- Step 1: Negotiate with your landlord to try to mediate the issue on your own. Get all correspondence in writing (email, written letter, text messages, or a personal written journal can all work!). Keep copies with dates on them for your own record.
- Step 2: File a Form J application through Access Nova Scotia (found here) if you and your landlord cannot resolve an issue on your own. Form-J is a provincial application to the Director of Residential Tenancies and is used for resolving disputes between tenants and landlords. You will be set up with a tenancy hearing to work through your issue.
- Step 3: Call 3-1-1 f you believe your issue might be municipal or by-law related. You’ll speak with a CBRM representative. You can ask questions or report a problem.
- Step 4: Contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid Sydney Office (902-563-2295) if you need of legal support for a specific or unique conflict in your tenancy, or if you want support filing Form J. Check out their website (here).
- Step 5: Contact the Cape Breton Regional Police non-emergent dispatch (902-563-5151) if you have a concern or question about non-emergent but potentially urgent or serious matter that could involve police or safety.
- Step 6: You can call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency where you or someone else is in danger or being harassed or threatened.
Form J is a handy tool that any tenant can use to help them during their tenancy. Form J is an application to Nova Scotia’s provincial Residential Tenancies Program, to get a tenancy hearing for resolving a dispute or answering a question during a tenancy. Form J can be used by tenants or landlords during any kind of issue that arises during a tenancy. The application is reviewed by a Tenancy Officer who will set you up with a hearing date, where your issue or question will be addressed.
Examples of conflicts or questions that can be addressed using Form J and getting a tenancy hearing: concerns about being evicted, disagreements in your rental increase, if you disagree with a form or notice your landlord sends you (such as a Notice to Quit), and more!
The tenancy hearing is an informal meeting. You, your landlord, and a legal aid you choose to bring for support will be able to attend the hearing. After the hearing, Nova Scotia’s Tenancy Board will provide you with a solution to your conflict or an answer to your question within 14 days of the hearing.
Access your Form J application here: https://beta.novascotia.ca/application-director-resolve-dispute-between-landlord-and-tenant-form-j
Currently in place in Nova Scotia, there is a province-wide “rent cap” which means there is a maximum capacity on how much landlords can increase their tenants’ rental payments each year. This cap is currently at 2% until December 31, 2023. This means that once a year, landlords can raise their existing tenants’ rent by a maximum of 2%. For example, a tenant who pays $1000/month for rent could potentially have their monthly rent increased by $20 during an annual rent increase implemented by their landlord.
Changing the lease to remove services that were previously included in the lease is also considered a rental increase and also must be within the 2% cap. For example, a landlord removing free parking from the lease, and then asking the tenant to pay an additional $150 to access the parking, is a rental increase. If rent in this situation was $1000/month, this example would not be within the 2% rent cap and would not be permitted.
This rent cap will remain in place as currently described until December 31st of 2023. On January 1st, 2024 until December 31st 2025, rent cap will remain in effect, but will be increasing to 5%.
Use Form J if your landlord attempts to enforce an illegal rental increase!
Yes! Every tenant living in rental housing in Nova Scotia is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). If you did not sign a written lease, you are automatically covered under the provincial Standard Form Lease (Form P) issued by the province and accessible via Access Nova Scotia’s website here. All tenants have a lease, always! Even if it is not in writing.
Landlords are only allowed to increase a tenant’s rent once a year, after providing written notice 4 months in advance (for month-by-month and year-by-year leases). The notice must indicate the amount by which rent will increase, and the date the rental increase will go into effect. If a landlord does not provide this proper notice, the rental increase is not permitted and can be disputed with the provincial Tenancy Board.
It is illegal to increase a tenant’s rent multiple times per year.
To report or dispute illegal rental increases, file Residential Tenancy Form J!
A landlord in Nova Scotia is only legally allowed to ask for the equivalent of up to one-half of one month’s rent as a refundable security deposit (also called a damage deposit). A landlord is not permitted to request a security deposit larger than half the monthly rent, and is not permitted to request a deposit or fee for pets. For example, if rent is $1000/month, a landlord could request a security deposit up to a maximum of $500 only.
The landlord, property owner, or manager of rental property is personally liable for any breach of the Residential Tenancies Act governing security deposits. Even if a tenant does agree to pay an illegal security deposit, the responsibility for this illegal action is always on the landlord or property owner/manager, and never on the tenant.
Landlords can potentially be fined up to $5,000 for violating laws around security deposits. Use Form J to report a landlord who you believe is requesting or accepting illegal security deposits.
- Access Nova Scotia website for J-forms and all other RTA forms for tenants and landlords
- NS Legal Aid website
- Dalhousie Legal Aid website (to access Tenants Rights Guides)
- Residential Tenancies Act (legal document)
- Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Sydney Office (902-563-2295): for local legal aid; contact a Social Justice Support Worker for issues regarding housing, tenancies, navigating the tenancy board, tenancy hearings, and more
- Access Nova Scotia (902-424-5200 OR toll free: 1-800-670-4357): Provides information about residential tenancies and the law in Nova Scotia; provides residential tenancy forms for use by tenants and landlords.
- CBRM Public Service Hotline (3-1-1) for municipal or by-law related issues during your tenancy (building/structural concerns; health & safety concerns such as mold in your apartment, etc.)
- Cape Breton Regional Police non-emergent dispatch (902-563-5151) for non-emergent but important legal matters potentially involving police or safety
- EMERGENCIES (9-1-1) for police, paramedics, or firefighter response during emergencies (you’ve been illegally kicked out of your apartment, serious threats, harassment, and conflicts, etc.)