Know your rights as a student tenant

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After their first year at Laurier, most students need to find off-campus residency for the remainder of their time in university. Unless these students become Residence Life dons or live locally with their parents, they are usually required to rent an apartment or house and enter into a tenancy agreement or lease.

It is important for all students to understand their rights as tenants before they enter any legal agreements. Unknowledgeable tenants can be easily manipulated or taken advantage of by their landlords, especially when the property owner knows their clients are first-time renters. Prepare yourself by becoming informed about your rights and gain the confidence to correct your landlord when they are wrong.

Your journey into renting begins with finding a place you like. After doing so, you will be required to sign a lease to reserve your position. Most tenancy agreements are for a time period of one year, which is clearly stated at the beginning of the agreement.

Although the lease agreement may state an end date, if you finish a one-year lease you are not required to vacate the premise at the end of the year. Instead, you now enter a month-to-month rental whereby everything in your former lease is still binding but you can stay for as long as you desire. If you wish to move out, however, you must provide the landlord with 60 days written notice.

Be sure to plan ahead. If you fail to give an early enough notice you may get stuck renting the unit for an additional month. Some landlords try to persuade their tenants to sign a new lease for an additional year, but this is not required. They may even offer renewal bonuses to entice you to sign, but this locks you in for another year.
The minor bonus proposed is less valuable than the option to move out anytime. The incentive of a gift card or money may appear tempting, but you must consider your future plans.

For example, if you are entering your final year and are uncertain whether you will be staying in the apartment for the summer, it is better to not sign for an extended time. This way you can give 60 days notice in February and be moved out by the end of the semester instead of being stuck with the apartment for four unwanted months.

After signing your lease you may realize some of the clauses are restrictive, however, not all of them may be legal. If you signed an agreement which specified no pets or smoking, this clause is illegal and can be simply ignored.

As a tenant, you will be required to supply the landlord with two payments in advance which cover your first and last months rent. Besides these two exceptions, the landlord cannot demand any other payment in advance. Some tenants find it convenient to provide the landlord with post-dated cheques so they do not need to worry about dropping off payments each month.
When you first move into your new apartment or house, be sure to examine the premises thoroughly.

If there are any damages or problems that you notice within the first few days, be sure to inform the landlord immediately and make sure to record it in writing.
Keep a copy of all correspondence you send to the landlord so the damages cannot be pinned on you. You are, however, responsible for any damages which you cause or neglect to inform the landlord of.
While such examples may depict landlords in a negative light, it is important to remember that not every single landlord is out to take advantage of students.
However, students need to be aware of their rights as tenants and be cautious of illegitimate requests often made by landlords.
letters@thecord.ca

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