King’s residence students learn tenancy basics

Students voice their questions and concerns in a N.S. Legal Aid workshop

Tenancy rights materials for today’s workshop with Nova Scotia Legal Aid.
Promotional material for yesterday’s workshop with Nova Scotia Legal Aid.

A dozen King’s students attended a workshop on campus yesterday to learn about their tenancy rights.

The workshop was organized by residence don and fourth-year King’s student Katie Toth. Toth invited Vincent MacDonald of Nova Scotia Legal Aid to help educate students seeking housing advice.

In the cozy setting of Alexandra Hall’s Manning Room, students sat on couches, asked lots of questions and shared their own housing stories.

MacDonald said the main message of the workshop was that “there’s no harm in asking.” He encouraged students to learn about resources like legal aid offices and the province’s tenancy board, and to speak to their landlords if something’s bothering them.

Vincent MacDonald and Katie Toth (Photo: Laurel Walsh)
Vincent MacDonald and Katie Toth led the discussion. (Photo: Laurel Walsh)

He also introduced students to terminology and concepts that might help them understand tenancy law.

The group learned that all Nova Scotia leases share the same set of statutory rules, which are legally binding to both tenants and landlords. The learned a landlord must provide each tenant with a copy of their lease and terms on which “the lease is silent” are terms not mentioned in writing on the lease.

For one student hoping to get a cat, this was good news. Since her lease was silent on the issue of pet ownership, she is legally permitted to adopt a cat whether or not her landlord likes it.

“You’re allowed to do everything that hasn’t been prohibited in the lease,” MacDonald advised. But handling tenancy issues also involves an element of personal relationships. “We have to think, how do we get along with people? You guys will learn that later in life.”

Students asked questions about bedbugs, changing their locks, haggling over rent prices and subletting.

MacDonald said it is wise to “know the market,” and that a tenant’s concerns may be neglected “if the landlord knows he’s got 10 people lined up” to replace them.

Toth and the group cheered when he mentioned an old blacklist of local landlords and asked if he thought a resurgence of student-tenant organizing was in order.

“It’s a lovely idea,” said MacDonald. “They have to be cautious, because the landlords are the ones with the power. But if it’s done right, go for it.”