Overview

In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) (PDF, 660 KB) applies to most people who rent the place where they live. This law sets out the rights and responsibilities that apply to landlords and tenants.

Tenants

Tenants rent the place where they live. The RTA applies to most residential tenants who live in:

  • a house, apartment, duplex or mobile home
  • a hotel or motel room if rented for more than 6 consecutive months
  • a rooming or boarding house (in most cases)

The RTA does not apply to the following types of tenancies:

  • people who share a landlord's living quarters as though they were a part of the landlord's family
  • mobile home sites set out in the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act (PDF, 355 KB)
  • rental premises that are occupied for business purposes that also have living accommodations attached and both are rented under a single agreement
  • hotels, motels, trailer parks, tourist homes or other vacation accommodations if a person lives there for less than 6 consecutive months
  • rental premises rented to a student by an educational institution unless the student has exclusive possession of self-contained rental premises
  • most nursing homes, supportive living accommodations, government-operated senior lodges and correctional institutions, military bases and First Nations Reserve Lands

Landlords

The landlord may be an individual, a group of people or a corporation.

The RTA says a landlord may be:

  • the current or new owner of the rental premises
  • the property manager who acts as an agent for the owner
  • the person who rents out the rental premises
  • any person other than the owner who falls within the definition of a landlord in the Act

For more information, read the Information for tenants and Information for landlords tip sheets.

Moving in

Residential tenancy agreements

Before a tenant moves in, the tenant and landlord need to agree to the terms of the tenancy in a contract called a residential tenancy agreement or lease.

This agreement may be written or verbal, but written is always better since it provides evidence should there be a problem.

In Alberta, residential tenancy agreements may be either periodic or fixed term.

Fixed Term Tenancy Agreement

A fixed term tenancy begins and ends on specific dates.

For example: a tenant and landlord may agree that the tenancy will be for a fixed term of 2 years from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018. On December 31, 2018 the tenancy will automatically end.

No notice is required to end the tenancy by either the landlord or the tenant.

Periodic Tenancy Agreement

A periodic tenancy has a start date but no end date. Either the landlord or tenant may end a periodic tenancy by giving notice. Most periodic tenancies are month-to-month, but they can also be week-to-week or year-to-year.

Move-In and Move-Out inspection reports

It is mandatory for landlords and tenants to complete both a move-in and a move-out inspection report. This report describes the condition of the rental premises when a tenant moves in and again when they move out.

Tenants can use the inspection report to prove they are not responsible for damage that occurred before they moved in.

Landlords cannot make any deduction for damages or cleaning costs from the security deposit when the tenant moves out if the inspection report requirements have not been met.

If the rental premises are not ready

If the rental premises are not ready for the tenant on occupation at the beginning of the tenancy, the tenant may notify the landlord that they do not want to proceed with the tenancy agreement, or they can apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench to have the landlord ordered to live up to the tenancy agreement. The tenant may also pursue the landlord for damages through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) or court if the rental premises are not ready on time.

Unauthorized occupants

At the beginning of a tenancy, the tenant and landlord should agree on who is allowed to live in the residential rental premises. The names of all tenants should be listed in the tenancy agreement. If someone who is not listed in the tenancy agreement is living in the residential rental premises, the landlord has the right to give that person at least 14-days notice to leave. If the tenant has moved out, the landlord can give the unauthorized occupant at least 48 hours notice.

Security deposits

Landlords usually ask tenants for a security deposit, sometimes called a damage deposit.

The amount of a security deposit cannot be more than one month's rent at the time tenancy starts.

The security deposit cannot be increased as rent increases. Tenants can ask for a receipt for any fees paid, showing the amount, date and parties in the transaction.

Landlords must deposit all security deposits into an interest-bearing trust account in a bank, treasury branch, credit union or trust company in Alberta within 2 banking days of the time they collect them from the tenant.

Interest payable on security deposits

The minimum interest rate a landlord must pay on a security deposit each year is published below. A calculator is provided on the Service Alberta website to assist in calculating the amount of interest that is owed on any specific security deposit based on the regulated interest rate.

The landlord must pay interest to the tenant at the end of each tenancy year unless both parties agree otherwise. If the landlord and the tenant agree in writing, interest may be compounded annually and paid to the tenant at the end of the tenancy.

Landlords can go to the Security Deposit Interest Calculator to calculate the amount of interest owed on a security deposit.

Time Period Minimum Annual Interest Rate
January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2019 0%
January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008 0.5%
January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007 0.3%
January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2006 0%
January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2001 1.75%
January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2000 1.15%
January 1, 1999 to December 31, 1999 0.75%
Time Period Minimum Annual Interest Rate
January 1, 1997 to December 31, 1998 0%
January 1, 1996 to December 31, 1996 2.5%
January 1, 1995 to December 31, 1995 2.75%
July 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994 1.5%
February 1, 1993 to June 30, 1994 3%
March 1987 to January 31, 1993 6%
January 1, 1984 to February 28, 1987 8%

Returning the tenant’s security deposit

When moving out, tenants have the right to get their security deposit with any interest owing (if applicable), as long as:

  • no rent or other costs owing
  • there is no damage beyond normal wear and tear
    • the RTA defines normal wear and tear as the deterioration that occurs over time with the use of the rental premises even though the rental premises receive reasonable care and maintenance
  • the rental premises have been properly cleaned
    • landlords should provide a list of what is expected
    • Page 19 of the Information for tenants tipsheet for a suggested cleaning list

If the tenant does not meet these conditions, the landlord has the right to keep part or all of the security deposit to cover these costs. If the costs exceed the security deposit, the landlord can take legal action to claim for the money owing.

