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Renting 101 A Guide to Renting in Alberta

for Students and First-time Renters

© February 2009 Legal Resource Centre

ISBN 978-0-919792-46-3

For more information see www.landlordandtenant.org

This project was made possible through a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

through a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. The contents are intended as general legal
through a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. The contents are intended as general legal

The contents are intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis for legal advice of any kind.

as general legal information only and should not form the basis for legal advice of any

L

R

C

as general legal information only and should not form the basis for legal advice of any

Legal Resource Centre

as general legal information only and should not form the basis for legal advice of any

Contents

Introduction ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,1

Know the Law: What Laws Apply to You As a Renter ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 1

What is the Residential Tenancies Act? ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 3

Other Laws That May Apply to You ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 4

1. Laws According to Your Living Situation

4

2. Laws That Deal with Specific Issues

5

Renting: Who is a Tenant?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 6

Moving In ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,7

The Rental Agreement ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 7

What Is a Rental Agreement?

7

Types of Rental Agreements

7

What Your Rental Agreement Should Include

8

Questions to Ask a Prospective Landlord Before You Sign a Rental Agreement

8

Inspections: What You Need to Know ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 9

Security Deposits ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 10

Living There ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 11

Your Obligations as a Tenant,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 11

Your Obligations Under the RTA

11

Contractual Obligations

11

Your Landlord’s Obligations,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 12

Landlords Renting Facilities Under the RTA Must:

12

If Your Landlord Does Not Fulfill Their Obligations Under the RTA

12

Rent ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 13

Increasing Rent

13

Time Between Increases

13

Notice Requirements to Raise Rent

13

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

iii

Moving Out,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 14

Ending Your Tenancy ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 14

Notice Periods to End a Periodic Tenancy

14

Circumstances When Your Landlord May End Your Tenancy

14

Inspections,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 15

Security Deposit ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 15

What Your Landlord Can Deduct

15

Returning of Your Deposit

16

Cleaning ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 16

The Rentcylopedia ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 17

Assignment

17

Basement Suites

17

Bylaws

17

Condominiums

17

Deposit

18

Discrimination

18

Dogs

18

Drugs (illegal)

18

Eviction

18

Guests

18

Inspections

18

Late Fees

18

Locks

18

Mobile Home

19

Noise

19

Normal Wear and Tear

19

Notice of Entry

19

Number of Occupants

20

Painting

20

Parking

20

Parties

20

Pets

20

Renew

21

Rental Agreement

21

Rent Increases

21

Repairs

22

Right of Entry

22

Roommates

22

Tenant insurance

22

iv

Renting 101

1

Introduction

One of the most important things you can do before you rent is to take the time to learn about the laws that apply to you and your rental situation. Whether you are a first-time renter or you have been living on your own for a long time and have never had a problem, you should make an effort to know the laws that govern and protect you as a renter. The best time to do this is before you’ve rented your apartment, so you can enter your rental agreement with confidence, knowing you’ve covered your bases. Even if you are already renting, this booklet can help you as it covers the entire lifespan of renting – from signing a lease, to moving in your furniture, to giving your notice and moving out. Taking the laws that apply to renters in Alberta and presenting them in a useful, quick- reference format, this booklet has many uses: Renting 101: A Guide to Renting in Alberta can be used as a convenient ready-reference source for students and first-time renters. This booklet will walk you through the rental process so you, as a renter, can live responsibly and hassle-free. Before you read this booklet, make sure you know what laws apply to you by doing the “What Laws Apply to You As a Renter” exercise in the following section.

Know the Law: What Laws Apply to You As a Renter

If you have decided to rent while you are in school, it is important to know the laws that apply to you. Knowing the bylaws, acts, and standards that apply to you as a renter may save you time and possibly money. In Alberta, there are many laws that protect and govern you as a renter. For the most part, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the law that affects renters. However, there are some living situations where the RTA will not apply to you and other laws will apply. Also, there are other laws that will apply to everyone, such as the Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. The next section contains a list of three questions you can ask yourself to help understand what laws will apply to your living situation.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

you can ask yourself to help understand what laws will apply to your living situation. A

1

1. Do you rent an apartment, house, basement suite, condominium or subsidized public housing?

If YES …

If NO….

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) applies to you. This means that even if you are renting a house that belongs to the College or University you are attending and have exclusive possession of the house, the RTA still applies to you. Note that subsidized public housing and self-contained condominiums are covered by additional laws. If you live in either of these, proceed to the next question to see what other laws apply to you.

The RTA does not apply to you. See the following question to see if your living situation is described.

2) Are you living in a student dormitory?

If YES …

If NO….

A

rental in this situation is NOT

If you are not living in a student dormitory, proceed to question three to find out what laws do apply to you.

covered by the Residential Tenancies Act. This means that any agreement you came to with the landlord (in this case probably an

educational institution), would be the terms under which you would live in the dorm.

 

If

you live in a student dormitory, you

should get to know the rules that your school has set out for you as a tenant.

3) Do you live in a place where you share personal living space with

your landlord? (This includes a bathroom, a kitchen, or an entryway where you have access to each other’s living quarters). If you are living in a rooming house and your landlord lives with you, you would fit into this category.

If YES …

If NO….

If

you share living space with your

If your living situation is not described in any of these questions, you may want to contact Service Alberta for further clarification. Service Alberta’s Consumer Contact Centre is toll-free and can be reached anywhere in the province of Alberta:

1-877-427-4088

landlord, you are not considered to be a ‘tenant.’ This means that the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), the Act that deals with most landlord and tenant issues, does not apply

to you and you are not protected under this law.

