Landlords. Can’t live without them.

By evan on May 07, 2014

rentingAs I’ve complained about ad nausem, the residential tenancies act has little to no enforcement, and the rules almost always favor the one being an asshole.

Strong choice of word, but appropriate given the circumstances.

A “term lease” has a specific start and end date. It can be sometimes more convenient for the landlord and/or tenant, but takes away many of the protections in the act, like automatically renewed leases, and apparently the limit of raising rent once per year. Basically, term leases have given landlords an inch and they’ve taken a mile. I’ve seen many landlords who no longer offer a year-to-year lease, and are instead offering “12 month terms.” Normally, with an annual lease, a tenant by default is entitled to continue renting the premises on a month to month basis.

On a “12 month term” a tenant by default has to move out exactly 12 months from signing the lease. It leaves very little room for a tenant to negotiate, and very little incentive for a landlord to be reasonable.

Then we have the “6 month term” where things get really out of control. The Residental Tenancies Act currently says;

“A landlord shall not increase the rent to a tenant for the twelve-month period following the commencement of a week-to week, month to month, year-to-year, or fixed-term lease”

Your average person would read that and see “a landlord shall not increase the rent for a twelve month period.” And that is and has been the modus operandi. Now all of a sudden, some companies have taken an alternate interpretation. That a “6 month term lease” ends after six months, and a second “6 month term lease” is not subject to that rule, because it has not been twelve months since the beginning of the new, second “six month term lease” This violates the spirit, if not the letter of the act. The act EXPLICITLY states that that limitation applies to term leases, for a twelve month period, but, and I quote,

“That’s not the way we see that”

One specific example, this being a property that sat empty for at least six months beforehand, from a major property management company was a 6 month term at $1200 then another 6 month term at $1800. Advertised at $1200 of course. And I quote

“Well if you won’t pay it students will come September.”

I ran into this nonsense at 6 of 7 properties I looked at, with three different property management companies. The Residental Tenancies board will only investigate abuse if a complaint is made. You have to have signed a lease to make a complaint. They will not enforce the law as written unless you subject yourself to unfair and unjust practices. I refuse to sign an illegal lease so can’t make a formal complaint.

I contacted the MLA in charge of Access NS (and therefore residential tenancies) to no avail.

Finally, after having found a reasonable landlord and moved, my new MLA took the time to have a researcher look into this. They said

“An argument can be made that fixed term leases less than a year in duration are not subject to this requirement. A new tenancy starts when the original 6 month fixed term lease ends and the next 6 month term lease begins. I would also add that the “intent” of the drafters of this section could also be debated one way or another.”

This is a law. An act. Signed off on by the Queen’s representative. And it’s so vague the intent “could be debated one way or another.”

Good news ahead though, that’s unacceptable, and now recognized as such. My prodding has sparked a formal review of the tenancy act.

My suggestion?

“A landlord shall not increase the rent to a tenant for a twelve-month period following the commencement of a week-to week, month to month, year-to-year, fixed-term lease, or any consecutive fixed-term lease to the tenant during that period.”

I found a great tool for the next time I move, though hopefully that’s years off.

Let me know if you’ve run into the same issues.

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