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At the Beginning of a Tenancy

  1. Looking for a place to rent
  2. Application Fee
  3. Security Deposits and Post-Dated Cheques
  4. Moving in
  5. Signing and Complying With a Lease

Looking for a place to rent

Looking for a place to live is serious business. Be sure to do your research. Some good first steps:

  • Everyone on a lease is equally responsible for the rental space. If you are living with others, find roommates you trust, and involve them in all of your renting decisions.
  • Make sure everyone who will be on the lease agrees about locations, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the appliances and amenities you want to be included.
  • Decide how much you are willing to pay each month. Make sure to account for rent, utilities, and other living expenses (electricity, cable, phone, parking, heat, etc.)
  • Visit premises (apartments, houses, manufactured home spaces, etc.) that meet your needs. Make sure you choose one that fits your budget.
  • If you and the landlord have agreed that repairs or renovations will be done before you move in, you should put this agreement in writing and include a completion date. If you have agreed to make the repairs yourself, make sure that any financial compensation is included in the agreement. The landlord and tenant should both keep a copy.

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Application Fee

A landlord cannot charge an application fee for residential premises. The landlord may ask you to complete an application form, and will probably ask you to provide your Social Insurance Number, employment information and some references.

Letting your landlord know that you are aware of your rights may help you address this issue. Any money taken by a landlord before the lease has been signed or before rent is due is considered a security deposit.

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Security Deposits and Post-Dated Cheques

When you sign the lease, the landlord may ask for a security deposit. The deposit can be up to one-half of one month's rent. The landlord may be able to use your security deposit when you leave the apartment to cover any rent you have not paid, or for any repairs or maintenance that must be done in the unit because you caused damage or didn't report things in need of repair. A certain amount of wear and tear on a unit is considered normal, and the deposit cannot be used to pay for repairing this.

The landlord must let you know that he/she intends to keep your security deposit, and may not do so unless you agree in writing. If there is disagreement, your landlord may apply to the Residential Tenancies program to keep the deposit.

The landlord must place the security deposit in a trust account. The deposit will earn interest at rates set by the regulations to the RTA. The account remains with the property and not with the landlord, so if there is a change of landlord, the deposit becomes the responsibility of the new landlord.

A landlord can ask you to provide post-dated cheques for your rent, but a landlord cannot ask you to pay more than one month (or week) of rent at a time.

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Moving in

You should inspect the premises when you move in. The inspection can be done with or without the landlord, though it is better if you do it together.

Make a written record of the inspection.

Sign and date the inspection. It is a good idea to get the landlord to sign it as well. If the landlord can't or won't sign, send signed copy to the landlord. Keep a copy.

It is a good idea to take pictures of any damage you find when you move in. Use the date stamp on your camera.

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Signing and Complying With a Lease

Standard Form

The Residential Tenancies Regulations contain a Standard Form of Lease.

A landlord does not have to use this lease, but the lease the landlord uses cannot remove any rights the tenant is given in the standard form. A written lease is always recommended, but if there is no written lease, the standard form applies.

On the lease, the landlord must give you his or her name, address, and telephone number or the name, address, and telephone number of a person responsible for the premises. You must give the landlord the names of anyone who will live on the premises.

Types of Leases

There are two kinds of leases:

  • A periodic lease is one where the lease is signed for a year, a month, or a week. The tenancy can continue year-to-year, month-to-month, or week-to-week until the tenant gives notice they no longer wish to renew it. (See "At the End of a Tenancy.")
  • A fixed-term lease has a specific start and end date. The lease does not renew after that 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 end date in the original lease, a month-to-month lease begins.

Cosigners

Based on your finances, a landlord may require you to have a co-signer. The person who signs as a co-signer may be held responsible for the payment of the rent and/or damages. Make sure your co-signer understands his or her responsibilities.

Documents

When there is a written lease, it must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord must give a signed copy of the lease to at least one tenant named on it. The landlord must also give at least one tenant from any group of tenants on a lease a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act.

The landlord must give both the lease and the RTA within ten calendar days of whichever of these things happens first:

  • you sign the lease
  • you receive keys
  • you move in.

If the landlord does not provide you with a copy of the lease you have signed, you may give a written notice to the landlord to end the tenancy, and leave. You must leave within three months of giving this notice.

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