5 things you need to know as a student renting in Nova Scotia
From damage deposits to lease terms, we guide you through the murky waters of renting off campus
Are you a student renting in Nova Scotia? Here are five things you should know:
1. Go offline and actually see the place
Where you live has a lot to do with your peace of mind, and you want to feel safe and secure while you're there.
A lot of students look for places online, but before you go into an agreement, talk to the landlord in person and visit the place to check it — and the neighbourhood — out for yourself.
If that's not possible, ask someone you trust to go and visit the place for you. That way, you know you're not dealing with a fraud or scam.
If it’s possible, ask neighbours about the building and neighbourhood. It’s a good idea to ask questions about noise, if a quiet retreat is something you’re looking for in an apartment.
2. Get it in writing
It may be a bit of a tough slog, but a review of the Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act, focusing on Section 9, is worth your while.
It lays out the basic rights and responsibilities for renters and landlords in Nova Scotia.
Take time to read through the lease and ask the landlord to explain things you don't understand.
Get on paper the rent amount, security deposit amount, and length of tenancy. For example, if you're leasing for eight months or a year, make sure it states that in writing.
If there's anything else important to you (having a pet, wanting to sublet, or anticipating an extra tenant later on) make sure you speak to your landlord and get amendments to the lease in writing.
A lease is a contract that can include whatever you and your landlord agree to (so long as it doesn't take away your basic rights), but if something isn't written down, it's difficult to enforce.
3. Hold on to your money
Be wary about anything that requires you to send money before you visit a rental property or send personal information before you have a chance to meet with the landlord or property manager.
Landlords shouldn't be asking you for money just to apply to rent the property, according to the Residential Tenancies Act.
However, upon signing the lease, a security deposit — usually about half a month’s rent — is usually paid. The expectation is the tenant receives the security deposit back after the term of the lease is up, so long as there is no damage or outstanding rent.
4. Safety first
Your landlord is responsible for keeping your place in a good state of repair and liveable, so it complies with health and safety laws.
Don’t let things go unrepaired. As soon as you notice a problem, let your landlord know in writing.
5. Know about notice
If it's time to move on from your current place, you need to give your landlord written notice that you're ending your landlord-tenant relationship at a specified time.
The notice period depends on your type of lease (see section 10 of the Residential Tenancies Act).
For example, a year-to-year lease requires three months' notice before the anniversary date or it will automatically be renewed.
If you want to end your lease or switch to month-to-month, for instance, make sure you meet this deadline.
Once you give notice to end your lease, a landlord can come into your property without notice to show it to potential tenants at a reasonable hour.
To get the goods on advice for first-time renters in Halifax, CBC News spoke to some experts, including:
- Sarah Shiels, a former Dalhousie University student who works for Clifford Shiels Legal and gives talks at Dalhousie about landlords and residential leases.
- Melissa Mosher, a senior policy analyst with the Residential Tenancies Program as part of Service Nova Scotia.