Here are 10 very important things that every Ontario tenant must know.
The Rental Fairness Act, 2017, amends the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. It expands rent control to all private rental units, including those first occupied on or after November 1, 1991. The legislation also provides additional protections for tenants, including enabling a standard lease and protecting tenants from eviction due to abuse of the “landlord’s own use” provision.
Standard tenancy agreement
In Ontario, a new standard tenancy agreement (lease) form was introduced on April 30, 2018. An easy-to-understand standard lease form is designed to help prevent disputes between tenants and landlords. Small landlords are now required to use the form for the lease agreements signed on or after April 30 when renting out residential units.
What Ontario tenants have to know about the standard lease
The standard form provides a template to gather basic information such as names and addresses, the total rent and when it is due, and any rules or terms about the rental unit or building. This includes tenancies in single and semi-detached houses, apartment buildings, rented condominiums and secondary units, such as basement apartments.
- If a landlord does not use the standard lease for tenancies that are entered into on or after April 30, 2018, a tenant can ask for one.
- If the landlord doesn’t provide it within 21 days, the tenant can withhold one month’s rent.
Please note, a tenant cannot withhold more than one month’s rent and they must continue paying the rent, even if the landlord never gives them the standard lease. However, if a standard lease is not provided, special rules allow tenants to end their fixed-term lease early.
If a landlord and tenant entered into a tenancy agreement before April 30, 2018, the landlord does not have to replace the existing tenancy agreement with the standard lease form, unless the landlord and tenant agree to do so.
A tenant can break a lease
If a tenant wants to move out BEFORE the end of the tenancy it is called “breaking a lease”. For example, a tenant signed a one year lease (also: rental agreement, rental contract, tenancy agreement) but wants to move out after six months.
A tenant must have the landlord’s approval to assign or sublet the unit, but the landlord must have a good reason to refuse.
In most cases, if a tenant has a tenancy agreement for a specific period of time, the tenant cannot break the lease before it ends, unless:
- the landlord agrees
- the landlord allows the tenant to assign or sublet the rental unit to someone else
- the Landlord and Tenant Board issues an order ending the tenancy agreement early
A tenant can assign or sublet the unit:
- Assigning a unit means that the tenant moves out of the unit permanently and transfers their tenancy to another person. All the terms (the amount of the rent and etc.) of the original rental agreement stay the same.
- Subletting a unit means that the tenant moves out of the unit for a certain period of time but they want to return to it before the end of the tenancy. The person who moves in (subtenant) pays the rent to the original tenant who then pays it to the landlord.
If a tenant and landlord agree to break a lease
It is best if this agreement is in writing and signed by the landlord and the tenant. You can use Form N11: Agreement to End the Tenancy.
A landlord can charge the tenant for any of their reasonable costs in approving the assignment, such as the cost of doing a credit check on the person who may be renting the unit. The landlord cannot, however, charge the tenant more than the landlord’s actual costs.
If the landlord refuses to break a lease
If the landlord is not willing to break the lease, the tenant can assign or sublet the unit to a new tenant with the landlord’s consent.
If the landlord does not let the tenant assign or sublet the rental unit
If the landlord does not let the tenant assign or sublet the rental unit, or does not reply within 7 days of the tenant’s request to assign, the tenant can end their tenancy by giving a Tenant’s Notice to Terminate the Tenancy (Form N9) to the landlord. The tenant must give the landlord this notice no later than 30 days after the request was made.
If a tenant disagrees with their landlord’s refusal to approve the person that the tenant would like to assign their tenancy to, or with the costs they paid to the landlord, the tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to resolve the matter by filing an Application about a Sublet or an Assignment.
Reasons to break a lease by tenant
Here are some major reasons when a tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an order ending the tenancy agreement early – if the landlord:
- unreasonably withholds consent to assign or sublet the rental unit
- is not maintaining the rental property
- unlawfully enters the rental unit
- alters the locking system without giving the tenant replacement keys
- withholds or deliberately interferes with a vital service
- interferes with the tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of the rental property
- harasses the tenant
The tenant has to prove to the Landlord and Tenant Board that the reasons to break a lease are reasonable.
If a tenant assigns or sublets their unit without the landlord’s consent
It is illegal to assign or sublet a unit without the landlord’s consent. A landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict both the tenant and the unauthorized occupant. However, if the landlord does not file the application within 60 days of discovering the unauthorized occupant, the unauthorized occupant becomes a tenant.
