A residential lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant. In this contract, the tenant agrees to pay rent, and the landlord agrees to let the tenant live in the rental unit and ensures the tenant enjoys it in peace.
What is a residential lease?
A lease is a contract to rent a rental unit. It is signed between a tenant and a landlord. In it, the landlord agrees to provide the tenant with a rental unit in good condition in exchange for rent.
Residential leases don’t apply only to apartments: these leases can also apply to renting a room, a mobile home or even the land on which to install a mobile home.
The rules for residential leases don’t apply to these rentals:
- renting a room in a hotel
- renting a room in a health and social services institution
- renting a room in the landlord’s main residence if the landlord rents less than two rooms and the rented room doesn’t have its own independent entrance or bathroom
- renting a unit in a vacation resort
- renting a unit in which more than 1/3 of the floor area is not used for residential purposes
What form should be used for the lease?
Since September 1, 1996, the lease form of the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL, formerly Régie du logement or rental board) must be used. The form must be used for all new leases, whether for a room, an apartment or a house.
The lease and building rules must be written in French unless the landlord and tenant agree on another language.
When a landlord or tenant gives a notice, what are the rules?
Any notice concerning the lease, except for a landlord’s notice to enter the rental unit, must respect these rules:
- be in writing
- be sent to the address shown on the lease or to the recipient’s new address
- be written in the same language (French, English, etc.) as the lease
The website of the TAL has model notice forms.
Are the building rules part of the lease?
Yes, these rules form part of the lease. The landlord must give tenants a copy of these rules before the lease is signed. These rules often cover things such as the peaceful enjoyment and maintenance of individual units and common areas.
These rules can say, for example, that tenants can’t keep pets in in their units. (See our article Pets in Rental Housing.)
Must the landlord give the tenant a copy of the lease?
Yes. The landlord must give the tenant a copy of the lease within 10 days of when it is signed.
When the lease is renewed, the tenant and landlord can agree to change certain things in the lease. Before the renewal begins, the landlord must give the tenant a written document listing all the changes.
Can a tenant find out the rent of the previous tenant?
Yes. When a lease is signed, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice stating the lowest rent paid in the 12 months before the start of the lease, or the rent set by the TAL. This information is usually written in Section G of the lease.
If the rent in the lease is more than the rent paid in the previous 12 months, the new tenant can ask the TAL to set the amount of the rent (unless the TAL has already done this for the year in question). If the TAL does set the rent, it will use the old rent as a starting point and apply the regular criteria for calculating rent increases to arrive at a new rent.
For example, Marisa signed a new lease with a monthly rent of $1000. The landlord indicated in the lease that the lowest rent paid in the previous 12 months was $800. Marisa therefore asked the TAL to set the rent. The TAL used the old rent ($800) as a starting point and, applying the regular criteria for calculating rent increases, granted an increase of 2% ($16). Marisa’s new rent will therefore be $816 per month.
The application to set the rent must be made within these time limits:
- within 10 days of signing the lease
- within two months of the start of the lease, if the tenant has not received notice of the rent paid in the previous 12 months
- within two months from the day the tenant discovered that the landlord made a false statement about the rent paid in the previous 12 months
The tenant can’t ask the TAL to set the rent for rental units in these kinds of buildings:
- a housing cooperative if the tenant is a member
- low-rent housing
- a new building
- a building where no units were ever rented before
For these kinds of rental units, the landlord doesn’t have to notify the tenant of the previous rent.
Are there things that can’t be put in leases?
Yes. In a lease, the landlord and tenant can agree on issues such as rent payments, the use of certain parts of the property (e.g., parking spaces) and any work to be done (e.g., general repairs, painting).
But nothing in a lease can go against what the law requires. If it does, it will be treated as though it doesn’t exist.
Here are some things that are not allowed:
- a statement that limits or releases the landlord from responsibility for the rental unit or that makes the tenant responsible for damages that are not the tenant’s fault
- a statement saying the tenant is not allowed to assign or sublet the unit
- a statement that changes the tenant’s rights if the number of occupants in the tenant’s unit increases during the lease (unless it’s justified by the size of the unit)
- a statement that the tenant must pay rent for the rest of the lease if one payment is missed
- a statement in a fixed-term lease of 12 months or less that says the rent can be changed during the term of the lease
Does the tenant have rights if the lease is oral (not written)?
Yes. This kind of lease is valid and creates the same rights and responsibilities as a written lease. But the landlord must give the tenant a special form.
If the landlord and tenant didn’t agree on when the oral lease will end or be renewed, the tenant can cancel it by giving two-months’ notice.
This is not the case for a lease with a fixed period, which must be respected until it ends, except in situations set out by law or with the landlord’s agreement. To find out more, read our article A Tenant’s Right to Cancel a Lease.
Can a person who buys the building force the tenant to leave?
As a rule, no. Tenants who are respecting their responsibilities have a right to stay, even if the building’s owner changes.
But a new owner who wants to subdivide, demolish or enlarge the rental unit or change its use can usually require a tenant to leave. The new owner can also take back the unit to live in it or to house certain family members there. In these situations, the tenant might have a right to be compensated with money. To find out more, see our article Repossession of an Apartment or Eviction.
Important! People aged 70 and over have an added protection in cases where the owner wants to evict them or retake possession of their units.
Aside from these situations, nothing prevents a landlord from offering a tenant money to give up the right to stay. The tenant is free to accept or refuse.