom condo.
Well…according to the Minimum Housing Standards Act:
- Each combination of toilet, washbasin, bathtub, or shower may not be served by more than 8 people
- Unless persons are between 1- 10 years old, the law considers them ½ a person and therefore, 10 people per bathroom are allowed
- Bedrooms are at least 3 meters squared (32 square feet) with 5.6 cubic meters (197 cubic feet) of air space for each adult occupying the room
- If a habitable room that is not a bedroom but is used for sleeping has less than 9.5 cubic meters (102 ft of floor space) and 21.4 cubic meters (756 square ft) for each adult sleeping in the room it is overcrowded
Tenant FAQ: We want to use that additional room in the basement without a window for our teenager’s bedroom.
There have been tragic cases where people could not escape a basement bedroom during a fire because there was no window. For this reason, Minimum Housing Standards require:
- All rooms used for sleeping shall have an openable window of the current size approved for egress, and mechanical ventilations conforming to the Alberta Building code- Bedrooms are at least 3 meters with 5.6 cubic meters of air space for each adult occupying the room.
You cannot advertise a windowless basement room as a bedroom and should not allow tenants to use it as a bedroom.
Of course, these questions and answers are the tip of the iceberg. People bring their assumptions and rationale from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings. A solid, easy-to-understand lease (from your landlord tenant association) and some time and effort spent reviewing and documenting the requirements will keep you and your tenant on the same page.
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Nelda Schulte is a property investor who is passionate about helping investors who self-manage have profitable investment properties through resources and education. If you struggle with the wrong landlord forms, or worse yet, no landlord forms check out Nelda’s 10 Essential Editable Landlord Forms that help you separate the good tenants from the bad and increase your property’s profitability.
What are your most frequent tenant questions? I’d love to hear your comments about which leases you prefer, please share them.