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Who does the RTA Apply to & Who doesn’t the RTA Apply to?

As a landlord, you may sometimes ask yourself  – who does the RTA apply to, and who doesn’t the RTA apply to? The Residential Tenancies Act or the RTA contains all the information about rental laws for landlords and tenants in Alberta, and it covers:

  • Periodic and fixed tenancies
  • Obligations/covenants of landlords and tenants
  • Remedies of landlords/tenants
  • Security deposits, provincial court jurisdiction

There is also a Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service or RTDRS – court specifically for landlord and tenant disputes.

The RTA applies to tenants who rent:

  • houses
  • duplexes
  • townhouses
  • condos
  • basement suites
  • a trailer in a trailer park (but only with disputes between the owner of the mobile home, the owner’s agent, and the tenant who lives in the mobile home)
  •  rooms in a boarding house
  • residential premises provided by an employer

Who does the RTA NOT apply to?

  • Correctional institutions
  • Supportive living accommodations
  • A lodge accommodation
  • An educational institution acting as landlord/student residence
  • A hotel, motel, tourist camp
  • Rooms in living quarters of a landlord
  • Mobile home (The RTA does not apply if the dispute is between owners of the park/land regarding a rental for the site the mobile home occupies)
  • Business premises with a dwelling unit attached

Now that you know the difference between who the RTA does and doesn’t apply to, here’s a test of your knowledge with two scenarios.

Scenario 1: Dale

Nonpayment of rent – roommate

Dale has been renting a room in your home. He’s signed a rental agreement indicating the rent is due on the 1st by noon. This month he hasn’t paid.

You: Dale, friendly reminder, your rent was due yesterday on the 1st; today is the 2nd.

Dale: I’ve decided I’m not going to pay you any rent this month, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You:  If you don’t pay your rent by 6:00 p.m. today, you have to leave today.

Dale: You can’t do that. I know my rights. You can’t kick me out without giving me 30 days notice in writing, and it’s winter. You can’t evict me in the winter!

Questions: Is Dale’s room rental covered under the RTA? Are you required to follow the RTA procedure for evicting Dale for nonpayment of rent?

Answer: If you answered no to both questions, you’re right. Dale is renting a room in your primary residence. It isn’t covered under the RTA, and you don’t have to follow the RTA’s process for evicting Dale. Also, there is no regulation within the RTA that restricts Alberta landlords from evicting tenants during the winter months.

By the way, this is a true story. Of course, the name was changed. I had an adult (?) roommate who paid rent the first month but for some reason decided he shouldn’t have to pay rent after the first month. He also told me I should be responsible for storing his belongings while he went overseas for a holiday. I gave him an ultimatum, but he refused to pay and told me I was rude for demanding the rent payment. He quoted a whole bunch of “rules”  (he was great about quoting fabricated “rules” that suited his particular situation) that prohibited me from kicking him out. But in the end, he had to leave. After this scenario, I asked myself what I could have done differently to prevent a repeat performance with a new tenant. In retrospect, I hadn’t done a thorough screening process. Since he was a friend of a friend, I assumed he’d be as good a person as my friends were. I was wrong. Always check references and credit checks. Lesson learned.

Scenario 2: Deborah & Lilly

Nonpayment of rent – basement suite

Deborah and Lilly are childhood friends who rented the basement suite apartment of your primary residence. They signed a lease listing both ladies named as tenants. They’ve been pretty good tenants for six months, and you are happy you rented to them. Unfortunately, Deborah and Lilly got into a big fight in month seven, and Lilly moved out.

Deborah: I can’t afford to pay the rent on my own. You should let me move out this month, without paying any rent.

You: I’m sorry she left, but you are both responsible for paying the rent until the end of your lease agreement.

Deborah: I don’t have much money and there’s no way I could have guessed my best friend would up and leave and stiff me with the whole rent. Even if you want to charge me, this is just a basement suite, and a lease agreement for a basement suite won’t hold up in court.

You: Really…

Question: Is Deborah right?

Answer: A basement suite in your primary residence with a separate entrance and kitchen from yours falls under the RTA. Deborah and Lilly are both listed as tenants on the lease; therefore, they are equally and individually responsible for paying the rent until you find a suitable tenant to take over the lease. They are also responsible for paying any fees written into the “if you break the lease” clause (such as advertising costs for re-rental). Would your basement suite lease hold up in court? Yes. You could take Deborah and Lilly to the RTDRS or the Court of the Queen’s Bench for nonpayment of rent. They signed a legally binding agreement.

This situation has played out more often than I’d like during my time as a landlord. A good question to ask before acting is, “what action could I take that causes me the least amount of grief, time, and money?” Can you work with Deborah so that she pays some or all the rent until she finds a new place? Can you advertise immediately and show potential tenants the suite while Deborah is there?  Will she be polite and respectful and present a clean, tidy property during showings? If so, sometimes it’s better to put your time and effort into finding a new paying tenant rather than trying to collect rent from a tenant who may not have the money, doesn’t want to stay and could cause you endless headaches. If you and the tenant are tenants is willing to work together, you can usually re-rent it fairly quickly, and you/the tenant can part on reasonably good terms.

Inexperienced landlords who don’t know the RTA get scared by tenants who quote “rules” and threaten to take them to court. Landlords who know the rules can call a bluff and figure out a solution based on facts. Although tenant situations don’t always fit into the rules, good common sense and judgment play important roles in determining the outcome.

Have you ever been confused about who the RTA applies to?   I’d love to hear about it nelda@neldaschulte.com

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