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Lease abandonment a financial, emotional headache for landlords

February 2012

I received a call one morning from a client who had hired me to find her a new tenant.

Rose was in a state of panic because the tenants I had recruited were moving out with more than 16 months left on the lease.

The tenants had followed an application process. References were called, questions asked and credit checks performed. Rose interviewed the applicants before signing a lease in July 2011. They provided Rose with the first month rent to hold the apartment until August. Quebec law does not allow a landlord to collect more than one month’s rent. They abandoned the lease in December 2011.

One of the tenants called Rose to say her boyfriend was leaving the country and that she was moving to her daughter’s home outside Montreal. A moving truck was coming the next day to collect their belongings and no forwarding addresses were provided, indicating abandonment.

I explained to Rose courses of action available under the law. However, the tenants’ rights proved to be more beneficial than those of Rose. Every course of action open to Rose was going to take lots of money and time.

I drafted a letter for Rose demanding commitment from the tenants, with a deadline to respond, or legal action would be pursued. I witnessed Rose handing the letter to the tenants as proof that they had received it. Registered mail is also appropriate, but we did not have time.

We decided to file a complaint of abandonment at the Régie du logement to allow Rose to collect the rent owed to her.

However, to start this process, we needed the forwarding addresses of each tenant. Since the tenants did not provide this information, the Régie would not open a file.

We thought of hiring a professional to find the tenants; however, this would have cost hundreds of dollars with no guarantee of success; and while we had their social insurance numbers, this was not sufficient to locate the tenant who had left the country.

We concluded it would be easier to find new tenants. Perhaps this is what these tenants knew and hoped for.

Rose wishes she could ask the new tenants for a few months rent, just in case this happens again.

The law in Quebec allows landlords to select tenants based on references and interviews, but a landlord can only ask for the first month’s rent. In Ontario, tenants can be asked to pay first and last month’s rent, offering a financial buffer.



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