eCaseNote 2019 No. 01 January 15, 2019 / eCasenote

New Year, New Residential Tenancies Act
Residential Tenancies Act, 2018 SNL 2018 C r-14.2

As of midnight on January 1, 2019, the Residential Tenancies Act, 2018 (the “new Act”) repealed the Residential Tenancies Act, 2000 (the “old Act”), and in doing so brought several changes to residential tenancy law in Newfoundland and Labrador. The new Act updates its predecessor in many ways. Here are the highlights:

  1. Tenants can terminate their lease early in cases of family violence

The new Act allows tenants who are experiencing family violence to terminate their rental agreement without penalty by providing 30 days’ notice. To avail of this provision, the tenant must first attain a certificate from the Director of Residential Tenancies (the “Director”). To do so, the tenant must provide the Director (a) an emergency protection order, a restraining order, or a peace bond against a person residing with the tenant or (b) a statement from a physician, nurse, social worker, or police officer indicating that the tenant or a child residing with the tenant has been the subject of family violence.

  1. The new Act applies to boarding houses and accommodations provided by charitable organizations

The old Act did not apply to boarding houses or accommodations provided by religious, charitable, or non-profit organizations. The new Act does. There is, however, a new exclusion for accommodation by a religious, charitable, or non-profit organization on a “transient basis.” As the Act applies to week-to-week tenancies, it is possible that the Director will interpret “transient” to mean “less than one week.”

  1. The new Act increases penalties

The new Act increases the maximum fines available for a contravention of the Act. Previously, the maximum fine was $400 or 4 months imprisonment. Now, the maximum penalty for an individual is $3,000 or 4 months imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for a corporation is $10,000.

  1. The new Act provides stricter rules around oral and implied agreements

In the case of oral or implied rental agreements, the landlord must, within 10 days of making the agreement, provide the tenant with written notice detailing:

  • the names and contact information of the tenant and landlord;
  • the unit’s address;
  • the date on which the agreement was made;
  • the dates on which the tenancy starts and ends;
  • the amount of rent payable and the security deposit;
  • statutory requirements; and
  • any other terms and conditions.

If a landlord has not provided written notice, the tenant is under no obligation to pay rent.

  1. landlords must give six months notice to increase rent

For month-to-month and fixed term rentals, the landlord must now give a full six months notice to tenants before increasing rent.

  1. Landlords only need a security deposit account if renting three or more units

The old Act mandated landlords to open a separate account in which to hold security deposits. For landlords holding small amounts, this was a cumbersome rule and of little benefit to tenants. The new Act corrects this deficiency by only requiring a separate security deposit account if the landlord is renting three or more units.

  1. Landlords have stricter obligations in returning security deposits

Under the old Act, landlords could hold a security deposit for 15 days following a tenancy’s expiration. Now, they can only hold the deposit for 10 days.

Where a landlord believes he or she is entitled to a security deposit, the landlord and tenant may agree to this in writing. If agreement is not possible, either party may apply to the Director for a decision on the matter. If the tenant applies, and the landlord does not reply within 10 days, the landlord automatically loses his or her entitlement.

  1. Landlords have fewer obligations in dealing with abandoned personal property

The new Act makes it easier for landlords to clean up after tenants who have abandoned personal property in a rental unit. Previously, landlords had to remove and store abandoned personal property. That option is still available; however, landlords can now also leave personal property on the premises if it is safe to do so. Further, where landlords were under the old Act required to store abandoned personal property for 60 days, they are now only required to do so for 30 days, after which point they may sell it.

The comments contained in this eCaseNote provide general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. For more information or specific advice on matters of interest, please call our offices at (709) 579-2081.