2022-08-19T16:06:22-04:00Mar 17, 2021|

Understanding your rights as a tenant in Nova Scotia

For many newcomers, finding a place to live is one of the most important tasks you need to attend to once you arrive in Canada. Part of finding safe and comfortable housing for you and your family includes understanding your rights as a tenant. Here’s what you need to know when finding a place in Nova Scotia you’ll be happy with.

In this article:

Want to learn more about how to rent in Canada?
See How to rent your first home as a newcomer in Canada for a step-by-step guide on finding the right approach, identifying where you want to live, and preparing the proper documents. 

What documents do you need to rent in Nova Scotia?

Renting a house, apartment, or another type of dwelling in Nova Scotia usually requires you to provide certain documents as part of the application process. These documents will support your financial information and any previous rental history. Here is a list of common documents or information you’ll likely be asked to submit as part of your rental application:

  • Proof of income: You should expect a potential landlord to ask you to provide proof of income, such as copies of recent pay stubs.
  • Bank statement: If you’re self-employed or still looking for a permanent job, you could be asked to provide a copy of a recent bank statement in replace of pay stubs and employment letters. This is a way to show a potential landlord you have sufficient money to pay your rent.
  • References: Similar to applying for jobs, you can expect to be asked for references from a trusted friend or manager who will speak to your character and reliability as a tenant. These references have to be based in Canada. In addition, a landlord could ask for the contact information of a current or previous landlord for the purposes of verifying your suitability as a tenant.
  • Credit report: A full credit report is often requested as part of your rental application. Your credit report is a summary of your credit history, and you’ll be provided with a three-digit number. The higher the number, the better your financial health. A full credit report shows any debts or bankruptcy and costs approximately $25 CAD to obtain from an authorized credit rating organization, Alternatively, a landlord may request to obtain a full credit check on your behalf. They must have your consent to do this, and you would need to provide your first and last name, address, and date of birth.

Tips Icon  Tip:
It takes at least a few weeks to a month for newcomers to receive their first Canadian credit card and a few additional months of credit transactions to generate a credit history. EQUIFAX and TransUnion are the two major credit rating organizations in Canada, and you can choose either one to get your credit report.

Get more information on how to rent without a credit history in Canada
See How to rent an apartment with no credit history or job letter in Canada for tips on how to showcase your reliability as a tenant and where to focus your search.

Eviction rules in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, a landlord can evict a tenant on reasonable grounds, including for non-payment of rent, in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Here are the guidelines on eviction rules in Nova Scotia: 

1. Rental arrears

If a tenant fails to make their rent payment, a landlord can serve notice to evict. Legally, a landlord can issue a “Notice to Quit: Failure to Pay Rent” form 15 days after the rent is late. The tenant then has 15 days to pay their rent. If they fail to do this, the eviction date must be no sooner than 15 days after a landlord issues the form. 

2. Breach of tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement can also be terminated for breach of the agreement, such as threatening other tenants or landlord, or non-compliance with tenant obligations including subletting without the landlord’s permission or smoking. In these instances, a landlord can issue a “Notice to Quit: Breach of Statutory Condition” form at least 15 days before the landlord wants a tenant to move out. 

3. Additional circumstances 

A landlord can issue “Notice to Quit: Additional Circumstances” for reasons other than failing to comply with the tenancy agreement or non-payment of rent. They include damage to the property due to fire or flood, if a tenant poses risk to the safety or security of the landlord or other tenants, if the tenant has lost their job which included a place to stay, or for tenants who are more than 7 days late in paying rent when they have a week-to-week periodic tenancy. 

4. Personal use 

If you have a periodic tenancy agreement, your landlord may evict you if they or one of their close family members wishes to move into the lodgings themselves. 

5. Sale of property

A landlord can evict you if the property you are renting is sold and the new purchaser or their family member is to occupy the property. The landlord must give at least two months’ notice to end the tenancy. If it is a fixed-term tenancy, the effective date must be no earlier than the date specified on the lease agreement. 

