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Before signing your rental lease agreement

Aug 26, 2020 6 minute read

Before signing your rental lease agreement

Signing a lease is the last step after you’ve found the perfect place. Maybe you got lucky and found a great place right away. But more likely, you spent months looking at listings, visiting apartments, and feeling pretty stressed out. The last thing you want to do is carefully pore over a lease agreement. However, this is an important last step.

Here’s some good news: we’ve made it a lot easier for you. This article explains everything you should look for in a lease. We’ve outlined the basics of a lease, what you need to look for in a lease, and what questions you need to ask your new landlord.

Understanding the basics of rental lease agreements

What exactly is a lease anyways? The legal definition is: a contract signed between a landlord and a tenant that details the rights and obligations of both parties with regards to the rental arrangement. It’s a contract that’s used when leasing out a house, apartment or condo unit.

It’s important to get a written lease that clearly outlines all the terms of a lease.

Quick question: If I am leasing from a friend, do I still need a written lease?

Yes! Even if you are leasing from a friend or family member, it’s important to put the terms in writing. If there is a dispute in the future, a written lease will protect both the tenant and the landlord.

What should be included in a rental lease agreement?

Here’s a quick checklist of things that must be on any standard lease:

  • The date the rent is due each month
  • The exact amount of rent
  • The accepted method or methods of payment
  • The date the tenant can move in
  • The date the lease expires
  • Details of the property – the lease should have the rental unit’s complete address
  • Landlord’s name, home address and phone number

There are other details that will vary depending on the province you live in, the length of your lease and a few other factors. Here are some general things to be aware of:

Security deposit

Most landlords will ask for some kind of deposit. It might be first and last month’s rent, or it might be a percentage of the monthly rent amount. Check the rules in your province and make sure the landlord is adhering to those rules.

The exact amount of the deposit should be stated in the lease. It should also state the conditions for returning the deposit. It should either be applied to the last month’s rent or returned in full when the tenant leaves the property in the same condition it was found in.

Responsibility for utilities

Utilities refer to water, electricity, gas, heating and internet. The lease should state which (if any) utilities are included in the price of rent, or if they are the tenant’s responsibility.

Property manager contact information

Depending on what type of unit you are renting, your landlord may have a property manager or superintendent. Be sure to ask if there is a property manager, and request their contact information.

Tips before signing your rental lease agreement

Once you’ve made sure the lease has everything listed above, here a few final things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

Read the fine print

Make sure you read the lease carefully. Use the list above as a checklist, and go over every word. If you have questions, ask the landlord. Any good landlord should be willing to take the time to go over the lease with you. Like any other contract, a lease is negotiable. You can ask for things to be added or taken out.

Discuss your rights and responsibilities as a tenant

Ask your landlord who is responsible for general maintenance such as cutting the grass and shovelling snow. Ask who will handle minor repairs such as clogged drains. We have more information about the responsibilities of landlords and tenants here.

Ask if you are required to get tenant insurance

Some landlord’s require their tenants have tenant insurance. If it is required, it should be in writing in the lease. Tenant insurance covers you for any unintentional property damage you may cause to your rental unit. It covers your belongings in case of theft or damage. Tenant insurance can also provide liability coverage if you are sued.

Rules for pets

If you have a furry friend, be sure to ask about rules around pets. In Canada, it’s illegal to ban pets in apartments. However, some condos have no-pet rules.

Landlord’s right to enter

Discuss your landlord’s right to enter your unit. The rules vary from province to province, but generally speaking, your landlord must give 24 hours’ notice before entering your unit. Your landlord might need to enter your unit to make repairs or show the unit to a prospective tenant if you are approaching the end of your lease.

Ask about redecorating

When you move in, you will want to make the apartment your own. If you would like to paint, make sure you discuss it with your landlord. Some landlords will reimburse you for the cost of the paint. Others will require you paint it back to the original colour when you move out.

Rules about subletting

What if you decide to move to Italy halfway through your lease? Talk to your landlord about rules around subletting.

Discuss rules around visitors and guests

In Canada, it is illegal to ban overnight guests. However, if your guests are loud, disruptive or cause damage, you will be held responsible. Chat with your landlord about expectations around noise levels, especially if you plan on having friends over often.

Be aware of your rights and responsibilities before signing your rental lease agreement. Consult with BrokerLink today.

Why consult with BrokerLink

At BrokerLink, we can help you keep your property and belongings safe. Even in a rental apartment, it’s important to have the right tenant insurance coverage. Give us a call to chat about your options. We will be sure to find a plan that fits your life. Call us today, visit us online, or visit one of our locations across the country.

FAQs on signing rental lease agreements

Can I back out of a lease agreement I just signed?

A lease is a contract like any other. Unless otherwise stated in the lease, it’s unlikely you can back out once you’ve signed. However, if something comes up immediately after signing, try communicating with your landlord. They might be willing to work with you to find a suitable arrangement.

What happens if I violate a lease agreement?

Since a lease is a contract, if you violate any of the terms you agreed to, you can be considered to be in breach of contract. One example is not paying your rent. If you violate your lease agreement, your landlord could start the eviction process.

What do I do if I want to end my tenancy earlier than expected?

Start by re-reading you lease. See if subletting is an option for the remainder of the lease. You can also talk to your landlord. It’s common to want to end a lease early. Your landlord might agree to end the lease early.

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