If

this is your living situation, the

 

agreement that you make with your landlord will determine your rights and obligations.

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Renting 101

What is the Residential Tenancies Act ? You may have noticed that the Residential Tenancies

What is the Residential Tenancies Act?

You may have noticed that the Residential Tenancies Act applies to the majority of situations that have been mentioned. So what exactly is the Residential Tenancies Act? The RTA is the main law that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the majority of

landlords and tenants in that live in Alberta. In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act, or the RTA, is regulated by Service Alberta, which is one of the Ministries of the Alberta Government. Some of the issues that the RTA covers include:

• Security deposits

• Types of tenancy agreements

• Notice periods to terminate a tenancy

• Inspections

• Minimum standards of conduct for landlords and tenants

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Because the RTA is regulated by Service Alberta, you can call Service Alberta’s Consumer Contact Centre. However, before you call the Consumer Contact Centre, you should make sure that you have taken every step to deal with and understand the problem, because you may need to contact a different department if a different law has been broken (for example, health and sanitation issues are dealt with by health authorities). Generally, each of the laws are similar in that if the law is broken, the person who breaks the law can be penalized through fines or other means. The most important difference between these laws, however, is who enforces each law. Depending on which law is broken, you will need to consult a different source. In this booklet, most of the information that is provided relates to situations covered under the RTA, so if your situation is not covered by the RTA, make sure that you understand which laws apply to you.

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Other Laws That May Apply to You

1. Laws According to Your Living Situation

Depending on your situation, there are different laws that will apply to you and your landlord. Some of these laws will depend on what type of place you are renting. See the chart below for more information:

 

Residential

Tenancies Act

Condominium

Property Act

Cooperatives

Act

Innkeepers Act

Mobile Home

Sites Tenancies

Act

College/ Rules

Univesity

Apartment

n

         

Attached to a business

           

Basement suite

n

         

Condominium

n

n

       

Co-operative Housing

   

n

     

House

n

         

Hotel room

     

n

   

Mobile home site

         

n

 

Sharing with your landlord

           

Student dorm room

         

n

Subsidized public housing

n

         

Condominium Property Act

This Act outlines additional issues that are involved when you are living in a condo. For example, additional requirements relate to giving notices to the condominium board in addition to the owner/landlord. There are also circumstances outlined in this Act where a condominium board can serve a notice to you to end a tenancy, even if your landlord/owner of the unit hasn’t given you notice and may not want to do so. Also, each condominium corporation has its own bylaws that tenants must follow.

Cooperatives Act

Under the Act, cooperative housing units have specific provisions for terminating a membership and evicting a member. Additionally, each cooperative has its own bylaws that you are required to follow.

Innkeepers Act

This Act outlines you and your landlord’s obligations when you are paying for lodging in a hotel or motel for under six months.

Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act

Applies to people who own a mobile home and rent the mobile home site from a landlord. This law sets out the rights and responsibilities that apply to these tenancies.

College/University Rules

If you are renting a student dorm room, or any on-campus student housing from your school, you should make sure you know what the rules are that apply to you.

If the place you live is described above, you should be aware that the laws that govern and protect you may be different. Visit www.landlordandtenant.org or call Service Alberta’s Consumer Contact Centre at 780-427-4088 or toll free: 1-877-427-4088 for more information.

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Renting 101

2. Laws That Deal with Specific Issues

In addition to laws that deal with particular types of rental premises, there are laws that contend with specific issues, such as safety and hygiene; protection of privacy; and building code regulations. Consult the list below:

Alberta Building Code (ABC)

The ABC sets out standards for the design and construction of new buildings. It also applies to the alteration, and change of use of existing buildings. In particular, the ABC outlines what is safe and acceptable in a secondary suite. Issues such as ceiling height, window size, and exit stairways are considered.

Municipal Bylaws – (If you live in a city)

If you live in a city or town, municipal bylaws will affect you. Bylaws deal with issues such as noise complaints, sidewalk snow removal, and minimum maintenance of buildings. Such bylaws are enforced by officers in larger cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge.

Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act

This Act protects you from discrimination and ensures that you are offered an equal opportunity to find a place to live and enjoy services available to the public without discrimination. See the following section for more details.

Minimum Housing and Health Standards

These standards outline in detail what is acceptable and what is not in a rental unit. See the following chart for more details.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Personal Information Protection Act

This Act protects individual privacy by requiring private-sector organizations (your landlord) to obtain your consent for collecting, using and sharing your personal information.

Public Health Act (Housing Regulation)

This Act sets out your landlord’s obligations to adequately maintain your rental premises. See the following section for more details.

Safety Codes Act

The Safety Codes Act is the law that defines codes and standards in areas such as building, fire, electrical, gas (natural and propane), plumbing and private sewage, and elevators.

Statute of Frauds

Requires that every contract creating an interest in leasehold for three years or more must be in writing and signed by the parties. (This law is actually a British law passed in 1677 that still applies in Alberta today.) Three of the laws listed above are of particular importance for you to know, because they affect your standard of living, your privacy and your human rights. In each of these cases, you will need to go to someone different if you have a problem, question, or wish to file a complaint.

