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 dialing 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:
An inspection should be the first step taken before a tenant accepts the responsibility for a rental property.
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. This may help protect you against future claims. When you finish your rental term, you and the landlord should do an outgoing inspection as well.
Your rental agreement forms the basis of the contractual relationship between you and the landlord. 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:
The obligation of the Tenant
The tenant shall keep the premises clean, and shall repair damage caused by a willful or negligent act of the tenant or of a person whom the tenant permits on
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.
While a landlord can ask for post-dated cheques to pay your rent, he/she cannot ask for any pre-payments of rent, such as pre-payment of the last week’s or last month’s rent. He/she also cannot ask for any single rental payment that is more than any other regular payment.
Regardless of how little you think your belongings are worth, consider how much it would cost you to replace everything you own—furniture, appliances, clothing, supplies and personal belongings.
That’s where tenant’s insurance comes in. It’s a way to help protect your belongings in the event of a fire, flood or other disaster. Your landlord’s insurance will not normally cover a tenant’s belongings. A tenant is therefore responsible for carrying insurance for his or her personal belongings.
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 tenant must:
A landlord cannot increase rent during the term of 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 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
Termination where uninhabitable
When a landlord fails to maintain a rental premises in a state “fit for habitation”, the tenant can give the landlord notice that the rental agreement is terminated and that they are leaving the premises 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.
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.