Living in an apartment? What you should know

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UNBSJ was visited by the Rentalsman of New Brunswick on Dec. 6.

The office of the Rentalsman typically holds presentations on campus three times a year, twice during fall semester and once in the winter term. They’re a provincial service that appoints officials under the Residential Tenancies Act and are responsible for keeping the public informed about tenancy issues (with regards to renting or leasing) and dealing with complaints from tenants and landlords.

Students are encouraged to attend these presentations because many are unaware that landlords have obligations under the landlord-tenant agreement to keep the apartment in a good state of repair. Also, the bonus is on the landlord to prove the condition of the apartment prior to the tenants moving in.

Eileen Holmes, Rentalsman of 19 years, advises students to understand what they are getting into. “Read the lease. [For example] there is no such thing as putting money down to hold an apartment,” she says “that money is either rent or a security deposit.”

Holmes cautions students to inspect the living space before moving in. “Go through with the landlord and make note of anything wrong with the apartment. Keep a copy [of the lease] for yourself and the landlord gets a copy,” she says.

If there is an issue, Holmes advises tenants to contact their landlord first, in writing. If after seven days, the landlord has not responded, the tenant can then fill out a tenant’s application for assistance form. The province offers these and other forms pertinent to renting on their website, www.gnb.ca.

Holmes informs students about the province’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (SCAN). SCAN allows residents to anonymously report problem residents and buildings in an effort to make their neighbourhoods safer.  SCAN investigates illegal activity such as drugs, prostitution, possession and sale of illegal weapons, illegal gaming, etc.

In addition to these annual visits from a Rentalsman, UNBSJ offers its own resources to students who are living off campus. Bonnie Sudul is the off-campus housing advisor. She provides apartment listings, cost/budget information and advice to domestic and international students who are searching for housing in the city.

“We help [students] out by giving them maps, giving them listings and we give them information about where maybe not to look in the city as well,” says Sudul. “You want to be safe, that’s the most important thing.”

Sudul says the biggest challenge with off-campus housing, particularly in terms of housing international students is the lack of homestay programs.

Homestay is a program that affords students the opportunity of a “family life” in another country. A family who meets the homestay program’s criteria hosts a student in their home. “They would feed the student, interact with the student, help with homework, maybe take them shopping. There is a real commitment, it’s a family situation,” says Sudul. “A lot of students want that, especially English [second] language students.”

Sudul says there is a homestay program in the works, which would benefit many of the 600 international students at UNBSJ who are seeking housing.

Sudul’s advice to prospective tenants is to know and understand what they are getting into. “Take your time, know what questions to ask, read the lease, know the rules and regulations, know what’s included,” she says.

For more information on renting visit: www.snb.ca/irent/.