Signing of a lease
© Fernando Calderón
In signing a lease, you are entering into a contract with the owner of your house (the legal term being a landlord).
By signing this document, you agree to pay rent and take care of the housing, you also agree to promptly notify your landlord in the event of a problem.
In return, your landlord agrees to provide you with clean housing in good condition, throughout this contract. The lease can be in French or English, but make sure you understand the language being used.
The use of the “official housing lease” document is mandatory and your landlord must give you a copy within 10 days after signing it. However, be aware that an unofficial written lease or a verbal lease (when you have agreed verbally with the landlord to live in the housing) is also valid. Keep this document and/or the proof of payment in a safe place.
Here is some important information regarding the signing of a residential lease:
The security deposit
In Quebec, it is illegal to require a security deposit to rent an apartment. When signing your lease, the landlord can only charge the first month’s rent, any other money, such as a deposit for keys, garage, or furniture, is illegal. This prohibition is registered in article 1904 of the Civil Code of Quebec.
If you have already paid a security deposit, make sure to have proof of this payment, you have rights and resources to be reimbursed.
The fixing of the rent
When you move into a new apartment, the Administrative Housing Tribunal (TAL) has the power to adjust the price of your rent. This is a mechanism designed to prevent your landlord from unreasonably increasing the rent between two new leases. In other words, the rent setting process only applies to new tenants if the old tenants paid significantly a lower amount for rent than what is now paid.
PLEASE NOTE, there are very strict deadlines to be observed to be able to request a fixing of the rent from the TAL.
When signing the lease, pay attention to section G (below). This section is mandatory to be completed on any housing lease and indicates the lowest rent paid for the housing you are about to sign within the last twelve months. If this section is completed and displays a rent much lower than what you are asked to pay, you have 10 days from the signing of the lease to open a request for rent fixing at the TAL.
If this section is left blank by your landlord, you have two months starting from the signing of the lease to make your request.
“Pass me your lease” campaign!
Although landlords are required to complete Section G, which lists the lowest rent paid in the past 12 months, many of them leave the box blank to prevent tenants from applying to the Tribunal to adjust their rent reasonably.
A simple and supportive way to prevent your landlord from abusively increasing the rent when you leave is to pass your lease to new tenants! This way, even if section G has not been completed, it will be possible to know the price difference of the two rents and to have proof of it!
There are two ways to do this:
- Leave your old lease hidden somewhere in your old housing.
- Send your old lease to your old address for your new tenants to receive it by mail.
- Send a letter to your old address informing the new tenants of what you were paying, inspired by the “My Old Apartment” campaign initiated on Prince Edward Island (image below). A letter template is available in the Letter Templates section.
The end of your lease
In Quebec, the lease is automatically renewed at the end of it (except for a sublease). This is part of the measures protecting your right to remain on the premises.
Thus, your landlord cannot decide not to modify your lease, nor can he ask you to leave the premises. The procedures to remove a tenant from housing are limited and in all cases, a written notice or a court judgment is required. You have the right to stay in your housing as long as you desire to.
Of course, you can decide to leave your housing at the end of your lease. To do so, you must send a notice to your landlord to inform them that you want to leave. You must adhere to strict deadlines and ensure that you have proof of receipt of your notice.
The notice of non-renewal must be sent as soon as possible:
- 3 to 6 months before the end of the lease for a lease of one year or more.
- 1 to 2 months before the end of the lease for a lease of less than one year.
- 1 to 2 months before the relocation for an indefinite lease.
- 10 to 20 days before the end of the lease of a room OR before the move if the lease is for an indefinite period.
PLEASE NOTE, that contrary to the popular belief, we cannot cancel a lease at any time, even if you pay the landlord three months’ rent in compensation. Although it is possible to come to a pleasant agreement with your landlord to leave before the end of the lease, nothing in the Civil Code requires your landlord to negotiate with you or to agree that you leave your housing before the end of the lease.
However, if you are unable to negotiate with your landlord to end your lease before the end of it, you can yield your lease.