Responsibilities of landlords and tenants

The RTA sets out specific responsibilities for landlords and for tenants. Even if these responsibilities are not included in the residential tenancy agreement, landlords and tenants must meet the requirements of the legislation.

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants must:

  • pay rent on time
  • be considerate of the landlord and other tenants
  • not endanger other tenants
  • not perform illegal acts
  • not conduct illegal business on the rental premises
  • not operate a business, trade or occupation without the landlord’s consent
  • keep the rental premises reasonably clean
  • prevent damage to the rental premises
  • move out when the rental agreement ends
  • follow the rules in the residential tenancy agreement that do not conflict with the RTA

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords must:

  • make the rental premises available on the date the residential tenancy agreement takes effect
  • give the tenant a written "notice of landlord" within 7 days of the tenant moving in or post the notice in a visible place in the building's common area
  • not disturb the tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the rental premises (for example, not to bother the tenant beyond what is necessary to do the landlord’s business)
  • ensure the rental premises are habitable at the beginning and throughout the tenancy (for example, there are no bed bugs and the heat is working)

Methods of delivering notices

Required notices must be delivered in person or by registered mail. Tenants should use the mailing address provided in the “notice of landlord.” Landlords should use the mailing address of the residential rental premises.

If the tenant is absent from the rental premises and/or evading service, the landlord may:

  • give the notice to an adult who appears to live with the tenant, or
  • post the notice in plain sight on the residential rental premises

If a landlord or tenant cannot serve a notice to vacate as indicated above, the notice may be sent through electronic means, as long as it results in a printed copy of the notice.

Rent increases

Landlords cannot increase the rent payable by a tenant under a fixed term or periodic tenancy agreement until a minimum of one year (365 days) has passed since the last rent increase or since the start of the tenancy, whichever is later.

There is no limit on the amount by which the landlord may raise the rent.

If the landlord wants to increase the rent, the landlord’s notice to the tenant must be in writing and include all of the following:

  • the date
  • the effective date of the increase
  • the landlord's signature

This notice is required for a periodic tenancy only.

The amount of notice required depends on the type of tenancy:

  • 12 full tenancy weeks for a week-to-week periodic tenancy
  • 3 full tenancy months for a month-to-month periodic tenancy
  • 90 days for any other periodic tenancy

Locks and security devices

Neither the landlord nor tenant can be locked out of the residential rental premises. If the landlord adds or changes locks, a new key must be given to the tenant right away. If a tenant wants to add or change locks to increase security, they may do so with the permission of the landlord. The tenant must give the landlord a new key as soon as the change is made.

Without the landlord’s permission, tenants may only add locks that can be used from the inside, such as chain locks.

If adding a lock makes holes in the door or frame, the tenant must leave the lock in place when moving out or repair the damage if the lock is removed.

Repairs

The landlord is responsible for keeping the rental premises reasonably safe and in good repair at all times, not just at the beginning of a tenancy. Standards for safety and comfort are set out in the Public Health Act and Housing Regulation.

For more information, tenants can contact Health Link Alberta.

If a landlord ignores a tenant’s request for repairs, the tenant may apply to the RTDRS or court to:

  • recover damages
  • have the rent reduced to make up for any benefits the tenant has lost because the landlord didn't carry out the landlord's obligations
  • compensate for the cost of performing the landlord's obligations
  • end the tenancy

A tenant cannot withhold rent because they believe the landlord is not meeting their obligations. A landlord cannot evict a tenant for exercising their rights under the RTA or the Public Health Act.

Sublease or assignment

A tenant cannot sublease or assign the rental premises to someone else without the landlord’s written consent. A landlord may not refuse permission without reasonable grounds and must give the tenant their reasons in writing within 14 days after receiving the request.

If the landlord does not answer the request within 14 days, the tenant may assume that the landlord agrees to the sublease or assignment.

A landlord may not charge a fee for giving consent to sublease.

A tenant who subleases or assigns the rental premises may or may not be responsible for the balance of the residential tenancy agreement, and may choose to seek legal advice.

Entering the rental premises

A landlord may enter the residential rental premises at any time with the tenant’s consent. Consent can be verbal or written. If the landlord has the tenant’s consent, no notice is required.

Entry without permission but with proper notice

The landlord may enter the residential rental premises without permission but only if the landlord has given the tenant a written notice at least 24 hours before the time of entry. The landlord can give notice to enter in order to:

  • do repairs
  • inspect the state of repair of the rent premises
  • take necessary steps to control pests
  • show the rental premises to prospective purchasers, or mortgagees, or
  • show the rental 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

Entry without permission and without notice

The landlord may enter the rental premises without permission and without giving notice to the tenant:

  • when the landlord has reason to believe there is an emergency, or
  • the landlord has reason to believe that the tenant has abandoned the rental premises

File a complaint

If a tenant and landlord cannot reach an agreement regarding a dispute, either of them can contact an Information Officer in the Consumer Contact Centre.

