Renting in Nova Scotia

Governing or Regulatory Body

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations

Name of Act / Regulations

Residential Tenancies Act

Types of Housing/Living Arrangements Covered by the Provincial Legislation

All residential rental premises

Exclusions: universities, colleges, other institutions of learning, hospitals, prisons, hotels, homes for special care.

Types of Rental Periods

Leases can be week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year and fixed term.

Is a signed lease required?

A standard form of lease is prescribed in the Regulations. If a written lease is not used, or if another form of lease other than the prescribed version is used, all terms of the standard form of lease still apply.

Is a signed move in/move out condition report required?

No. It is voluntary and a copy is available online at the Government of Nova Scotia site. (SeeContact Information below.)

Deposits

Security deposits may not exceed ½ of a month's rent. Landlords must hold security deposits in a trust account. The landlord has to return the deposit with 1% per year interest at the end of the tenancy. If landlords want to keep some or all of the deposit, they must apply to Residential Tenancies for permission.

Key Money

Requiring key money is illegal. The only money landlords are allowed to collect is the security deposit and first month's rent; however, tenants may face a fee if they lock themselves out and new keys need to be issued to them as long as this fee is disclosed in the lease.

Post-dated Cheques

Post-dated cheques may only be requested as long as the specific box on the standard lease is ticked; otherwise they cannot be required.

Renewal of a Lease Term

Year-to-year leases renew for another year if no notice is given. Notice must be given three months in advance of the anniversary date. If tenants serve a Notice to Quit under their original lease 3 months before the end of its term, they may ask the landlord to change the tenancy to a month-to-month lease. Landlords cannot arbitrarily deny this request.

Terminating a Tenancy (Lease): Notice and Timing

Prior to a lease terminating, it is the responsibility of landlord and tenant to re-negotiate terms or terminate the lease. Tenants may not give notice during a fixed term lease. Fixed term leases expire automatically. Once a fixed term expires, the landlord has no further obligation to the tenant. If the tenant remains in the unit after the end of the fixed term and the landlord does not object, a month-to-month lease will apply. When a lease is renewed, unless otherwise agreed, other than the new term of the lease, all other conditions of the lease remain the same.

Different notices apply depending on the lease term:

All notices must be in writing.

Assignments and Sublets

In Nova Scotia sublets, not assignment, are referenced in the legislation. Landlords must approve the new tenant and may not arbitrarily deny a sublet. Requests to sublet need not be in writing. A sublet fee may be charged if it is specified on the lease. The fee must reflect actual landlord expenses related to the sublet.

Rent Increases: Notice and Timing

There are no rent controls in Nova Scotia. Landlords determine rental rates for their units. Landlords of all types of residential rental units may only raise the rent once in 12 months and must give written notice at least 4 months before the anniversary date of the tenancy. In a mobile home park, a tenant may request, within 30 days of receiving notice of an increase, that a Residential Tenancies Officer review the rent increase.

Late Rent Payments

Rent is considered late after 30 days. After 30 days, the landlord may give notice to the tenant to vacate in the next 15 days. If the tenant does not pay and leave, the landlord may have the matter heard before Residential Tenancies within the following 2-5 weeks. A Residential Tenancies Officer may issue an order for the tenant to pay the rent or to pay the rent and move out.

Evictions

A landlord may ask Residential Tenancies to issue an order stating that the tenant must move out for two main reasons:

The landlord must apply to have the matter mediated or a hearing held. Both mediation and hearings are forms of dispute resolution. If mediation is chosen, both parties will attempt to come to an agreement and then they sign a mediated settlement, which is a contract between the two parties. If the hearing proceeds, the landlord and the tenant will be heard and may provide evidence to support their application. A Residential Tenancies Officer makes a decision in the form of an order. The landlord must take this order to the court administrative offices to have it converted to an eviction order that only the Sheriff can enforce. There may be delays in obtaining an eviction order if the tenant appeals the officer's decision to Small Claims Court.