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Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act in Alberta

This Act protects you from discrimination and ensures that you are offered an equal opportunity to find a place to live and enjoy services available to the public without discrimination. This means your landlord cannot discriminate against you on the basis of:

• Race

• Place of Origin

• Mental Disability

• Source of Income

• Color

• Religious Beliefs

• Marital Status • Sexual Orientation

• Ancestry • Physical Disability • Family Status • Gender (including pregnancy

Sexual harassment & gender identity) If you feel that you have been discriminated against on the basis of any of these issues, you can contact the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission’s Northern Regional Office at (780) 427-7661; Southern Regional Office at (403) 297-6571, or go to www.albertahumanrights.ab.ca

Personal Information Protection Act

This Act protects individual privacy by requiring private-sector organizations (your landlord) to obtain your consent for the collecting, using and sharing your personal information. If you want to make a complaint about the improper handling of your personal information by your landlord, contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta toll-free in Alberta 1-888-878-4044

Minimum Housing and Health Standards (Part of the Public Health Act)

The primary intent of the Minimum Housing and Health Standards is to establish minimum conditions which are essential to good health and which make rental premises safe, sanitary and fit for human habitation. The Standards outline various aspects of housing issues, covering topics such as mice and insect infestations, acceptable ventilation and plumbing, minimum temperature your house can be in the winter, etc. If you have concerns regarding the quality of your living conditions, you should contact your local Health Authority or go to www.health.alberta.ca for more information.

Renting: Who is a Tenant?

6

If you are renting or you are going to rent, it is very important to understand who is considered a tenant by law in Alberta. This is important to know because if someone is living in a rental premises and is not considered a tenant, they are not necessarily bound by the same obligations or protection under the RTA.

A tenant is someone who is allowed by the landlord to live in the rented premises under the residential tenancy agreement.

If you are renting and you’ve signed an agreement with your landlord, you are a tenant.

• A tenant can also be someone who lives in the residential premises under a sub-lease to which the landlord has consented.

If you have roommates and your landlord has agreed to them living there with you, they are also tenants. However, a person who has not signed the tenancy agreement will not necessarily be bound by rights and obligations in the agreement that are agreed to independently of the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act.

Renting 101

2

Moving In

The Rental Agreement

Once you have found a place you will need to sign a Rental Agreement, lease, or a residential tenancy agreement.

What Is a Rental Agreement?

Simply put, a rental agreement is either a written or oral contact that is agreed to by a landlord and a tenant. The terms of the contract will govern your relationship except where they conflict with the RTA.

Rental agreements can be called by different names: a residential tenancy agreement, lease, or rental contract are all considered to be rental agreements.

Every rental agreement can be different, so read it carefully before you sign it and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.

If your rental agreement is covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, there are some limitations on what you can agree to. If your agreement is not covered by the RTA, you can agree to anything provided it is not illegal.

If the RTA applies to the rental agreement, there are items that are automatically implied whether or not they are included by you and your landlord. An example would be notice periods that you and your landlord must give each other before you decide to end the tenancy.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Once you sign the rental agreement, you are legally bound to anything you agreed to.

• The written rental agreement should contain all of the promises that the landlord or the landlord’s agent has made to you, and should not contain anything that contradicts what the landlord or the agent told you.

Types of Rental Agreements

In Alberta, there are two types of tenancies:

fixed term and periodic. It is important to know which kind of tenancy you have because the rules relating to the two kinds of tenancies

are different, particularly the rules in relation to ending a tenancy or increasing rent.

A Periodic Tenancy means that you rent

premises without a definite end date until either you or the landlord give notice that the tenancy has ended and you pay rent on a periodic basis. Payment can be weekly, monthly, or annually. A Fixed Term Tenancy means that you agree to rent premises for a fixed length of time even if you are paying a monthly, weekly, or annual rent. An example of this is you agree to a six-month or one year lease. At the end of the agreed time, it is assumed that you are no longer going to live there, unless you and your landlord agree to renew your agreement.

If the lease or rental agreement refers to another document, such as “Tenant rules and Regulations,” get a copy and read it before you sign the written agreement.

document, such as “Tenant rules and Regulations,” get a copy and read it before you sign

7

Every written tenancy agreement must include the following statement in larger print than the rest of the agreement: “The tenancy created by this agreement is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act and if there is a conflict between the agreement and the Act, the Act prevails.”

What Your Rental Agreement Should Include

There are some things that your lease should include. Make sure that your rental agreement includes:

• the names of all roommates who are living there (if you want them to be included as tenants and bound by the terms of the tenancy agreement);

• the name of the landlord and their contact information;

• the address of the place you’ll be renting;

• the amount of the rent;

• the date the tenancy is to start and the term of the lease. This will determine whether the tenancy is periodic or fixed term;

• when the rent is due, how it’s paid, and to whom it’s paid;

• the amount of the security deposit;

• any additional fees (late fees, pet fees, key fees, etc);

• who is responsible for paying utilities (gas, electric, water, and trash collection);

• if you are renting a house: who is responsible for the yard (cutting grass, shoveling snow);

DOs and DON’Ts of Rental Agreements:

®

DON’T feel rushed into signing the rental agreement before you understand everything.

®

DON’T Assume that by renting you have access to the garage/yard/ storage/exercise room – make sure that your privilege to use these things is in writing.

®

DO ask your landlord questions and feel free to discuss anything that isn’t included in the lease.

®

DO seek outside advice and information– go to www.landlordandtenant.org

®

DO have EVERYONE who will be living there sign the rental agreement. It’s more difficult to make sure all your roommates are responsible if they are not also bound by the tenancy agreement.

®

DO make sure you understand the rental terms (fixed term or periodic? Late fees? Is rent paid on the 31st, or the 1st?)

8

• repairs: if the landlord is responsible and when they’ll be done;

• Other conditions that apply to use of the property, such as smoking or non-smoking, or rules for common areas;

• What the security deposit covers, for example, keys only, keys and damage, damage only, damage by pets only;

• details of how the tenancy may be ended including notice periods; and

• what is included in the property that is rented.

