Top ten tips for landlords and tenants
Before moving in:
1. Screen potential tenants and landlords
Landlords should screen potential tenants by conducting reference checks and credit record checks. Tenants should also try to learn about the landlord before signing a tenancy agreement. Ask other tenants in the building if the landlord responds quickly to requests for repairs, if the building has problems with mice, bed bugs or other pests, and if the neighbours are easy to get along with. When viewing an apartment, check that appliances work and everything is in good condition. It’s better to find a good living situation to begin with than to experience problems and have to move.
2. Learn about your rights and responsibilities
Both landlords and tenants should educate themselves about their rights and responsibilities. In Manitoba, the Residential Tenancies Branch website (https://www.gov.mb.ca/cca/rtb/) is a reliable source of information for landlords and tenants.
3. Get insurance
This tip is more for tenants, as landlords will usually be required to have insurance to obtain a mortgage on the property. Tenants, on the other hand, need to take initiative to obtain tenants’ insurance. The landlord’s insurance does not cover your personal belongings. How much would it cost to replace everything you own if there were a fire or flood in your apartment? Also, if you or your guest cause damage or injury you could be sued. For example, if you accidentally cause a fire and the building sustains smoke damage, you could be sued for the cost of repairing the damage and residents’ hotel stays until their unit is habitable again. This can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars, or far more. Liability insurance, which is usually included in tenant’s insurance, helps protect you financially in case you are sued.
4. Get it in writing
Tenants: read through the tenancy agreement before you sign it and make sure all utilities and furnishings the landlord said come with the rental unit are written in the agreement. Landlords: make sure the tenancy agreement makes it clear who is responsible for paying each utility. Tenancy agreements should also describe any house rules the landlord expects the tenant to follow. It is far more persuasive in a hearing to have a document where the person wrote that they will do X or Y than for you to tell the hearing what someone told you. Having terms, conditions, and promises in writing avoids “he-said-she-said” situations, which are not convincing arguments. A verbal agreement can be binding and enforceable, but it is easier to enforce a written agreement.
5. Move-in procedures
Before you move in, do a condition report with the landlord. This means walking through the unit and making a written note on the condition report of any damage in the unit. Make sure both the landlord and tenant sign the report and each gets a copy of the completed report. This is important for both landlords and tenants. It protects tenants from being charged for damage that was already present before they moved in, and it protects landlords by supporting a claim against the tenant for any damage the tenant caused.
Tenants, if you are required to pay a security deposit, get a receipt showing the amount of the deposit, the date you paid, and the address of the rental unit. Check if pets are allowed before signing the tenancy agreement. Both tenants and landlords should get a name and phone number for emergency contact.
6. Document everything
If there’s any sort of problem, write it down. Noisy neighbours, no hot water, mouse droppings? Write down what happened, what day and time, and where. After a phone call or an in-person conversation, write down notes of who you spoke to, who said what, and when. If you need to make a claim with the Residential Tenancies Branch, documentation is important to demonstrate what happened, who was responsible, and what steps were taken to try to remedy the problem.
7. Deal with maintenance issues promptly
Tenants: tell your landlord right away if an important feature like the heating, plumbing, or smoke detectors aren’t working. Landlords: respond quickly when the tenant reports a maintenance problem. Doing repairs quickly can help avoid bigger, more expensive problems later on. Also, remember that landlords are required by The Residential Tenancies Act to maintain a rental unit in good repair, fit for habitation, and in compliance with health, building and maintenance and occupancy standards required by law. Landlords who fail to properly maintain the rental unit can be ordered to pay compensation to the affected tenants.
8. Pay bills on time
Both tenants and landlords have bills they must pay on time. Tenants must pay rent and may need to pay for some or all utilities, depending on the tenancy agreement. If a tenant does not pay rent within three days of the due date, the landlord can give notice to evict the tenant. Tenants should NOT withhold rent because the landlord has not completed repairs, etc., unless explicitly advised to do so by a lawyer. Landlords must pay bills on time for all utilities for which they are responsible, according to the tenancy agreement. Landlords can also be ordered to pay tenants compensation for failing to pay utilities for which they are responsible.
9. Get help when necessary
If repairs are needed for plumbing or wiring, call a professional. DIY plumbing and electrical jobs may save money in the short term, but in the long term they are likely to cause more damage and require more costly repairs. Faulty wiring can even cause housefires. If you’ve asked your neighbour to be quiet at night and they don’t respond positively, ask the landlord for assistance. If you’ve asked your landlord to get rid of bedbugs and the landlord doesn’t respond appropriately, contact the Residential Tenancies Branch or a lawyer for assistance.
10. Move-out procedures
Before moving out, tenants must clean the rental unit. If tenants leave the rental unit without cleaning, landlords can make a claim to keep the security deposit to cover the cost of cleaning. After cleaning, tenants and landlords should complete a move-out condition report together. This helps tenants ensure they get their security deposit back or helps landlords keep the security deposit to pay for any required cleaning or damage caused by the tenants.
Tenants must give landlords their new address so the landlord can return the security deposit. Landlords must either return the security deposit, plus interest, within 14 days of the tenant moving out OR make a claim to the Residential Tenancy Branch to keep the deposit within 28days.
Both tenants and landlords can end a tenancy early, in certain situations. If you wish to evict a tenant or to move out before your lease ends, you should seek legal advice to make sure you follow all required steps and do not pay more than necessary.