Fine Points

Permitting Landlord Entry to the Premises (Times and Reasons)

Landlords must provide 24 hours notice in writing stating when they plan to enter the premises. This time must be between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Landlords may enter at any time during daylight hours, without written notice, if a notice to quit has been given. A landlord may also enter the premises in an emergency situation.

May the tenant withhold rent for repairs?

No. A tenant must make an application for dispute resolution to take action for repairs.

Changing Locks

Only permitted if both parties are in agreement.

Pets and Smoking

May a landlord refuse to rent to a tenant who has pets?

Nova Scotia's tenancy legislation allows a landlord to establish reasonable rules that promote the fair distribution of services; promote the safety, comfort or welfare of tenants; or protect the landlord's property. A landlord's right to do this is established by Section 9A of the Residential Tenancies Act. Examples of rules that can be established include rules around the operation of laundry facilities, storage of hazardous materials and pets.

Rules must apply to all tenants in a fair manner and tenants must be given a copy of the rules prior to signing a lease. As well, changes in a landlord's rules can be made with four months notice to the tenant prior to the anniversary date of the lease. This allows the tenant enough time to give the landlord notice that the lease will not be renewed if the tenant does not agree with any new or amended rule.

In short, the landlord, if they meet the above requirements, can indeed restrict pets.

May a landlord include a no-smoking clause in the lease?

Yes.

If a no pets and no smoking clause is written into a lease and the landlord discovers that the tenant has a pet and/or smokes in the rental unit, is this grounds for the landlord to evict the tenant?

If a no pets or no smoking clause is written into the lease, the landlord has the right to seek termination of tenancy if the tenant contravenes the lease.

Contact Information

For general information about renting in Nova Scotia contact:

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations — Residential Tenancies
Public Enquiries
Service Nova Scotia & Municipal Relations
Mail Room, 8 South, Maritime Centre
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 3K5
Tel.: 902-424-5200
Toll-free within Nova Scotia: 1-800-670-4357
Fax: 902-424-0720
Email: askus@gov.ns.ca
https://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/secure/contact/Default.asp?bhcp=1

Department of Community Services —  Housing and Repairs
http://www.gov.ns.ca/coms/housing/

Addresses of Residential Tenancies offices across the province:
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/land/residential-tenancies/contact.asp

Related Links

Acts and Statues

Residential Tenancies Act
http://nslegislature.ca/legc/statutes/resident.htm
(See provincial contact, above.)

Residential Tenancies Regulations
http://www.gov.ns.ca/just/regulations/regs/rtgenrl.htm
(See provincial contact, above.)

Rental Guides by Topic (available as PDF documents)

Exploring Your Options for Resolving Disputes
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/pdf/ans-residential-tenancies-exploring-options-resolving-disputes.pdf

Mediation and Hearings
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/pdf/ans-residential-tenancies-mediation-hearings.pdf

SMARTenants Renting Guide for Students Living off Campus
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/pdf/ans-residential-tenancies-smartenants-renting-guide.pdf

After the Hearing — What Now?
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/pdf/ans-residential-tenancies-after-hearing.pdf

Human Rights Commission
This Web site provides an overview of the commission, the complaint process and a variety of information related to the commission.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/humanrights/

Department of Community Services
The information provided is brief, but the list of programs and services available is quite useful.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/coms/housing/

Residential Tenancies
A series of pages that provide answers to the most commonly asked questions pertaining to landlord-tenant issues. Answers are brief and written in plain language.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/consumer/resten/faq/

Definitions
A glossary of common rental terms, from Adjourn to Wear and Tear. A useful guide for anyone trying to decode the legal language in a lease.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/land/residential-tenancies/definitions.asp

Downloadable Forms
Links to various forms related to tenancies; the forms are in PDF format and the user is able to type directly into the form rather than printing it out and filling it in by hand.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/permits/forms/default.asp

Co-operative Housing: A Guide for Members
Information for members of  co-operative housing projects
http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/coop/default.asp

Department of Seniors
Provides a number of services to seniors in the province including housing assistance.
http://www.gov.ns.ca/seniors/