Other things you may want to have included in the lease include:

•An option to sublet over summer months;

• whether smoking is allowed or not; and

• If pets are permitted.

Questions to Ask a Prospective Landlord Before You Sign a Rental Agreement

• Are there other students living in the building?

• Have there been any major repairs or renovations done in the past year?

• Are any major repairs anticipated for the upcoming year?

• Who will be responsible for repairs, including small ones?

• Will any repairs, including small ones, that are to be completed before I move in, be put in writing?

• Is there a phone number at which the landlord or superintendent can be reached in case of emergency?

• How is rent payment to be made (by mail, by giving it to the janitor or directly to the landlord)?

• Where is the nearest laundromat if there are no laundry facilities in the building?

Renting 101

Inspections: What You Need to Know

The law requires that at least two formal inspections of the rented property be carried out. One must take place within one week of the day you move in and the other must happen within one week of the day you move out. Your landlord must give you two opportunities to attend inspections by suggesting two different days that are not holidays. The law says that the inspection can take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Inspections are very important because:

• both you and your landlord a common understanding of the condition of the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy; and

• Your landlord can make deductions from your security deposit at the end of the tenancy for damage caused. Recording any damage of the property before you move in ensures you are not charged for it when you move out.

After the inspections at the beginning and the end of the tenancy, your landlord must give you a written report of the inspection immediately. The report will describe the condition of the property. If you disagree with anything on the form, the items should be clearly marked as a record. Written reports can also be completed after any extra inspections that you and your landlord agree to, but extra inspections are not required by law. If a landlord does not carry out an inspection either before or after the tenancy, he or she cannot deduct anything from a security deposit for damages that go beyond normal wear and tear. Landlords must keep inspection report records for three years after a tenancy has ended.

Inspection Tips

® Attend the inspection with your landlord. This will help prevent any problems later.

® Try to arrange your inspection in the daytime.

® Point out anything you notice that could be considered damage and make sure it gets written down.

® Try to do the inspection before you move your furniture in – tables and sofas can hide stains, rips, or scratches that you may not notice until you move out.

® Be thorough: open drawers, look under sinks, in the refrigerator, in the stove

® Inspection reports can also include pictures – consider taking along a camera.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

9

Security Deposits

10

• A security deposit is something that you give to your landlord at the start of a tenancy on the understanding that it will be returned if you meet certain conditions. The conditions will depend upon the reason that the landlord asks for a security deposit. Usually the reason will be to make

sure that the rented property is returned in good condition.

• A landlord may want to charge key or pet fees. A landlord may refer to these deposits as additional fees or charges. While these are not against the law,

if they are refundable to the tenant

they are added to the security deposit amount.

• The grand total of all of the charges cannot exceed the amount of the first month’s rent.

• A landlord cannot charge a security deposit plus an additional “deposit,” if the total amount exceeds the amount of the first month’s rent.

• A security deposit is not required by law, but it is legal for a landlord to request that you give a security deposit. The landlord can offer the tenancy on the basis that you pay a security deposit. You then have a choice to take the tenancy or not. It might be possible to negotiate with the landlord about the amount of the deposit or whether one should be paid or not.

• The law defines a security deposit as money

or property a landlord holds as security that

a tenant will fulfill an obligation or pay a

liability, or money or property that will be returned to a tenant when a condition has been fulfilled.

• This means that a landlord can deduct money from the security deposit for items the tenant is liable for at the end of the tenancy. This can include rent arrears, cost of repairs for damage caused by the tenant, costs of cleaning for items that are beyond normal wear and tear. If a tenant considers they are not liable for any costs, legal action can be taken against a landlord.

• The rental agreement can also specify any other condition for return of the security deposit. For example, in respect of the return of keys, or for specific maintenance and repair items. It is important to have a clear understanding about exactly what the deposit represents and what conditions have to be filled for the deposit to be returned at the end of the tenancy.

• The law requires landlords to put the security deposit in an interest-bearing trust account in a bank, treasury branch, credit union, or trust company in Alberta within two banking days of receiving the money.

• The interest must be returned to you. The law states that the interest is to be paid to the tenant at the end of each tenancy year, but you and your landlord can agree in writing that the interest on the account will be paid at the end of the tenancy.

Renting 101

3

Living There

Your Obligations as a Tenant

The rules that a tenant must follow fall into two groups:

1. The rules that are implied by law, even if the agreement between you and your landlord says something different. Depending on your situation, different laws may apply, such as the Residential Tenancies Act or the Condominium Property Act.

2. The rules that you and your landlord agree to in the rental agreement.

Your Obligations Under the RTA

The Residential Tenancies Act sets outs obligations that you must adhere to as long as you are renting. If you do not follow these rules, your landlord has the right to terminate your tenancy.

What are a Tenant’s Obligations Under the RTA?

1.

Pay the rent as required by your tenancy agreement. Non-payment of rent is a valid reason for a landlord to issue an eviction notice.

2.

Look after the rental unit, keep it clean and not damage it.

3.

Do not interfere with the landlord’s rights or the rights of tenants in other units.

4.

Do not break criminal laws in or around the rental unit (for example, cause damage or carry on illegal trade).

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

5. Follow the rules in their tenancy agreement (for example, follow rules about pets, waterbeds, and the number of people who can stay with the tenant).

