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Canada - Property Letting

If you own a home in Canada but need to leave it unoccupied for some reason then you may consider letting it out to tenants. It is also possible to do this if you need to relocate to another area but do not want to sell your home.

There are certain legislations that must be adhered to when letting out your property to tenants. Each province and territory has their own rules to abide by, and while many of them are standard rules and regulations there are some provinces and territories that have very particular rules too. For example, you cannot collect a security deposit in either Ontario or Quebec, although all the other provinces and territories allow you to do so. The legislation changes often with regards to tenancy agreements and other rules that must be adhered to and so as a landlord you must make it your priority to be aware of these amendments at all times. You can also consult a lawyer who specialises in tenancy agreements or seek advice from other landlords who may have several years’ experience of handling tenanted properties in your province or territory.

You must also be aware of the privacy laws for your province or territory. In some provinces it may be fine to discuss issues you may be having with your tenant to close family or friends but in others this is not acceptable. This can also affect the way you interview for a new tenant as there may be certain questions you are not allowed to ask, and you may need to explain to your prospective tenants the reason for asking certain questions. You can contact the Privacy Commissioner located in Ottawa for information.

There are also building codes that your property must adhere to. You are not allowed to let out your property if it does not satisfy the standard expected from a private rental property. There are many local bylaws too which must be met including fire safety standards. Each municipality is different and so you should contact your local office for information regarding this prior to renting out your property.

Many of us overestimate what our property is valued at, particularly those who have done renovation or modernisation works on the home. Trying to work out how much rent you should charge for your home can be tough as you want the best price possible. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure you to do not price yourself out of the market and make it more appealing to a prospective tenant. Keep an eye on the local rental market. If other homes in your area are renting for $700 per month, it may not be wise to ask for $1000 per month unless your home is completely unique (such as having a pool or other extras that the other homes in the area do not have). At the same time you do not want to be asking for a rent that is too low as this might raise concerns with a tenant that there is something wrong with the property or there may be hidden clauses in the agreement. By keeping the rental costs at a fair level you will encourage tenants to your home, and may even encourage longer term letting contracts.

Do not forget to keep all records for the transactions between yourself and your tenant. You may need to hire an accountant or book keeper to keep track of the business dealings for you. You will need to set up a Chart of Accounts which is used to record income, expenses and other payments associated with your business.

Once you have found your tenant it is wise to keep a record of the inventory of the home. This can be as detailed as you like such as 6 plates, knives, forks etc, or as simple as dinner set and cutlery. Your paperwork should also contain information regarding the condition of the home, any damage already there prior to the tenant moving in (such as cracked tiles or chipped woodwork) and the paperwork needs to be signed by both you as the landlord and by the tenant. In some provinces this paperwork is required by law, in others it is not. For your own peace of mind, even if your province or territory does not require it, it is still wise to have it.

The tenancy agreement you set up must clearly show the rental charge, whether you expect this to be paid weekly or monthly and what is covered under the rental payment (for example, some landlords will cover the cost of the water rates others will not). The rental agreement should also clearly state what date the payment is to be made by and by what means. For example, the first day of every month, cash to be collected on the day by the landlord or by bank transfer on a set day.

Rent increases are expected by everyone at some time or other. You cannot however just increase the rental charge without first giving notice to the tenant. Again, the province you are in will affect the rules that apply, but as a general rule you must notice in writing of rent increases. Normally the notice period should be no less than 90 days and the rental increase often cannot occur part way through the tenancy contracted period. This means you must wait until the tenancy agreement is up before you can implement any rental increases.

When the lease is due to run out you should make contact with the tenant to see if they want to stay and extend their lease or if they are moving on. If they decide they are moving on you may make arrangements with the current tenants to show the property to prospective new tenant. This cannot be done without prior notice to the existing tenants who may or may not want to be in the home when others are looking around.

If your tenant is causing you problems such as not paying rent or being disruptive to neighbours or even damaging the property, there are regulations that must be followed in order to right the issue. The landlord is responsible for the property and therefore it is in their best interest to correct the issues as quickly as possible. The outcome may be eviction from the property or legal action. The landlord may find though that a simple request made directly to the tenant is enough to ensure that future problems do not arise.

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