Renting a property near campus is a relatable experience for most UWindsor students. Sometimes, the rental process can take a turn for the worse and students may suddenly find themselves in a precarious legal situation with their landlords. For this reason, Community Legal Aid — a joint project between Windsor Law and Legal Aid Ontario — has released six tips on renting and protecting yourself as a tenant.
- Don’t rent a site unseen. Go and see the unit. This may not always possible when you don’t live in the same city and don’t have friend or family member that could visit the unit in your place. But if you can, always visit the unit before you sign a lease agreement.
- Ask questions. Are utilities included? Who exactly is the landlord and what is their contact information? If it is a house, who shovels the snow? If it is a shared accommodation, what exactly is included in the rental? Who do I make a maintenance request to?
- Make sure you sign a proper lease and get your own copy. As of March 1, all residential tenancies lease agreements in Ontario have to use the new official Residential Tenancy Agreement form. If you don’t get your own copy immediately upon signing, take photos of the lease and keep them for your records. Follow up with the landlord to make sure you get your own copy. If the landlord is a corporation, make sure you have the contact information of the agent or property manager.
- Get rent receipts. Collect your rent receipts and keep them for your records. Even if you pay by automatic withdrawal, ask for receipts. Your landlord is required to give you a rent receipt upon request.
- Use email for maintenance requests. Whenever possible, correspond in writing any requests for maintenance. If maintenance requests can only be made by telephone, make sure to document the call including the date and time, who you spoke with, the nature of the issue, and any next steps. If there is a form to fill out, take a photo or keep a copy for your records.
- Take photos. Take photos of the unit when you first move in, any maintenance and repair issues that come up during the tenancy, and of the final walk-through when you leave the unit having terminated the tenancy. The limitation period for most issues to be raised at the Landlord and Tenant Board is 12 months so keep them at least that long.
“It is important to take the time to make sure these steps are followed,” says executive director Marion Overholt. “Sometimes important issues are overlooked because students feel rushed or intimidated.”
She invites any students with concerns about their rental situations to reach out for advice.
Community Legal Aid provides legal services for full-time University of Windsor undergraduate students or low-income residents of Windsor-Essex. The clinic serves as a learning environment for law students to build their advocacy and litigation skills, while providing necessary legal services to the community. For more information about the clinic, visit the Community Legal Aid website.
For more rental tips and information, check out Steps to Justice “Questions About – Renting a new place to live.” You can also view the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 which governs the relationship between residential tenants and landlords in Ontario. The Landlord and Tenant Board publishes guidelines to help tenants and landlords understand their rights and the processes at the Board.