6. Give the required notice in writing if they are going to move out.

Contractual Obligations

Other terms that are agreed to by you and your landlord in the rental agreement that are not included in the RTA include:

not smoking in your apartment or anywhere on the rental premises;

• not having pets, or only having a certain number of pets; and

• specific obligations such as shoveling snow or cutting the lawn.

or only having a certain number of pets; and • specific obligations such as shoveling snow

11

Your Landlord’s Obligations

12

Your landlord also must follow the rules that are implied by law and the rules agreed to in your rental agreement.

Landlords Renting Facilities Under the RTA Must:

• tell the tenant in writing who the landlord is so the tenant can send notices or other documents to that person;

• pay interest to tenants on security deposits (the rate of interest is set each year by the Government of Alberta); and

• provide a reasonably safe and comfortable place for tenants to live. Landlords must ensure the structure of the building is safe, the heating and plumbing systems work, and wind, rain and snow cannot enter the building.

• Landlords must also give tenants at least three months notice in writing before they increase the rent; and

• give a valid reason as defined by the RTA for asking tenants who are paying monthly rent to move out (for example, the landlord or a relative is moving in, or the premises have been sold or are going to be torn down).

Other Obligations

Other obligations that your landlord may have will depend on what you’ve both agreed to in the rental agreement as long as these agreements do not conflict with the RTA. Some of these obligations can include:

• repairing problems within a certain amount of time; and

• specific obligations such as shoveling snow or cutting the lawn.

If Your Landlord Does Not Fulfill Their Obligations Under the RTA

The RTA says the tenant may apply to court for one or more of the following remedies:

• recovery for damages because of the breach or contravention by the landlord;

• reduction in rent (abatement of rent) if the tenant has lost a benefit of the tenancy; and

• compensation for the cost of performing the landlord’s obligations; and

• termination of the tenancy by reason of the breach or contravention.

Renting 101

Rent

When you rent a place to live in Alberta, you and the landlord can agree on whatever amount of rent is appropriate. There is no law that states what a fair rent is. A landlord can offer a place at a certain rent and it is up to you as a tenant whether you take it at that

price or not, or negotiate a different price. The only issues for tenancies that are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act is how and when rent can be increased, and what happens if rent

is not paid.

Increasing Rent

If you have a periodic tenancy (e.g., week

to week or month to month), the law allows the landlord to increase the rent. The law does not limit the amount of the rent increase, but the law does say when and how often an increase can take place

Time Between Increases

As of April 2007, rent cannot be increased unless 365 days have passed since the last increase and the start of the tenancy, or whichever is later.

Notice Requirements to Raise Rent

A landlord must give written notice to

a tenant before increasing rent in a periodic

tenancy. The notice must be in writing. In order to be clear, it must state the amount of the increase and the date when the new rent will start. The landlord must also sign it. If the notice omits any of these details it will be ineffective and void. The notice can be delivered to the tenant by hand or sent by registered, certified, or regular mail. If the landlord is unable to serve the notice on the tenant because the tenant is not at the rented

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

premises or is evading service, the notice can be given to any adult who lives with the tenant or posted on a conspicuous place at the rented property. If the landlord cannot serve notice by any of the preceding methods, he or she can send the notice electronically. The electronic delivery must result in a printed copy being received by the electronic device at the residential premises. As long as the landlord can establish that he tried to give the notice to a tenant in one of these ways, it will not necessarily mean the notice is invalid if the tenant did not actually see the notice. If the notice is not served by any of the permitted methods it will be ineffective and void.

Did you know … ?

The courts strictly apply the time limits set out in the Residential Tenancies Act for servicing notice of a rent increase. If the notice is not served with sufficient time, it will be ineffective.

For a Weekly Tenancy: a written notice of rent increase of at least 12 tenancy weeks must be given before the date when the increase will take effect. This means the notice must be given at least the day before the rent increase is due to take effect 12 weeks later.

For a Monthly Tenancy: a written notice of at least 3 tenancy months must be given before the date when the rent increase will take effect. This means the notice must be given at least the day before the rent increase is due to take effect three months later.

For any Other Period of Tenancy: a written notice of at least 90 days must be given before the date when the rent increase will take effect. This means the notice must be given at least the day before the rent increase is due to take effect 90 days later.

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4

Moving Out

Ending Your Tenancy

When you move out, it is important to give adequate notice to your landlord, or you risk losing your deposit or being taken to court by your landlord. If you have a periodic tenancy, you can end it at any time with the required amount of notice. You can also end your tenancy when your landlord breaks the tenancy agreement.

Notice Periods to End a Periodic Tenancy

Week-to-week Tenancy: A tenant must give a landlord notice of one week. The notice must be given on or before the first day of the tenancy week to be effective on the last day of the tenancy week.

Month-to-month Tenancy: A tenant must give a landlord notice of one tenancy month. A tenancy month is the period for which rent is paid which may not be the same as a calendar month, for example, from the 15th of one month to

a calendar month, for example, from the 15th of one month to 14 the 14th of

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the 14th of the next month. The notice must be given on or before the first day of the one- month notice period.

Circumstances When Your Landlord May End Your Tenancy

If you are renting from your employer (eg. working as a live-in nanny or if you are

working and living in a hotel for the summer) and your job is terminated, notice to vacate premises must be whichever period is the longest:

the period of notice required by law to terminate the employment,;

the period of notice that you and your employer agreed to, or:

one week.

Notice period to end a tenancy linked to conversion of property to condominiums: If your landlord requires vacant possession to convert the residential premises to condominiums, periodic tenants have to be given a full year’s notice to end the tenancy and rent cannot be increased during the year.

Notice period to end a tenancy in order to complete major renovations: If your landlord requires vacant possession of the residential premises to undertake major renovations, periodic tenants have to be given a full year’s notice to end the tenancy and rent cannot be increased during the year .

