How Sask landlords are covering their assets

A good lease agreement will not only save time and money, but also potential legal problems.

The best document any new landlord in Saskatchewan can start with is the standard lease contract provided by the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association (SRHIA). It’s been vetted by the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT), the provincial body in charge of handling landlord and tenant disputes, and has the added expertise of experienced landlords who’ve dealt with numerous tenant problems over the years.

For instance, the agreement includes a clause specifically protecting landlords from future insurance problems due to hoarders, who may block doorways or fire exits with excessive piles of junk.

It also protects landlords from damages caused by self-proclaimed interior-designers or handymen. Under the agreement, tenants must get the written consent of the landlord before redecorating or renovating the unit, says SHRIA Executive Officer Paula Simon.

“Unless the work has been done with the landlord’s permission, it’s not considered decorating; it’s considered damage. And in this case, the damage deposit will be used to have the alterations undone.”

Another benefit the agreement includes is the requirement for tenants to steam clean the carpets upon moving out. If the tenants do not, the landlord can use their security deposit to have the work done (See Security deposits).

A final noteworthy condition is that the agreement prohibits aquariums and waterbeds unless the tenant provides full insurance coverage, Simon says, adding that this can save landlords from potentially spending thousands of dollars on repairs.  

“Our tenancy agreement is pretty extensive, I think. And the Office of Residential Tenancies has approved it, and they refer any landlords who need a contract to us,” she adds.

To get a more detailed account of the protections provided in the agreement, log on to SRHIA.ca.

Room for improvement
While SRHIA has a handle on most landlord concerns, there is still one issue the group is actively lobbying the provincial government to change.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), landlords are obliged to store the belongings a tenant leaves behind until the tenant can collect them. If the tenant fails to collect these belongings, the landlord can apply to the ORT for a “request to dispose.”

This obligation has developed into a large problem for many SRHIA members who’ve had to store mouldy or bed-bug-ridden furniture that then can contaminate their belongings, Simon says.

The other option is to leave the tenant’s belongings in the rental unit. But that, of course, means landlords stand to lose up to a couple of month’ rent while they wait for a tenant to collect any belongings or for the ORT to approve a request to dispose, Simon says.

“That’s why we would like to see that any junk that’s left behind is viewed as abandoned. And unless, it’s picked up within 48 hours the landlord can dispose of it as they see fit.”

SRHIA has met with Saskatchewan Minister of Justice Don Morgan and the ORT director Dale Beck, but the issue is yet to be settled.

Beck says the law has been structured to protect tenants’ property rights, while giving landlords legal recourse if tenant’s fail to collect their belongings within a reasonable period of time.

“The law is and always has been that a person who owns something is entitled to it and the mere fact that somebody else has got possession of it doesn’t deprive them of ownership. So changing the law to say that you’ve got 48 hours after you’ve vacated the premises to remove your belongings or else the landlord is free to dispose of it is a fairly significant change to the law.”  

In the interim, the ORT has offered to speed the approval process for disposal requests, Simon says. Applications, which cost $50, are typically processed within three to four days now.

Hazy legalities
Many parts of Canada continue to pass laws banning smoking in certain settings, but the issue remains hazy in some circumstances.  

In Saskatchewan, smoking is prohibited in enclosed common areas of multi-unit residential dwellings and within three metres of all doorways, windows and air intakes of enclosed public places. Landlords can also ban smoking in or around their properties, but if they do not include a no-smoking condition in the lease agreement, the tenant is free to smoke in his or her rental unit.
The law as it stands now, however, includes a substantial loophole, Simon says. Even though smoking is prohibited three metres away from a public building, tenants can still smoke on their balcony, which may be only one or two metres away from the balconies of other tenants.

“It’s sort of a contradiction. But because that’s a person’s private dwelling, they are allowed to smoke on the balcony.”

 

Assets
A good lease agreement will not only save time and money, but also potential legal problems.

The best document any new landlord in Saskatchewan can start with is the standard lease contract provided by the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association (SRHIA). It’s been vetted by the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT), the provincial body in charge of handling landlord and tenant disputes, and has the added expertise of experienced landlords who’ve dealt with numerous tenant problems over the years.

For instance, the agreement includes a clause specifically protecting landlords from future insurance problems due to hoarders, who may block doorways or fire exits with excessive piles of junk. It also protects landlords from damages caused by self-proclaimed interior-designers or handymen. Under the agreement, tenants must get the written consent of the landlord before redecorating or renovating the unit, says SHRIA Executive Officer Paula Simon.

“Unless the work has been done with the landlord’s permission, it’s not considered decorating; it’s considered damage. And in this case, the damage deposit will be used to have the alterations undone.”

Another benefit the agreement includes is the requirement for tenants to steam clean the carpets upon moving out. If the tenants do not, the landlord can use their security deposit to have the work done (See Security deposits).

A final noteworthy condition is that the agreement prohibits aquariums and waterbeds unless the tenant provides full insurance coverage, Simon says, adding that this can save landlords from potentially spending thousands of dollars on repairs.  

“Our tenancy agreement is pretty extensive, I think. And the Office of Residential Tenancies has approved it, and they refer any landlords who need a contract to us,” she adds.

To get a more detailed account of the protections provided in the agreement, log on to SRHIA.ca.

Room for improvement
While SRHIA has a handle on most landlord concerns, there is still one issue the group is actively lobbying the provincial government to change.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), landlords are obliged to store the belongings a tenant leaves behind until the tenant can collect them. If the tenant fails to collect these belongings, the landlord can apply to the ORT for a “request to dispose.”