Your responsibilities as a tenant in Nova Scotia

While landlords certainly have a responsibility to their tenants, similarly as a tenant, you also have responsibilities to the landlord if renting a property in Nova Scotia. They include:

  • Paying your rent on time and in full on the date it is due.
  • Acting reasonably and not disturbing other tenants or the landlord in the building.
  • Not engaging in illegal acts or conducting an illegal business on the property.
  • Keeping the rental property reasonably clean.
  • Preventing and repairing any damages you or any of your guests may cause.
  • Moving out when the rental agreement ends. 

What is covered by a rental lease?

A standard lease has been created for renting in Nova Scotia. While a landlord doesn’t have to use this standard lease, they are not permitted to include any clauses that remove the rights of a tenant according to the Standard Form of Lease. If there is no written lease between a landlord and tenant, then the Standard Form of Lease applies and the tenancy agreement defaults to a month-to-month arrangement.  

Here is some of the information included in a Standard Form of Lease: 

Lease Component Description
Parties to the agreement The name of the landlord and the tenant and email.
Occupants The names of other occupants who will reside in the property, such as children.
Premises Details of the rental premises and the tenant’s current address.
Contact information This can include an emergency contact, as well as details of a property manager or superintendent, if applicable.
Lease type If the lease is periodic running year-to-year, month-to-month, week-to-week, or is a fixed term lease and the beginning and end dates of the tenancy.
Rent The amount of rent due, whether it’s paid monthly or weekly and acceptable methods of payment.
Utilities and appliances Checklist of appliances, such as stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer included in the rent. Also list of utilities included such as gas, cable, heat, water and parking, as well as whether the landlord is responsible for snow removal, garbage removal and lawn care.
Responsibility for tenant Checklist of responsibilities for the tenant such as lawn care, snow removal, parking charges, tenant insurance and fees for returned cheques.
Additional obligations Any additional clauses added to the agreement that do not remove the rights of a tenant, such as restriction on pets, or no nails in the walls.
Security deposit Whether a security deposit is required as part of the tenancy agreement and the amount. Legally a security deposit cannot exceed more than up to one-half of the one month’s rent.
Inspection report Whether or not an inspection report has been carried out. If so, it must be signed by the landlord and tenant and attached to the tenancy agreement.
Signatures Signature of landlord and tenant. 

What is included in a lease in Nova Scotia?

When renting a property in Nova Scotia, your landlord should be following the guidelines set up by the RTA. Here are some clauses or conditions that can and cannot be included in a lease in Nova Scotia: 

Clauses that can be included in a lease 

The following clauses can be included in a lease in Alberta:

  • Rent payment: A landlord can ask a tenant to pay rent in a variety of ways, such as post-dated cheques or automatic direct debit. If rent is late, a landlord can legally charge one per cent of the monthly rent as a late payment.
  • Utilities: Outlines if utilities such as gas, water, heat, electricity and cable are included in the rental costs.
  • Smoking: A landlord may include a non-smoking clause in the lease, including tobacco and the use of cannabis, which is legal in Canada.
  • Pets: Whether a landlord will allow pets and if there are any restrictions on the size or breed of pet.

Clauses that cannot be included or changed in a lease 

The following clauses cannot be included in a lease:

  • Guests: A landlord cannot include a clause restricting a tenant from having guests, roommates or additional occupants, such as a family member. However, if the landlord has reason to believe someone has moved into the property and is not on the tenancy agreement, they can take steps to remove them.
  • Additional deposits: A landlord in Nova Scotia is only legally allowed to ask for the equivalent of up to one-half of one month’s rent as a refundable security deposit. For example, if your rent was $1,500 CAD, a landlord could request up to $750 CAD only. A landlord is not permitted to request a security deposit for pets.
  • Payment for repairs: A landlord is not permitted to request a tenant pay for any or part of repairs that fall under the responsibility of the landlord, such as for plumbing, heating or electric services.