Renting 101

Inspections

When you move out, inspections are just as important as when you move in. Just as your move-in inspection must take place within one week of the day you move in, your move out inspection must happen within one week of the day you move out.

Security Deposit

For more information on inspections review “Inspections: What you Need to Know” in the Moving In section of this booklet.

Keep in mind that the rules that apply to the security deposit when you move in, also apply when you move out.

Your landlord can deduct money from your security deposit for items that you are liable for at the end of the tenancy. This can include rent arrears, cost of repairs for damage caused by you (or someone else), and costs of cleaning for items that are beyond normal wear and tear. If you think you are not liable for any costs, legal action can be taken against your landlord.

The rental agreement can also specify any other condition for return of the security deposit. For example, in respect of the return of keys, or for specific maintenance and repair items.

The law requires landlords to put the security deposit in an interest-bearing trust account in a bank, treasury branch, credit union, or trust company in Alberta within two banking days of receiving the money.

The law states that the interest is to be paid to the tenant at the end of each tenancy year, but you and your landlord can agree in writing that the interest on the account will be paid at the end of the tenancy.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

What Your Landlord Can Deduct

Some examples of damages to the physical condition of rental premises for which deductions may be made (when inspection reports are properly completed) include:

steam cleaning of rugs with obvious dirt, soil, oil or urine stains or holes;

badly repaired holes in walls;

pushed in door panels;

food, dirt or nicotine on walls, cupboards and appliances;

broken glass;

holes in window screens;

garbage or litter strewn about; and

pet excrements.

Some examples of normal wear and tear for

which deductions are not generally allowable are:

professional shampooing of rugs, when there were no excess foreign materials; and

professional cleaning of drapes, when there were no excess foreign materials.

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Returning of Your Deposit

Within 10 days from when you give up possession of the premises, your landlord must:

return the balance of the deposit to you with a statement that lists the damages, repair costs, and cleaning charges, or

give you an estimate of deductions that will be made and return money that will not be used. Within 30 days of your giving up possession, you must be given a final statement and the balance of any money that is owed to you.

Cleaning

If a landlord does not return all or part

of a security deposit, you can take legal

action against the landlord for the amount outstanding. You can take legal action even when your landlord has given you

a statement of account, but you disagree with the accounting.

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To avoid problems with your landlord, and decrease the chance of having any deductions made to your security deposit, you should leave your rental premises in as good of shape as it was when you moved in. If your landlord has not provided a cleaning list, you should always check with

the landlord to see if they have a cleaning list. The following is a suggested cleaning list for tenants to use if they are unsure of the cleaning that needs to be done when they are moving out of the residential premises.

• Clean inside, outside, behind and under the fridge and defrost and clean the freezer.

• Leave the fridge door open if the power has been turned off.

• Clean inside, outside, behind and under the stove and clean the oven and burners on the stove.

• Wash the cupboards inside and outside.

• Clean inside and outside (except multi- level buildings) of all windows/tracks, closet doors/tracks and patio doors/ tracks.

• Wash walls and floors.

• Dust curtain rods and window coverings or replace yours with the landlords.

• Dust or wash fans and vents, light fixtures, replace burnt out light bulbs.

• Check the smoke detector, replace batteries as needed.

• Clean bathroom thoroughly including the tub, tile, sink, vanity, mirror, medicine cabinet, cupboards and toilet .

• Vacuum and clean the carpets, if necessary.

Renting 101

The Rentcylopedia

Assignment

An assignment occurs when a rental agreement already exists, and you agree to step into the place of the tenant. The rental agreement is assigned completely with no change in terms and conditions. However, unless the original tenant obtains a release from the landlord, they remain responsible for the rent. A release will be a new agreement, which releases the original tenant from all their obligations.

Basement Suites

Self-contained basements suites are subject to the RTA, which means that the rules in this booklet apply to you as a tenant, even if your landlord is living on the main floor above you. Basement suites are covered in the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the safety standards before you choose to rent a basement suite. For example, the law says that windows must be a certain size and easy to open.

Bylaws

Bylaws are the rules and regulations that are adopted and enforced by an organization or city. If you are living in a city, you should make sure that you know what bylaws apply to you. Also, most condominium boards have their own set of bylaws. Breaking a bylaw is considered to be an offence, which means that you may face eviction for not obeying the law.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Condominiums

If you are renting a condo, you are still covered by the RTA. It is important to note, however, that the Condominium Property Act will also apply to you. These additional requirements relate to giving notices to the condominium board in addition to the owner/landlord. There are also circumstances outlined in this Act where a condominium board can serve a notice to you to end a tenancy, even if your landlord/owner of the unit hasn’t given you notice and may not want to.

notice to you to end a tenancy, even if your landlord/owner of the unit hasn’t given

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Deposit

Depending on your area, a deposit may be referred to as a damage, security, or rent deposit. In any case, it is money given to the landlord at the start of the rental agreement and returned to the tenant at the end of the tenancy provided all the conditions of the rental agreement have been met.

Discrimination

The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act states that a landlord cannot refuse to rent property to someone on the basis of the person’s race, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, ancestry, place of origin, source of income or sexual preference. If you feel that you have been discriminated against on any of these grounds, contact the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.

Dogs

See Pets.

Guests

Unless you agreed in your lease agreement that certain people could not visit the apartment, your landlord cannot typically prevent you from having particular guests. If a guest is living in the premises, your landlord can serve a notice requiring that person to leave. Further, you have an obligation to ensure that the rights of the landlord and other tenants are not interfered with, that no illegal acts or nuisances are carried out on the premises, and that the property is not damaged in any way. If you or any of your guests breach any of these obligations, your landlord can serve notice to end the tenancy.

