A residential lease is a contract between you and your landlord. In this contract, you agree to pay rent, and the landlord agrees to let you live in her rental until and to ensure that you enjoy it in peace.
In 1996, to reduce conflicts over lease agreements, the Régie du logement (rental board) created a model lease that everyone must use.
All leases have important features that you should know about.
In this article, Éducaloi explains the ins-and-outs of residential leases.
What is a lease?
A lease is a contract to rent a rental unit. It is signed between a tenant and a landlord.
In the lease, the landlord agrees to provide the tenant with peaceful enjoyment of the apartment in exchange for rent.
A lease can have either a set length (such as a 12-month lease) or no set length (such as a month-by-month lease). Set-length leases end when the time runs out. Leases with no set length end when either the tenant or landlord chooses to put an end to the lease.
The lease and building rules must be written in French unless you and the landlord agree on another language.
What is meant by a "residential" lease?
It is a specific kind of lease with specific legal rules.
Residential leases don’t only apply 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 following leases are not residential:
- renting a room in a hotel
- renting a room in a health and social services institution
- renting a room in the main residence of the owner, unless the owner is renting out (or offering for rent) more than two rooms and the rented room has its own independent entrance and bathroom
- renting a unit in a vacation resort
- renting a unit in which more than 1/3 of the floor area is used for purposes that are not residential
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 tenant’s new address
- be written in the same language (French, English, etc.) as the lease
- follow any other legal rules
Usually, a notice that does not respect these requirements cannot be used against the person who receives it. It is as though notice was never given. For more information, look at sample notices on the website of the Régie du logement.
Are 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 are important, especially when they say you cannot have a pet in your dwelling. The lease and the rules the only things that determine whether you can keep pets. (See our article Pets in Rental Housing.)
Does the landlord have to give me a copy of the lease?
Yes. The landlord must give you a copy of the lease within 10 days of when it is signed. Since September 1, 1996, the standard lease of the Régie du logement (rental board) must be used for any new lease agreement, whether it is for a room, apartment, condominium or house.
When you lease is renewed, you and your landlord can agree to change certain things in the lease. Before the renewal begins, the landlord must give you a written document listing all the changes.
Can I find out the rent of the previous tenant?
Yes. When you are signing a new lease, the landlord must give you a notice showing the lowest amount of rent paid in the 12 months before the start of your lease, or the rent fixed by the Régie du logement.
The landlord does not have to give out this information for these kinds of rental units:
- a housing cooperative
- low-rent housing
- a new building
- a building whose destination (use) has recently been changed
If you are a new tenant or are sub-letting, and you are paying more rent than the rent paid in the 12 months prior to your lease, you can ask the Régie du logement to fix the amount of rent you should pay. However, this request must be made within these time limits:
- within 10 days of signing the lease
- within two months of the start of the lease, if you have not received the notice indicating the rent paid in the previous 12 months
- within two months from the day you discover that the landlord made a false statement in his notice concerning the rent paid in the previous 12 months
Are there things that cannot be put in leases?
In a lease, you and the landlord 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 the lease can go against what the law requires. If it does, it will be treated as if it did not exist.
Here are some things that are not allowed:
- a statement that limits or releases the landlord from his responsibility for the rental unit or that makes you responsible for damages that are not your fault
- a statement saying that assigning or sub-letting the unit is not allowed
- a statement that changes your rights if the number of occupants in your unit increases during your lease (unless this is justified by the size of the unit)
- a statement that makes the full amount of rent due if you miss one payment
- a statement in a fixed-term lease of 12 months or less that provides for a change of your rent during the term of your lease
I only have a verbal lease. Do I still have rights?
Yes. This kind of lease is valid and creates more or less the same rights and responsibilities as a written lease.
If the verbal lease does not have a set length (there is no agreement with the landlord about when the lease will end or be renewed), it can be cancelled by the tenant with one month’s notice.
That this is not the case for a lease with a set length, 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 End a Lease.
My current landlord is selling the building. The future owner says I must leave. Do I have to leave?
No. Tenants who are respecting their responsibilities have a right to stay, even if the building’s owner changes.
However, the new owner can require a tenant to leave if she wants to subdivide, demolish or enlarge the rental unit or change its use. She can also take back the unit if she wants to live there herself or if she wants 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 Rental Housing or Eviction.
Aside from situations, nothing prevents a landlord from offering a tenant money to give up the right to stay. The tenant is free to accept or reject this kind of offer.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.