Government of Nova Scotianovascotia.ca
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At the Beginning of a Tenancy

  1. Screening Tenants and the Application Process
  2. Security Deposits and Post-Dated Cheques
  3. When a Tenant Moves In
  4. The Lease

Screening Tenants and the Application Process

Carefully selecting tenants is your best protection against future problems.

You may wish to have a prospective tenant complete an application form that collects standard information, like name and contact information, information about their employment, and personal or landlord references. Please note, application fees are not allowed. Any money taken before the lease is signed or before rent is due is considered a security deposit.

You may conduct credit and background checks on prospective tenants, but you are not permitted to make tenants provide their Social Insurance Number. Be sure to call the tenant's references, especially previous landlords. Ask detailed questions.

Once you have decided to accept a tenant, it is good to have that person or persons sign a lease as soon as possible.

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Security Deposits and Post-Dated Cheques

When the tenant signs the lease, you may ask for a security deposit. The deposit can be up to half of one month's rent.

You must place the security deposit in a trust account. The account remains with the property, so if you sell the property you must transfer the deposit to the new owner.

At the end of a tenancy, with the tenant's permission, the security deposit can be used to cover any rent the tenant has not paid, or any repairs or maintenance that must be done in the unit due to negligence. A certain amount of wear and tear (maybe link to glossary term?) on a unit is considered normal, and the deposit can not be used to pay for repairing this.  (See "At the End of a Tenancy.")

You may ask tenants for post-dated rent cheques, but you cannot ask for more than one month (or week) of rent at a time.

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When a Tenant Moves In

You or your staff should inspect the premises with the tenant and write down the condition of the premises when the tenant moves in. You can use the inspection form provided on this web site. Sign and date the inspection. It is a good idea to get the tenant to sign it as well. (See "Downloadable Forms.")

The inspection and signed form allows you to hold tenants responsible for any damage done during their tenancy. Without this inspection, tenants may claim that damage existed before their tenancy began.

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The Lease

Standard Form: The Residential Tenancies Regulations contain a Standard Form of Lease.

You do not have to use this lease, but the lease you use cannot remove any rights tenants have under the standard form. A written lease is always recommended, but if there is no written lease, the standard form applies.

In the lease, you must give your name, address, and telephone number, or the name, address, and telephone number of a person responsible for the premises. The tenant must give you the names of anyone who will live in the premises.

Types of Leases: There are two kinds of leases: Periodic and fixed term.

A periodic lease is one where the lease is signed for a year, a month, or a week.  The tenancy will continue year-to-year, month-to-month, or week-to-week until the tenant gives notice that the lease will not be renewed.  (See "At the End of a Tenancy.")

A fixed term lease has a specific start and end date. The lease does not renew after the end date.

A tenant and landlord may agree to additional fixed lease terms. If a tenant does not leave, or is not asked to leave, after the date in the original fixed term lease, a month-to-month lease begins.

Co-signer:  Based on the tenant's finances, you may request a co-signer on the lease. The person who co-signs the lease may be held responsible for non-payment of rent and/or damages. Make sure co-signers understand their responsibilities.

Documents: Written leases must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. You must give each tenant named on the lease a signed copy of the lease. You must also give at least one tenant from any group of tenants on a lease a copy of the Act.

You must give tenants a signed copy of the lease and a copy of the Act within 10 calendar days of whichever of the following happens first:

  • The tenant signs the lease
  • The tenant receives the keys
  • The tenant moves in

If you do not give tenants a signed copy of the lease, they may give three months' written notice to end the tenancy to you, and leave.

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