Off Campus Housing

Checklists for Moving In and Moving Out

If you prefer to live off campus, please read the following information carefully. There are several things to consider before you commit yourself and sign a lease.

Moving In: A Checklist for the New Tenant

Understand the Terms of the Lease
A lease is a legal contract between you and the landlord, so you should make sure that you fully understand the terms of the lease before you sign your name to it. Not all landlords require a written agreement to let their premises; however, by law the provisions of the Standard Lease Form and the Residential Tenancies Act apply to verbal as well as written agreements. You may prefer to have a lease so that your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the landlord, are clearly identified. Most landlords use the Standard Lease Form that spells out the general obligations of both landlord and tenant. However, there are some specific options that a landlord can choose regarding the term of the lease and what the rent covers, and you should take careful note of these. First, the landlord may rent his or her property on a yearly, a monthly, or a weekly basis. If you sign a year-to-year lease, your tenancy runs for twelve months, and it automatically renews for another year unless you give three months' notice in writing to your landlord that you plan to leave when the year is up. For example, if you sign a lease that begins on September 1, then you must notify the landlord of your intention to leave by June 1 of the following year. A yearly lease gives you the advantage of long-term accommodation. However, if you plan on leaving Antigonish for the summer, or if your stay in town is going to be short, then you may prefer a monthly lease. This is not always possible, since many landlords favour yearly leases, but you may certainly inquire if a monthly lease is possible. When you rent accommodation month-to-month, you need only provide one month' s notice in writing before you depart, and you do not have to worry about subletting your rooms over the summer. The same advantage applies to a week-to-week lease; however, if your rental agreement is weekly, you need only provide one week' s notice in writing to your landlord that you plan to leave. Traditionally the Notice to Quit is on a calendar basis, that is, you provide one full calendar month or one full calendar week of notice to your landlord. Second, your landlord can choose to include electricity, heat and other necessities in your lease, or they may be excluded in which case you must pay for them separately and in addition to your rent. You should be very clear about what is included in the terms of the lease, as this can make a substantial difference in your monthly expenses. Inquire if your lease includes hot water, heat, parking, and electricity. You should also ask about the rules and regulations of the building. Ask the landlord who is responsible for snow removal and lawn care, and, if you plan on sharing your rent and accommodation with others, if there is any restriction on the number of occupants. You may also wish to inquire about garbage removal; if laundry facilities are available in the building or located nearby; whether smoking is prohibited; whether pets are allowed; and if the building is generally quiet.

Inspect the Premises

Before signing a lease, examine the property carefully. Make sure there is good lighting around the building, especially near the doors. It is a good idea to walk through the unit with the landlord, noting any items in need of correction or repair. You can obtain a checklist of what to look for from the Nova Scotia Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs (902-893-5999), or you can make your own. Some tenants find it useful to document the state of the apartment, using a camera or a video camera. Your inspection should include checking for: secure windows with screens; secure doors; fire provisions (a second door or fire escape; smoke detectors; fire extinguishers); storage and closet space; good plumbing; no electrical problems. If you are renting a house, make sure the basement is dry. Make sure you write down the results of your inspection, sign and date the checklist, and have the landlord do the same. You should both keep a copy of the inspection report. If the landlord gives you a commitment to repair, paint, or otherwise improve the unit, ask for the commitment in writing, including the date on which the repairs or improvements will be completed.

Security Deposit

Your landlord may require a security deposit on the apartment. By law, this deposit cannot exceed one half of one month' s rent, and you should make sure to get a receipt when you pay it. When you leave the premises in good repair, and unchanged from the conditions noted in the inspection report, your security deposit should be returned to you, with interest.

Obligations of the Landlord

The landlord must give you a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act, at no cost to you. You may be asked to sign a receipt indicating that you have received one. The landlord must also supply the name, address, and phone number of the person responsible for maintenance of the premises, so that you have someone to call if repairs are needed (for example, a leaky faucet). You should also be given the name of someone to contact in the event of an emergency. If you encounter problems during your tenancy, you should first discuss it with your landlord. If you cannot resolve the problem, you should contact the StFX Off-Campus Co-ordinator (867-2440) and the Nova Scotia Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs (902-893-5999) for advice and information. Be aware that while the landlord is responsible for care and upkeep of the building, you are responsible for insuring your personal belongings.

Moving Out: A Checklist for the Departing Tenant

Notice to Quit
When you decide to end your lease, you must provide Notice to Quit in writing to the landlord. It must be delivered personally or by registered mail. The amount of notice you must give your landlord depends on whether you have a yearly, monthly, or weekly lease; see the section, Understand the Terms of the Lease, above. The Residential Tenancies Act provides guidance on what you must say in the Notice to Quit, so when you sign a lease and your landlord gives you a copy of this Act, keep it safely until you are ready to move out. Once you give your landlord Notice to Quit, he or she may wish to show the apartment to prospective tenants. Normally, landlords let their tenants know in advance, but they are not required to inform you; by law they are entitled to show the unit at any reasonable hour without informing you in advance.

Inspect the Premises

On the day you move out, the landlord should inspect the unit before you fully vacate. If you have a written inspection report or checklist from the day you moved in, re-read it carefully when you move out to see if anything has changed. It is a good idea to make a list of any changes to the unit, as well as its general condition; have the landlord sign this list, and ensure that you both keep a signed copy. You may wish to take pictures, or use a video camera, to record the condition of the apartment; this is especially important if the landlord is not available to inspect the premises when you leave. You are responsible for leaving the unit and the appliances clean and neat, and for repairing any damage that may have occurred during your tenancy. This does not include repairing any equipment or appliance that may have broken down while you were resident; household repairs are the landlord' s responsibility. All keys must be returned to the landlord or representative at the end of your tenancy.

Security Deposit

The security deposit, with interest, should be returned to you within ten days of the end of your tenancy. If your landlord wishes to apply the security deposit and interest to any outstanding rent or damages, he or she must file an application with the local Residential Tenancies Board within ten days of the end of your tenancy.