Rental Leases in Quebec
For more detailed information about lease laws in Québec, Louer.com advises you contact the Régie du logement du Québec (the Quebec Rental Board). Empowered by the provincial government, the mission of the Régie consists of informing tenants and landlords of their rights and obligations under lease agreements, in promoting an agreement between the parties and, filing an amicable settlement, in deciding disputes.
However, before committing yourself to a lease or signing an application, you need to be absolutely sure of your decision. Once signed, these documents become legally-binding contracts.
What is a Lease?
A Lease is a written or oral agreement between a Landlord and a Renter. The Lease or rental agreement creates a legal relationship between the two parties. For the length of time the Lease specifies, the Renter has the duty to pay rent and live in a way that is not harmful to the premises or the neighbouring renters.
In Quebec, the terms of the Lease are subject to the rental statutes and ordinances of the government of Quebec. It is important to note that rental applications and agreements to hold an apartment are usually not the same as an apartment lease; however, their terms and conditions may be legally binding.
Overview of Quebec Lease Laws
Below are aspects of the lease law in Quebec which may affect the signing of a Lease:
What is Legal for a Landlord
- Ask for references for the purposes of a credit check.
- Require a co-signer for Renters without a steady income.
- Limit the occupancy of an apartment to a certain number of people, as stipulated in the Lease.
- Refuse to terminate a Lease at the Renter's request.
- Ask Renters to leave for a short time period in order to conduct major repairs or renovations.
What is Illegal for a Landlord
- Demand additional amounts on deposit or in another form, for instance, to guarantee keys are returned;
- Request the last month's rent at the beginning of a Lease.
- Demand postdated cheques.
- Request payments exceeding one month's rent.
- Request credit card information, bank account numbers, passport numbers, social insurance numbers or information about nationality or citizenship.
In spite of this, many Landlords will request this type of information and insist that the lease application will not be processed unless it is supplied. If this is the case, you can make an appeal to the Régie du logement du Québec. However, you should also use your own good judgement as to what information you will supply.
- Refuse the Renter a copy of the Lease. The lease law stipulates that the Renter is entitled to a copy of the signed Lease within 10 days of it being signed. With regards to an oral Lease, the Landlord must also provide a written document with their name and address, and the obligatory provisions of the Lease to the Renter.
- Increase the rent in mid-Lease.
- Terminate a Lease before it expires.
- Forbid a Renter to sublease or assign an apartment, unless the Landlord has a good reason. The reason must be communicated to the Renter within 15 days from the date of the notification.
The Quebec Lease Law allows for a rent increase when a new Renter occupies an apartment. While the increase is usually between 1%-2%, there is no ceiling on rent increases and a Landlord may try to impose a significant increase on a new Renter.
The Tenants Rights' Association examines the annual costs to landlords and forecasts a percentage increase in rent. This is designed to help tenants decide whether the rent increase they are facing is reasonable. The Régie du logement du Québec can provide the forecast for rent increases for this year.
You have the right to know the amount of rent the last Renter paid. If, after having signed the Lease, you discover that the rent has been significantly increased, the first step is to talk to the Landlord.
There may be a good reason for the substantial rent increase - major repairs or renovations which have been completed, an increase in the services provided by the Landlord, or a large increase in the property taxes paid by the Landlord. Such things are legal justifications for a rent increase.
However, if, after talking to the Landlord, you still believe the rent increase is unjustified, your next step can be to contact the Régie du logement du Québec and ask them to determine whether the increase is justified. This should be done:
- within 10 days of the signing of the Lease if you were told by the Landlord the rent paid by the previous Renter
- and within 2 months if the Landlord failed to do so.
The Regie du logement du Québec will convene a hearing to hear both parties and render a decision on whether the rent increase was appropriate. The rental board will also decide if compensation should be awarded. Until a decision is rendered, you are required to continue to pay the rent as specified in the Lease.
Negotiating with the Landlord should be taken before taking the matter to the Regie du logement. Keep copies of all the correspondence between you, the Landlord and the Regie du logement. All communications should be in writing and sent by registered mail, rather than by word of mouth.
Changes, Renewal or Termination of the Lease
As a Renter, it is imperative you pay close attention to the amount of notice stipulated on the back of the Lease. Both the Landlord and Renter must respect the stipulated time frame when notifying each other of changes to the Lease, the renewal or termination of the Lease.
The best and only way to communicate with your Landlord is in writing, sent by registered mail. It may happen that you will be required to prove that your letter was actually sent.
Changes to the Lease
If the Landlord intends to either increase the rent or make other changes to the Lease, the Landlord is required to notify the Renter of these changes, in writing, at least three months before the Lease expires.
If you want to stay for another year but do not accept the new conditions in the Landlord's letter:
- You must respond to the letter from the Landlord within one month, indicating that you would like to renew the Lease, but do not accept the new changes.
- After having received your response, the Landlord may try to negotiate with you. If no agreement can be reached, the Landlord has the responsibility of requesting the assistance of the Régie du logement du Québec to resolve the matter.
- If you do not respond to the Landlord's letter within one month, your Lease will be automatically renewed under the same conditions as stated in the Landlord's letter. You will then be responsible for the rent for another year.
- If you do not accept the new conditions and do not wish to prolong the Lease, you must respond to the Landlord's letter within one month of its receipt indicating that you do not wish to renew the Lease.
Renewal or Termination of the Lease
If you do not receive a letter from your Landlord, this also means that your Lease will be automatically renewed for another year under the same terms as the original Lease.
The Renter is obligated to notify the Landlord, within the stipulated time frame, of their intention not to renew the Lease. Otherwise, the Lease will be automatically renewed, and the Renter will be held responsible for the rent for another year. A LEASE CANNOT BE TERMINATED BY PAYING A PENALTY.
IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO RENEW YOUR LEASE, regardless of whether you received a letter from the Landlord or not:
- You MUST notify the Landlord IN WRITING at least three months before the end of your Lease.
- Send the Landlord a letter by registered mail stating that you have no intentions of renewing the Lease.
Article published May 28th, 2009
Louer.com, Quebec Residential, Commercial and Vacation Rentals
see: Quebec Rentals