Repossession is an exception to a tenant’s right to stay in their apartment. A landlord can repossess (take back) a rental unit to live there or house a family member. But the landlord must respect certain rules, and tenants have the right to contest such requests.
What is repossession?
Normally, tenants have the right to stay in their home as long as they want. In legal terms, this is called the “right to maintain occupancy”. Repossession is one of the few exceptions to this right.
In general, landlords can repossess a rental unit to do any of these things:
- live there themselves
- have their children or parents live there
- have any other relative, or family member by marriage, live there if the landlord is that person’s main source of support (for example, a mother-in-law or son-in-law)
- have an ex-spouse (married or civil union) live there after a separation or divorce if the landlord is the spouse’s main source of support
Landlords cannot repossess a rental unit for other reasons unless the tenant agrees to end their lease.
Important: Legally, repossession is different from eviction. Landlords planning certain major projects may be able to evict tenants, but only if the landlord meets specific conditions. For more information, read our article on eviction.
When repossession is not allowed
In some cases, landlords are not allowed to repossess an apartment even if they are doing it for a reason usually permitted by law.
If the landlord is a company
Only a person can repossess rental housing. If a company owns a building, the company’s owner cannot repossess an apartment in the building.
If there are multiple owners
Co-owners of a rental unit cannot repossess it unless they are partners (common-law, married or civil union). For example, if two friends buy a building together, neither of them can repossess an apartment.
If a similar unit is available
A landlord cannot repossess an apartment if they own a similar apartment that’s available on the date of repossession. Rental units are similar when
- the rent is about the same,
- they are similar in size (square feet and number of rooms), and
- they are located close to each other.
For example, a landlord cannot take back a 4 1/2 room apartment if there’s a similar one available on the same floor of the building. The landlord would have to repossess the available apartment.
But the landlord could still reach an agreement with the tenant to repossess the tenant’s apartment even if a similar apartment is available.
When a low-income senior lives in the rental unit
A landlord cannot repossess a tenant’s home if the tenant, or his or her partner, meets these 3 conditions:
- is 70 years old or over,
- has lived in the rental unit for 10 years or more,
- has an annual income that qualifies them for low-rental housing (HLM).
But the landlord can repossess a senior’s home in some cases. For example, a landlord who is 70 years old or over can repossess an apartment to live in it even if the tenant meets all the above conditions.
Notice of repossession
The landlord must send a written notice to the tenant to repossess a rental unit. The notice of repossession must contain this information:
- the date of repossession
- the name of the person who will live in the apartment and their relationship to the landlord,
- the section of the Civil Code of Québec that contains the rules on evicting seniors
The landlord must also respect the following deadlines when sending the notice:
Length of the lease:
At the latest, the notice must be sent:
Lease is for over six months
6 months before the end of the lease
Lease is for 6 months or less
1 month before the end of the lease
Lease has no set length (also known as a lease with an indeterminate term)
6 months before the date the landlord wants to repossess the apartment
The landlord can use the model notice of repossession created by the Tribunal administratif du logement (rental board, or TAL).
Important! Landlords do not have to compensate tenants (give them money) when they take back their apartment. But the landlord can choose to offer compensation.
If the landlord applies to the TAL to repossess the rental unit, the TAL could order the landlord to pay for things like the tenant’s moving expenses.
What are the tenant’s options?
The tenant can accept or refuse the repossession. The tenant has one month after receiving the notice of repossession to inform the landlord that they accept or refuse. A tenant who does not respond to the notice is legally considered to have refused the repossession.
The tenant and landlord can also negotiate an agreement to end the lease. For example, the agreement might say that the landlord will pay the tenant a sum of money to move out of the apartment on a specific date.
A tenant refuses. What are the landlord’s options?
If the tenant refuses the repossession, or if the tenant and the landlord cannot come to an agreement, the landlord has two options:
- decide not to repossess the apartment
- apply to the TAL for permission to repossess the apartment
Landlords who want to repossess an apartment despite a tenant’s refusal must get permission from the TAL. The landlord has one month after the tenant refuses repossession to apply to the TAL for permission.
The date the tenant refuses repossession is
- the date the tenant notified the landlord of their refusal, or
- one month after the landlord sent the notice of repossession if the tenant did not respond to the notice.
Landlords are responsible for applying to the TAL in this situation. The TAL can close a landlord’s file if the landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedures. To learn more about TAL procedures, read our article Hearings at the Tribunal administratif du logement.
The TAL Hearing
At the hearing, the landlord must prove that they want to repossess the rental unit for the reason stated in the notice of repossession and not for another reason. For example, a landlord cannot take back an apartment just to get rid of a tenant.
If the TAL authorizes the repossession, it can also order the landlord to respect conditions. For example, the TAL can postpone the date the tenant must move out or order the landlord to pay the tenant reasonable moving expenses.
If the TAL refuses the repossession, the tenant can stay in their home and the lease continues as usual. If the TAL makes this decision after the lease renewal date, the lease is renewed automatically. However, the landlord can apply to the TAL for a rent increase within one month of the decision refusing repossession.
If the repossession goes ahead (or doesn’t)
If the tenant accepts the repossession, they usually move out on the repossession date mentioned in the notice.
But the repossession date might be later than the date in the notice if the tenant and the landlord agree on a different date or if the TAL sets a different date.
Whatever procedures may have taken place, the lease is automatically renewed if the tenant continues to live in the rental unit with the landlord’s permission after the scheduled date of repossession.
When a landlord acts in bad faith
A tenant can ask the TAL for compensation if their landlord repossessed their apartment in bad faith. A tenant can ask for compensation even if they accepted the repossession. Tenants have three years after discovering that their landlord acted in bad faith to apply to the TAL for compensation.
Landlords act in bad faith when they repossess an apartment
- for a reason not allowed by the law,
- under false pretenses, or
- to harm a tenant.
It is also bad faith for a landlord to act in an excessive or unreasonable way.
For example, a landlord has acted in bad faith if they claimed to repossess an apartment to live in it themselves but instead rented it to another tenant at a higher rent.
The TAL can also order landlords to pay punitive damages, which means extra money as punishment for acting in bad faith.