Inspections

An inspection is a formal survey of your rental premises. Ideally, both you and your landlord should be present at the time of the inspection and inspections should be done before your furniture is moved into the premises.

Drugs (illegal)

Late Fees

One of your legal obligations as a tenant is to

A

landlord may charge a fee for late payment

not perform illegal acts or do illegal business

of

rent or an NSF fee only if the fee is clearly

on the premises or the common areas or the property of where you rent. This includes the parking lot and yard. If you break this

stated in the tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement allows for either of these fees to be charged, the fees must be reasonable,

obligation, your landlord can give you 14-days notice.

landlords cannot impose unreasonable penalties.

as

Eviction

Locks

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The official process where the landlord legally take measures to expel the tenant from the rental premises. Evictions can happen for various reasons including non-payment of rent, unreasonable noise and disturbance of other tenants, etc.

As a tenant, you do not need to ask the landlord’s permission to install additional locks or security devices, as long as they can only be activated by someone from the inside of the property (for example, door chain locks). However, the device or lock must be capable

of being either installed or removed without

causing damage to the property, or it must stay when you vacate the property.

Renting 101

Landlords do not have a statutory duty

to change locks after every tenant leaves, but

they do have a duty to provide proper locks on rented premises. You can take legal action

against your landlord if it can be established that the locks are inadequate. If you decide to change the external lock on your apartment door, you must get permission from your landlord and give them

a key as soon as the change is made. It is

always a good idea to get this permission in

writing.

Mobile Home

A structure that is built to move from one

place to another and which is intended to be lived in. A mobile home may or may not have wheels. Holiday trailers and recreational vehicles are not mobile homes when they are being used for recreational purposes.

Noise

Under the RTA, a tenant is entitled to the possession and peaceful enjoyment of the

residential premises they are renting. You have

a legal obligation not to interfere with the

rights of other tenants, one of which is the quiet enjoyment of their property. Although the term “quiet enjoyment” does not literally mean quiet, it does mean the right to enjoy

their rented property. If the noise or behavior

is affecting that enjoyment and you do not

change your behavior, your landlord could serve notice to evict you on the basis that you have breached your obligations under the lease.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Normal Wear and Tear

The gradual worsening of the condition of property over time that happens even when the property is looked after properly.

• For example, even if walls are regularly washed and cared for, eventually over a number of years, they will have to be repainted. This is normal wear and tear. If the walls are not looked after, or walls have holes knocked in them, this is damage, and is not normal wear and tear.

• Another example is that carpets wear out over time and have to be replaced, even though they have been properly and regularly cleaned. This is normal wear and tear. Cigarette burns, oil stains, or pet stains in the carpet that require expensive cleaning or replacement of the carpet before it is worn out is damage and not normal wear and tear.

Notice of Entry

A landlord may enter the tenant’s residential

premises without consent, but only after giving

the tenant a written notice at least 24 hours before the time of entry, to:

• inspect the state of repair of the residential premises;

• make repairs to the premises;

control pests as required;

• show the premises to prospective purchasers or mortgagees;

• show the premises to prospective tenants after the landlord or tenant has given notice to end a periodic tenancy or in the final month of a fixed term tenancy.

A landlord may enter the residential premises

with the tenant’s consent. If the landlord obtains the consent of the tenant, a notice is not required. The time for entry would be arranged

at a time convenient to both the landlord and

the tenant. Landlords can phone or meet with tenants to obtain consent to enter the residential premises. Consent can be verbal or in writing.

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Number of Occupants

Public health laws require an owner of property to ensure that all occupants have an area for sleeping space. Other public health laws require certain sanitary and health standards that might be compromised if more than a certain number of people live in the premises. In addition, local municipal bylaws might impact the number of people that can live in a house or apartment.

Painting

In Alberta, the Public Health Act says that walls must be easy to clean and floors must be clean and sanitary. If this is not the case, you have the right to lodge a complaint with a regional health authority. If you want to paint a room in your house, you should discuss this with your landlord before you move in, and make sure that you agree about the color, whether a fee will be deducted from your deposit, etc.

Parking

Whether or not parking is included in your rent should be included in your rental agreement. In some areas, you may need to pay extra fees (such as university owned residential areas or urban centers.)

Parties

As a tenant, you have a legal obligation not to interfere with the rights of other tenants, one of which is the quiet enjoyment of their property. If you live in a building where other people are renting, you should obtain permission from them before you have your party. Also, you should be aware of any municipal laws (or condo bylaws if you are renting a condominium). Keep in mind that one of your legal obligations as a tenant is to not perform illegal acts or do illegal business on the premises, the common areas or the property of where your rent. If you are having the party, you are responsible for any use of illegal substances or underage drinking that may occur on the property.

Pets

If you want to have a pet, it is very important to talk to your landlord about this and make sure it is included in your rental agreement. If you are already living there and you have not discussed having pets with your landlord, review your existing agreement and talk to your landlord before you get your pet. Some landlords allow pets and state the conditions in the residential tenancy agreement. Other landlords include a “no pet” provision in a residential tenancy. Some residential tenancy agreements

landlords include a “no pet” provision in a residential tenancy. Some residential tenancy agreements 20 Renting

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Renting 101

have clauses prohibiting pets in a unit unless the landlord specifically and in writing allows a particular pet.

If you signed your residential tenancy

agreement and agreed to a “no pet” policy and you bring in a pet later on without your landlord’s permission, you are in violation of

the contract. This violation could result in the landlord terminating your tenancy.

