In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Residential Tenancies Act, 2000 (RTA)
governs the relationship between residential landlords and tenants. The Act sets out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. It regulates matters such as rent increases, ending a tenancy, settling disputes, as well as addressing many other issues.
The Residential Tenancies division of the provincial government’s Service NL is responsible for mediating and adjudicating disputes between residential landlords and tenants. The Residential Tenancies has a website containing extensive information for landlords and tenants. You can ask questions relating to your specific situation by dialling 1-877-829-2608 (toll-free from all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador).
Please note that this is general information only and not a complete statement of the law. The Residential Tenancies Act is currently under review by the provincial government and is expected to be updated in 2019.
The RTA applies to most rental housing in Newfoundland and Labrador, however, some types of living arrangements are not covered by the RTA.
Some examples of living arrangments that are not covered include:
The above list is not exhaustive. Refer to section 3 of the RTA for more complete information about what accommodations are included and excluded, found on the landlord and tenant section of the Service NL website.
Before a landlord hands over possession of a rental unit to a prospective tenant, an inspection should be done.
The premises should be vacant during an incoming inspection, and the landlord and potential tenant should inspect the premises together. A Rental Premises Condition Report form is available on the “Before Renting” section of the Residential Tenancies website.
Write down any damages such as holes, scratches and burns. The landlord and tenant should then sign and keep a copy of the inspection report. It is recommended that both parties take photos (date stamped) prior to the beginning of the tenancy and again once the tenancy has ended. When the rental term is finished, you and the tenant should do an outgoing inspection as well.
Your rental agreement forms the basis of the contractual relationship between you and the tenant. Whether it is oral or written, the agreement is a legally binding contract between both parties.
You need to know what you are agreeing to. The RTA regulates this contractual relationship.
The rental agreement (or “lease”) sets out:
There are various types of rental agreements, including;
Each rental agreement, whether oral or written, is presumed to contain certain basic rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2000. These conditions are called statutory conditions and must be followed – even if the lease says otherwise. A condition in the rental agreement that is contrary to any of these statutory conditions has no legal effect.
Below is a list of the statutory conditions as found verbatim in section 8 of the RTA:
Obligation of the Landlord
The tenant may assign, sublet or otherwise part with possession of the premises subject to the consent of the landlord, and the landlord shall not arbitrarily or unreasonably withhold consent and shall not levy a charge in excess of expenses actually incurred by the landlord in relation to giving consent.
Mitigation on Abandonment
Where the tenant abandons the premises, the landlord shall mitigate damages that may be caused by the abandonment to the extent that a party to a contract is required by law to mitigate damages.
Entry of Premises
Except in the case of an emergency, the landlord shall not enter the premises without the consent of the tenant unless:
Except by mutual consent, neither the landlord nor the tenant shall, during the use or occupancy of the premises by the tenant, alter a lock or locking system on a door that gives entry to the premises.
Disconnection of Services
A security deposit, sometimes called a damage deposit, is a sum of money the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of a rental agreement, in addition to the rent paid.
The amount depends on the type of rental agreement. The following guidelines are used to determine the security deposit amount for different rental agreements:
The landlord must provide the tenant with a written receipt for the security deposit, and put the deposit in an interest-bearing trust account, reserved only for security deposits.
The landlord does not own the security deposit. Unless the landlord has a claim for some or all of the security deposit, they must return it to the tenant, with the interest it gathered, within 15 days of the tenant leaving the premises. If the landlord has a claim for some or all of the security deposit, the landlord and tenant will create a written agreement on how the security deposit will be distributed, or else the landlord or tenant may apply to the Director of Residential Tenancies to determine how it will be distributed. The landlord and/or tenant can apply to Residential Tenancies for a hearing on the issue.
Housing discrimination can be a significant problem in a competitive market. However the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act, 2010 outlines the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited.
The Human Rights Act is legislation that protects individuals against discrimination based on certain personal characteristics. These personal characteristics are sometimes referred to as ’grounds’. The Act’s provisions apply to government, private business and individuals.
Prohibited grounds are:
Please note that this list is not exhausted and may be updated.
The Act prohibits discrimination when granting occupancy of a self-contained dwelling unit (for example, refusing to rent an apartment to an individual because of their family status). Whether a situation amounts to discrimination depends on the specific circumstances of the case. There are exemptions when discrimination is permitted under the Act. For example, a limitation, specification, exclusion, denial, or preference because of a disability can be allowed when it is determined to be based on a good faith qualification by the commission.