The Consumer Contact Centre provides provincial information and services through toll free calling on matters that deal with tenant and landlord and consumer protection legislation.

Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS)

RTDRS offers landlords and tenants an alternative means of resolving serious disputes outside of court. The service is designed to be faster, more informal and less expensive than the courts.

A tenant or a landlord who has a dispute related to a termination, unpaid rent/utilities, security deposit, damages, repairs or other common disagreements may use the service. Either the tenant or landlord can contact the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS).

Evictions

24-hour eviction notice

A landlord can give the tenant at least a 24-hour notice to end the tenancy if the tenant:

  • assaults or threatens to assault a landlord
  • assaults or threatens to assault another tenant
  • does significant damage to the residential premises

The 24-hour notice must:

  • be in writing
  • be signed by the landlord or agent
  • state the reason for eviction, and
  • state the time and date the tenancy ends

The landlord can also apply to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS).

14-day eviction notice

If a tenant commits a substantial breach of the residential tenancy agreement, the landlord can apply to the RTDRS or court to end the tenancy or give the tenant at least a 14-day notice to end the tenancy. The day the notice is given and the day of moving out cannot be included in the 14 days, bringing the total required notice to 16 days.

A substantial breach occurs when a tenant does not carry out any of their obligations under the RTA or when a tenant commits a series of breaches of the residential tenancy agreement and the cumulative effect is substantial.

The 14-day notice must:

  • be in writing
  • be signed by the landlord or agent
  • state the reason for eviction, and
  • state the time and date the tenancy ends

Moving out

Amount of notice required to end a periodic tenancy

The required notice depends on who is giving the notice and the type of tenancy.

Landlords can only give notice to end a periodic tenancy under specific conditions set out in the Residential Tenancies Ministerial Regulation.

Type of periodic tenancy Tenant Landlord
Week-to-week 1 full tenancy week 1 full tenancy week
Month-to-month 1 full tenancy month 3 full tenancy months

Ending a tenancy due to domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence can end a tenancy early and without financial penalty.

This legislation applies in cases where, if the tenancy continues:

  • the tenant's safety is at risk
  • a dependant child's safety is at risk
  • a protected adult's safety is at risk

For more information, see Safer Spaces certificate to end tenancy.

If a tenant leaves belongings behind

Sometimes a tenant moves out or abandons the rental premises, but leaves belongings behind.

A landlord has the immediate right to dispose of the goods if the landlord believes they are worth less than $2,000, or if the value of the goods will depreciate substantially in storage (for example, the goods will spoil). If the goods are worth $2,000 or more, the landlord must store them for 30 days.

A tenant can reclaim their possessions by paying the landlord for the moving and storage costs. Once the tenant has paid these costs, the landlord must then return the tenant’s possessions. If the tenant does not claim the goods within 30 days, the landlord can sell the goods by public auction or by private sale with the approval of the court.

Renting a condo

There are different rules for landlords and tenants when condominium owners rent their units. If there is a conflict between the Condominium Property Act and RTA, the Condominium Property Act will apply.

Tenant’s responsibilities

Over and above the tenant’s obligations under the RTA, tenants renting condominium units also agree to:

  • follow the corporation's bylaws
  • not damage the corporation's property
  • pay the rent to the corporation instead of the landlord if directed to do so by the corporation
    • if this happens, the rent is deemed to have been paid to the landlord

Unit owners’ responsibilities

A condominium owner who rents their unit to a tenant must provide written notice to the condominium corporation of:

  • their intent to rent their unit
  • the address where they can be served
  • the amount of rent they are charging
  • the name of the tenant within 20 days of the tenancy starting
  • the unit no longer being rented within 20 days of the tenancy ending
  • the condominium owner must also pay a deposit if the corporation requests it (the landlord cannot ask the tenant to pay this deposit)
  • agree that the tenant will not damage the corporation’s property (damage does not include normal wear and tear)
  • inform tenants of the corporation’s bylaws and make them a condition of the tenancy (the bylaws override the tenancy agreement and the RTA)

The corporation’s responsibilities

When an owner rents their unit, the corporation may ask the owner for a deposit. The amount of the deposit can be no more than one month’s rent that will be charged for the unit. The owner’s deposit can be used to repair or replace condominium property, common property or exclusive use property damaged, destroyed, lost or removed by the tenant. The Condominium Property Act does not require the corporation to pay interest on the deposit.

Condominium corporations cannot use the Provincial Court of Alberta or the RTDRS to end a tenancy, recover possession or to get an order to vacate the rental premises.

Reference Guide to Tenant and landlord Law in Alberta (PDF, 810 KB)

Contact

The Consumer Contact Centre can provide information on many topics related to landlords and tenants:

Phone: 780-427-4088
Toll free: 1-877-427-4088