Rental increase limits in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, a landlord can legally increase the rent after a minimum of one year, regardless of the type of lease you have. They must also give proper written notice of any rent increase as follows:

  • Four months for yearly or monthly periodic leases
  • On the date outlined on a fixed-term lease for leases that are longer than 12 months

Usually, there are no restrictions on how much a landlord can raise the rent in Nova Scotia, as long as they raise the rent only once every 12 months. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, an annual rent cap of 2 per cent has been instituted until 31 December 2023.

What are my rights as a tenant in Nova Scotia?

Here are some common questions on your rights as a tenant in Nova Scotia: 

Can a landlord say no to overnight guests?

Despite what a landlord might say or even try to include in a rental agreement, they legally cannot prevent you from having overnight guests stay at your rental property. You have the right to decide who you can invite to visit and stay at your place. A landlord is not permitted to create any sort of limitations on your right to do this, nor can they charge you an extra fee or threaten to raise your rent if you have guests stay. However, please note, as a tenant you are also responsible for any disturbances or damages your guests may do to the property. 

Is a move in/move out inspection report mandatory in Nova Scotia?

No, a written inspection report is not a condition of renting in Nova Scotia. However, it’s recommended you and your landlord complete a Rental Unit Condition Report prior to moving in and when moving out. The report is used to describe the condition of the rental property and help prove a tenant has not caused damage while living there. Both the landlord and tenant should sign and date this form. 

How can you break your lease as a tenant in Nova Scotia?

As a tenant, you can legally quit your lease at the end of your tenancy and are required to give notice to the landlord. By law you must give the following notice:

  • Year-to-year tenancy: At least three months before the end of your lease
  • Month-to-month tenancy: At least one month’s notice
  • Week-to-week tenancy: At least one week’s notice

A fixed-term lease ends on the date specified in the lease.

However, you can terminate your lease early for the following reasons:

  • Health concerns that result in you being unable to pay your rent or live in the property, such as needing to use a wheelchair. 
  • Fleeing from domestic violence. 
  • The landlord fails to uphold their responsibilities in terms of the condition of the property, does not provide utilities such as heat, or illegally enters the rental unit.
  • You assign the lease to another tenant. 
  • You and your landlord agree to terminate the tenancy earlier

Can a landlord refuse pets in Nova Scotia?

In Nova Scotia, a landlord is allowed to implement rules that promote the fair and equal distribution of services, promote safety, comfort and well-being of all tenants or to protect the property. Therefore they could justify these criteria as a reason to refuse pets. 

Can a landlord evict me if the lease says no pets and I have a pet?

In Nova Scotia, if you agree to a lease that has a “no pets” clause written into it, the landlord can legally terminate your lease for owning a pet and violating this clause.

Is tenants’ insurance mandatory in Nova Scotia?

A landlord may request that you obtain proper liability insurance when renting a property and provide a copy of the insurance to them. Tenants’ insurance is designed to protect your personal belongings against theft or damage and cover costs if you have to temporarily move out due to fire or flood, for example. While a landlord can request you are properly insured, tenants’ insurance is not mandatory in Nova Scotia. 

Tips Icon  Tip:
It is advisable to take out tenant insurance as it protects your belongings, living expenses, including moving costs, and liability claims if you cause accidental damage. Renters’ insurance is relatively inexpensive and costs around $25 CAD per month.

Where to get help regarding your rights as a tenant in Nova Scotia

If you have any questions or concerns about renting in Nova Scotia, contact Access Nova Scotia – Residential Tenancies at Tel: 902-424-5200 or toll-free at 1-800-670-4357. Alternatively, tenants can contact Legal Aid Nova Scotia for assistance. RentersEd, launched by the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia, is another great resource for tenants who are new to renting in Nova Scotia.