The Act also allows landlords to use income information, credit checks, credit references, rental history, guarantees or other similar business practices in selecting prospective occupants. In the case of self-contained dwelling units reserved for those 55 and older, offering or advertising is allowed where every unit is occupied by at least one person who has reached the age of 55 or older.
The landlord and tenant have a number of obligations, some of which we will highlight below. The information below comes from the Residential Tenancies website and is only a partial list. For more detailed information, visit the landlord & tenant section of the Service NL website.
A Landlord must:
A tenant may sublet the premises. This is contingent on the consent of the landlord, but a landlord may not arbitrarily withhold consent to sublet.
As a landlord, you cannot increase the rent during a fixed term lease.
For week to week or month to month tenancies, a landlord cannot increase rent during the first 12 months of the rental agreement or more than once in a 12 month period after that.
Tenants must be notified of a rental increase in writing no less than eight weeks before the change in week to week rentals, and no less than three months before the change in month to month rentals.
Discontinuing a service, privilege, accommodation or thing could be considered a rent increase. For example, if the rental cost normally included utilities, and then a tenant was required to ‘POU’ (pay own utilities), this could be considered a rent increase.
Where the landlord and tenant agree in writing, the landlord may increase the rent when the increase is due to the provision of a service, facility, privilege, or thing.
A landlord needs to keep an up-to-date record of all money received from the tenant because the Director of Residential Tenancies can visit a landlord and demand pro-duction of correspondence and records at any time.
A notice of termination is a written document that one party uses to inform the other that they must or are about to vacate the premises.
Unless the landlord and tenant agree in writing upon a longer period of notice, the tenant must normally give the following notice if terminating the rental agreement:
Termination Without Reason
Failure to Pay Rent
Where a fixed-term or monthly tenancy exists:
Where a weekly tenancy exists:
Where the tenant pays the full amount of rent in arrears, plus a late fee if applied, before the date specified in the notice, the notice is void and cannot be carried out. However, this rule does not apply where notice is given to a tenant more than twice within a period of 12 months.
Termination where uninhabitable
When a tenant makes a premise unfit for habitation, the landlord can give the tenant notice that the rental agreement is terminated and that the tenant is required to leave immediately. Tenants cannot withhold rent, even if the landlord is not properly maintaining the premises. The tenant should contact the landlord in writing outlining the work that is required, and if the requested work is not completed in a “reasonable amount of time” they can contact Residential Tenancies for assistance. The tenant would then be entitled to give notice of termination if the situation is not remedied or request a hearing.
Termination for Interference with Peaceful Enjoyment
If a tenant interferes with the peaceful enjoyment of a landlord or other tenants, the landlord may give termination notice in writing to take effect not less than five days following the date on which notice was given.
Termination in Exceptional Circumstances
A tenant may give one month’s written notice, accompanied by evidence in certain circumstances. These include ill health of the tenant, the tenant’s income is reduced, ill health of a person who has been providing financial assistance towards the payment of tenant’s rent, ill health of a family member when tenant is required to take up residence with that family member, tenant admitted to a nursing home, or tenant dies.
If the tenant doesn't move out following valid notice, then the landlord can commence eviction proceedings. This requires making an application to the Director of Residential Tenancies. For more information about the eviction process and application cost, contact Residential Tenancies.
Notice must be served on the other party before various things can proceed. Notice may be served in the following ways:
Where either the landlord or tenant is a company, the notice may be given personally to a company Director, manager or officer as follows:
Where a tenant has abandoned the premises, the landlord can take possession.
Where a landlord intends to take possession of an abandoned premises, they must post notice 24 hours in advance of their intention to do so.
Abandoned Personal Property
Where a tenant abandons the property, the landlord must hold it in storage for 60 days and provide an inventory to the Director and to the tenant, if possible. A tenant wishing to retrieve the property has to pay the landlord’s storage fees to regain possession. Where the property has no monetary value, is unsanitary or unsafe, or is not worth the price of storage or sale, then the Director can authorize the disposal of the property.
Where a tenant does not take back their property, the property can be sold with the proceeds going to the costs incurred by the landlord, and compensation to the landlord, as dictated by the Director. The rest of the money must go to the Director with a written statement of account regarding the sale and distribution of the proceeds. The Director must hold these funds in trust for the tenant, but if they are not collected in a year, they go into the consolidated revenue fund.