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The Landlord-Tenant Act in Alberta: A Definitive Guide

Without renting there wouldn’t be enough housing to go around. Yet renting is risky, for both landlords and tenants.


Bad landlords make life miserable for tenants and threaten their housing security. Bad tenants are a huge financial risk for landlords. They damage property and don’t pay the rent that landlords need to pay their own mortgages.


To address these issues, Alberta enacted the Residential Tenancies Act. This Act is meant to protect both landlords and tenants.


What is the Landlord-Tenant Act in Alberta?


The Residential Tenancies Act applies to most people who own rental properties or who rent them. It’s a law outlining the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, as well as the recourse both landlords and tenants have when either the landlord or tenant violates their side of the agreement.


The RTA applies to you if you:


  • Offer or rent housing in a house, apartment, duplex, or mobile home
  • Rent a hotel or motel room for more than six consecutive  months
  • Run a rooming house or boarding house.


It does not apply if a person shares a landlord’s living quarters as if they are part of the family. It also doesn’t apply to mobile home sites, which are covered by the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act. This act also doesn’t cover commercial real estate, even if they also have living accommodations attached, student housing, or most nursing homes.


What is an Alberta Rental Agreement?


A rental agreement, also known as the lease, is the legal contract binding both landlords and tenants. It cannot violate the terms of the RTA, but it may add to them. For example, if your rental agreement says you may not have pets in the unit then you’ve signed a contract to that effect and can be held accountable if you violate that contract.

While there are many boiler-plate leases online it’s usually wiser to have an Alberta real estate lawyer draft your specific lease. It’s very easy to have tenants sign leases which don’t actually apply to your property. The last thing you want to do is create big loopholes for either party to waltz through. All contracts any business uses should be tailor-made for that business, and rental businesses are no exception.


What rights do renters have in Alberta?


Renters have the right to:


  • Dispute an eviction.
  • Have guests. Landlords cannot restrict renters from having guests, roommates, or additional occupants. However, roommates and additional occupants must be included on the rental agreement. Tenants may not sublease without the landlord’s written consent.
  • Get their security deposit back at the end of the lease. Landlords may only ask for the equivalent of one month’s rent as a security deposit. Landlords may not deduct normal wear and tear expenses from the security deposit.
  • Expect that the landlord will keep the premises in good repair. Repairs that fall under the responsibility of the landlord include plumbing, heating, and electric services. Landlords may not request that tenants pay for repairs that are their own responsibility.


Landlords cannot raise the rent while you are bound by a rental agreement. However, they may raise the rent by any amount after the lease agreement ends. If you have a periodic tenancy agreement the landlord is required to notify you of the rent increase in writing, and to include the amount of the increase, the effective date of the rent increase, and to sign and date the notice. 

Can a tenant ever withhold rent in Alberta?


Tenants may not withhold rent, even if the landlord has failed to make repairs to a rental property. That does not mean you don’t have recourse if the landlord refuses to make repairs.


First, you can complete the repairs yourself and request reimbursement from the landlord. If the landlord doesn’t pay you can bring an application for reimbursement to the Provincial Civil Court, or through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service. You can also apply for a rent abatement if the failure to make a repair deprived you of a benefit you were supposed to have.


If the repair is covered by the Minimum Housing and Health Standards Act tenants may contact Alberta Health Services or the Environmental Public Health office. 


Repairs covered by this Act include:


  • Waterproofing, soundproofing, and weatherproofing.
  • Doors and windows kept in good repair and free of cracks.
  • Outside doors must be lockable.
  • Doors must have screens. Windows must protect against cold weather.
  • Stairs and railings must be in good repair.
  • Walls, windows, ceilings, floors, and floor coverings must be in good repair, free of cracks and holes, and easy to clean.
  • The furnace must be in good hair and able to heat all living spaces to 22ºC.  In winter the furnace must be able to keep a temperature of 16ºC.
  • If water, electricity, and heat are included in the rent the landlord must provide those utilities.
  • Hot running water must be between 46ºC and 60ºC.
  • The landlord must provide a refrigerator and a stove in safe proper operating condition.
  • Property must remain pest-free.


You usually do not start with a report to Minimum Housing and Health standards, but instead report the problem to the landlord in writing. You give the landlord a certain amount of time to respond and tell them you will be reaching out to Alberta Health Services or the Environmental Public Health Office if you don’t hear from them. 


What are the responsibilities of tenants in Alberta?


Tenants are responsible for paying their rent on time. They’re also responsible for ensuring that they do not conduct any illegal business on the premises. They are to keep the premises reasonably clean and report maintenance issues promptly to prevent damage to the premises. They also should do their best to avoid damaging the property and to avoid activities which could disturb or endanger the other tenants.


They are also responsible for abiding by the rules of their rental agreement and for moving out when the rental agreement ends, or for signing a new rental agreement when the original lease ends. 


What are the responsibilities of landlords in Alberta?


Landlords are responsible for making the rental premises available on the date the lease takes effect. You are not allowed to disturb a tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the rental premises. For example, you can enter to do a repair but you can’t just enter to start going through the tenant’s things. You must have the tenant’s written or verbal consent to enter, or give 24-hours notice. The only exceptions are when the landlord believes there’s an emergency or when the landlord believes the tenant has abandoned the premises. 


Landlords are also responsible for ensuring that the rental premises are habitable, safe, and in good repair throughout the tenancy. 


Landlords must deliver proper notice in regards to lease violations, plans to evict the tenant, or rent increases.


How much notice does a landlord have to give in Alberta?


24 hours to:


  • Enter the premises for a repair or for pest control, without the tenant’s permission.
  • Evict, if the tenant assaults or threatens a landlord or another tenant, or does significant damage to the premises.


1 week to:


  • End a week-to-week tenancy.


14 days to:


  • Evict a tenant for a substantial breach of the lease agreement, including for nonpayment.


30 days to:


  • End a month-to-month tenancy.


90 days to:


  • End an annual tenancy agreement.


How long does it take to evict a tenant in Alberta?


Evictions can take 14 to 28 days. Tenants have the right to dispute an eviction.


Note that neither the landlord nor the tenant can be locked out of the premises at any time. 


What is the standard procedure to resolve problems between landlords and tenants?


Either landlords or tenants may file a complaint with the Consumer Contact Center if there is a problem. If you need help, you can also reach out to our real estate law firm. We’ve helped struggling landlords and tenants across Alberta bring a satisfactory conclusion to their disputes, lawsuits, evictions, and other needs. 

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.