This obligation has developed into a large problem for many SRHIA members who’ve had to store mouldy or bed-bug-ridden furniture that then can contaminate their belongings, Simon says.

The other option is to leave the tenant’s belongings in the rental unit. But that, of course, means landlords stand to lose up to a couple of month’ rent while they wait for a tenant to collect any belongings or for the ORT to approve a request to dispose, Simon says.

“That’s why we would like to see that any junk that’s left behind is viewed as abandoned. And unless, it’s picked up within 48 hours the landlord can dispose of it as they see fit.”

SRHIA has met with Saskatchewan Minister of Justice Don Morgan and the ORT director Dale Beck, but the issue is yet to be settled.

Beck says the law has been structured to protect tenants’ property rights, while giving landlords legal recourse if tenant’s fail to collect their belongings within a reasonable period of time.

“The law is and always has been that a person who owns something is entitled to it and the mere fact that somebody else has got possession of it doesn’t deprive them of ownership. So changing the law to say that you’ve got 48 hours after you’ve vacated the premises to remove your belongings or else the landlord is free to dispose of it is a fairly significant change to the law.”  

In the interim, the ORT has offered to speed the approval process for disposal requests, Simon says. Applications, which cost $50, are typically processed within three to four days now.

Hazy legalities
Many parts of Canada continue to pass laws banning smoking in certain settings, but the issue remains hazy in some circumstances.  

In Saskatchewan, smoking is prohibited in enclosed common areas of multi-unit residential dwellings and within three metres of all doorways, windows and air intakes of enclosed public places. Landlords can also ban smoking in or around their properties, but if they do not include a no-smoking condition in the lease agreement, the tenant is free to smoke in his or her rental unit.

The law as it stands now, however, includes a substantial loophole, Simon says. Even though smoking is prohibited three metres away from a public building, tenants can still smoke on their balcony, which may be only one or two metres away from the balconies of other tenants.

“It’s sort of a contradiction. But because that’s a person’s private dwelling, they are allowed to smoke on the balcony.”

‘A matter of choice’
After spending a day discussing the issue of smoking in apartment buildings with landlords, social housing providers and developers at a seminar in October last year, Simon says the association decided that since landlords still have the ability to ban smoking in and around their properties the loophole is inconsequential. It can simply be stated in the lease that the tenant is not permitted to smoke on the balcony.

The seminar attendees thoroughly discussed the effects of second hand smoke in rental buildings, but concluded that the ability to permit or not permit smoking is a landlord’s right.  

“It’s a matter of a landlord’s choice. Some landlords just don’t have a problem with it. And if that’s their mindset, they wouldn’t appreciate legislation forcing them to change their property into a completely smoke-free building.”

For now, the rule is if the tenant asks about smoking in a building, the landlord is required to give an honest answer. But ORT director Beck says there could also be legal ramifications if landlords fail to disclose this information.

“If the landlord or the tenant misrepresents what the circumstances are, then they can be accountable for that misrepresentation,” he says. “Under general contract law, if you misrepresent the facts of the contract, you can be liable for the damages.”

 

(No) pets allowed
What is also a matter of choice is whether or not to permit pets in the property. Landlords have the option of banning pets or allowing them with or without conditions. The most common condition is a separate security deposit.

“Again, it’s a matter choice and the tenant either accepts what the landlord is offering or not. Many landlords have to have the unit thoroughly cleaned after the tenant moves out because the next tenant may have allergies. So it’s going to step up what the landlord needs to do in the end.”

Causes for eviction
If a tenant is smoking or keeping a pet in the property and both are explicitly prohibited in the lease agreement, the landlord can start the eviction process.

The landlord must issue a written warning stating that the tenant must comply with the conditions of the lease agreement or he or she will be evicted within a month. The notice of eviction must comply with section 63 of the RTA, so it’s best to download the approved form drafted by the ORT at www.justice.gov.sk.ca/ORT.

If the tenant has not stopped smoking, has not gotten rid of his or her pet or has not appealed the notice of eviction during the given time period, the landlord can apply to the ORT for an order of possession. Once the order of possession has been approved, the ORT issues a writ of possession to the provincial court.

A court official responsible for evicting the tenant, known as a sheriff in Saskatchewan, is then legally entitled by the writ of possession to remove the tenant from the property.

Late payment of rent
It’d be best to ask for post-dated cheques to avoid the hassle of collecting the rent altogether. But if that isn’t an option, landlords do have some protections.

First, they can charge the tenant a fee, if specified in the lease, for late payment of rent. If the tenant has still not paid the rent in 15 days, the landlord can apply to the ORT for an order of possession.

After the tenant has been evicted, the landlord may obtain an order from the ORT for unpaid rent and for the cost of repairs or other damages. The owing money can be collected through the courts, which may include wage garnishment or seizure of property.

Security deposits
Landlords in Saskatchewan can collect a security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent in two instalments. The landlord may require the first half of the payment to be made at the beginning of the tenancy or within 30 days of receipt of a written demand for payment. The second half must be paid within 60 days of the receipt.

At the end of the tenancy, the landlord has seven days to give notice of a claim against the tenant’s security deposit or to obtain written consent from the tenant to use or access the deposit.

If the tenant fails to provide a forwarding address for the security deposit, the landlord is not required to provide a notice of claim.

If the tenant has provided a forwarding address, and the landlord has failed to return the security deposit, the tenant may apply to the ORT for an order requiring the landlord to return the deposit.

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