A landlord may want to charge a pet fee.

While such a fee is not against the law, if they

are refundable to the tenant, they are added to the security deposit amount. The grand

total of all of the charges cannot exceed the amount of the first month’s rent.

If however, there is a separate non-

refundable, one time payment for having a pet in the premises, that does not form part of the security deposit. It is important to read the rental agreement carefully, or to understand any oral agreement you have, so that you can determine what is security deposit and what is not. For example, if your rental agreement says that you have paid a $100 refundable deposit for possible damages that your dog might do, then that would likely be part of the

security deposit and you may receive all or part of that deposit back when you leave. However if your rental agreement says you must pay a fee of $100 in order to be allowed to keep a pet in your apartment, that is a one time, non- refundable payment, and you won’t get any of it back. The non-refundable fee is not part of the security deposit.

If your landlord originally agreed to you

having a pet and no mention of pet fees were discussed or written into your agreement, they cannot demand a pet fee mid way though your tenancy.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Renew

To enter into a new lease term for a rental property after the existing lease term has expired.

Rental Agreement

A legally binding agreement to rent a

premises, either written or oral, between a landlord and tenant.

Rent Increases

When you rent a place in Alberta, you and the landlord can agree on whatever amount of rent is appropriate. There is no

law that states what a fair rent is. A landlord can offer a place at a certain rent and it is up to you as a tenant whether you take it

at that price or not, or negotiate a different

price. The law in Alberta does not control how much rent can be charged for any particular property. The law does control how often rent can be increased. For both fixed term and periodic rental agreements, the time between rent increases is one year. The notice must be in writing. It must state the amount of the increase and the date when the new rent will start. The landlord must sign it. If the notice omits any of these details, it will be ineffective and void. The notice can be delivered to you by hand or sent by registered, certified, or regular mail. Notice periods for rent increases:

• For a weekly tenancy, a written notice of rent increase must be given at least 12 tenancy weeks before the date of the rent increase.

• For a monthly tenancy, a written notice must be given at least three tenancy months before the date of the rent increase.

• For any other period of tenancy, a written notice must be given at least 90 days before the date of the rent increase.

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Repairs

The Residential Tenancies Act imposes some

responsibility on both landlords and tenants

to keep rented property habitable and in good

condition, but does not say anything about

who is responsible for repairing specific items.

It is a good idea to establish clear responsibility

for repairs in the tenancy agreement so that there is no confusion. You cannot withhold rent to pressure your

landlord to do repairs. You have an obligation

to pay rent. The obligation to pay rent is

separate from any obligation your landlord has

to carry out repairs. If you stop paying rent, your landlord can serve you with a 14-day notice of eviction.

Tenant insurance

Additional insurance purchased by the tenant

to protect personal property contained in a

rental unit from loss due to fire, theft, water

damage and other circumstances. Specific terms of coverage are determined by the policy purchased from the insurer.

Secondary Suite

An separate dwelling unit on a property that would normally accommodate only one dwelling. Secondary Suites can include basement units and those built above detached garages.

Security Deposit

 

A

security deposit is something that you give

Right of Entry

to

your landlord at the start of a tenancy on

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A landlord may enter the residential premises

with the tenant’s consent. If the tenant has

made the landlord aware of needed repairs, the landlord may want to obtain the tenant’s

consent at that time to enter the residential premises to complete the repairs. If a landlord needs to enter all or several residential premises

in a complex, the landlord must give each

tenant notice of the entry. The tenant has the right (under common law) to object to the day or time the landlord wants to enter if it is inconvenient. However, the tenant must give the landlord a reasonable alternate day or time

to enter the premises.

Roommates

Someone who lives in a rental property

with other tenant(s), sharing rent, the cost

of utilities and other expenses according to

mutually agreed upon terms.

the understanding that it will be returned if you keep certain conditions. The conditions

will depend upon the reason that the landlord asks for a security deposit. Usually the reason will be to make sure that the rented property is returned in good condition.

A landlord may want to charge key or pet

fees. A landlord may refer to these deposits as additional fees or charges. While these are not

against the law, if they are refundable to the tenant, they are added to the security deposit amount. The grand total of all of the charges cannot exceed the amount of the first month’s rent.

A landlord cannot charge a security

deposit plus an additional “deposit”, if the total amount exceeds the amount of the first month’s rent.

Smoking

If you have agreed to not smoke in your rental

property in your rental agreement, doing so may result in an eviction.

Renting 101

Student Dorm

A rental premises where the landlord is the

educational institution and the tenant does not have exclusive possession of the premises.

Subletting

When a tenant rents a room or the entire

premises to someone else, but is still directly responsible for the rent. If you are planning

to

sublet a place, or if you want to sublet

to

someone (even for a few months) The

Residential Tenancies Act requires a tenant to

get the written permission of a landlord to sublet. If you do make a request to sublet, a landlord can only refuse on reasonable grounds and cannot charge a fee or ask for anything

for giving consent. If a landlord does not answer the request to sublet within 14 days, he

or she is taken to have agreed to the request.

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

Utilities

Services such as heat, water and electricity that may or may not be included in the amount of rent paid. Cable and telephone services are usually not included. If the cost of utilities is included in the rental agreement, the landlord cannot impose an additional charge by changing who pays for the utilities without the consent of the tenant.

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Renting 101:

A Guide to Renting in Alberta

for Students and First-time Renters

Legal Resource Centre Ltd. #201, 10350 – 124 Street Edmonton, AB T5N 3V9 Phone: 780.451.8764 Fax: 780.451.2341