A tenant cannot be evicted for “landlord’s own use” without compensation
In September 1, 2017, Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board introduced new requirements for landlords who would like to evict a tenant for “landlord’s own use.” This legislation provides more protection for Ontario tenants and discourages landlords from playing dishonest games of evicting people from their dwelling places and then re-renting them at a higher rate.
A tenant can be evicted if a landlord requires the unit for:
- their own use
- the use of an immediate family member
- the use of a person who will provide care services to the landlord or a member of the landlord’s immediate family, who is living in the same building or complex
Ontario landlords can no longer evict tenants without compensation.
Under the new rental legislation, Ontario landlords must either give the tenant the equivalent of one month’s rent or offer the tenant another unit that the tenant accepts.
According to the Rental Fairness Act, 2017 (Legislation to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006), if the landlord advertises, re-rents or demolishes/converts the unit within one year, she or he will be considered to have acted in bad faith unless they can prove otherwise, and could face a fine of up to $25,000.
Tenants have to use the following Ontario Landlord and Tenant board form:
- T1: Tenant Application for a Rebate
Once the landlord gives the tenant a notice terminating the tenancy for one of these reasons, they can apply to the Landlord and Tenant board for an order evicting the tenant. However, a tenant can only be evicted at the end of their tenancy and only if the Board issues an eviction order.
A tenant can or cannot be evicted for smoking
Under provincial law, smoking tobacco or marijuana is not allowed in any indoor common areas of the building. But the Residential Tenancies Act does not discuss smoking in a rental unit.
If a non-smoking clause is included in your rental agreement
In Ontario, landlords have the right to ban all forms of smoking, including smoking marijuana for medical reasons, in all or part of a building (including indoor units and outdoor patios and balconies). A landlord who has included a no-smoking policy in a lease or rental agreement can terminate the tenancy or evict a tenant who smokes.
If a non-smoking clause is NOT included in your rental agreement
Landlords cannot change current tenancy agreements; they can only include a non-smoking clause in new agreements. In other words, if your current tenancy agreement does not have a non-smoking clause, your landlord cannot legally evict you just for smoking.
If second-hand smoke (tobacco or marijuana) from another unit is interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of your home, speak to your landlord.
A landlord can apply to LTB to evict a tenant for smoking
However, the landlord may apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to end the tenancy if the smoking:
- interferes with reasonable enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants
- causes undue damage
- impairs safety
- substantially interferes with another lawful right, privilege or interest of the landlord
A tenant cannot be evicted for having a pet
A landlord can refuse to rent to a person who has a pet (a service animal is not considered a pet). However, once a tenancy started and then the pet appears, a landlord cannot evict the tenant simply for having it. This is true even if they agreed that the tenant would not have a pet.
There are some cases when the landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict a tenant who has a pet. Some common examples are:
- The pet is making too much noise, damaging the unit or causing other tenants to have allergic reactions
- The breed or species is inherently dangerous (e.g. a tenant’s pit bull could be considered “inherently dangerous” even if it hasn’t bitten anyone)
- The rules of the condominium corporation does not allow pets like the one tenant has
A tenant cannot be evicted for having a roommate
A tenant cannot be evicted simply for having a roommate. However, if the roommate is causing a problem (for example, making a lot of noise, damaging the unit, or there are too many roommates), the landlord can apply to evict the tenant.
Please keep in mind that roommates do not have any rights or protections under the Residential Tenancies Act and cannot apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
When a term of the lease is void
If a term conflicts with the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, the term is void (not valid) and it cannot be enforced. Some examples of void and unenforceable terms include those that:
- Do not allow pets (however, the landlord can require the tenant to comply with condominium rules, which may prohibit certain pets),
- Do not allow guests, roommates, any additional occupants,
- Require the tenant to pay deposits, fees or penalties that are not permitted under the Residential Tenancies Act 2006
- Require the tenant to pay for all or part of the repairs that are the responsibility of the landlord.
Changes to the rental unit by tenants
A tenant may install decorative items, such as pictures or window coverings. The tenant cannot make other changes to the rental unit without the landlord’s written permission.
A tenant can raise any issue at a hearing if a landlord applied for eviction for non-payment of rent
According to the Rental Fairness Act, 2017, a tenant can raise any issues at the hearing about a landlord’s application for non-payment of rent.
When a landlord files an application to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent (Form L1 or L9) a hearing is scheduled. At the hearing, the tenant can raise any issues that they could have raised had they filed their own application with the Landlord and Tenant Board. This means that if the tenant has concerns about issues such as disrepair, harassment or the lawfulness of their rent, they can raise them at the hearing. The Board can make an order to get the issue fixed if appropriate.
A tenant should let their landlord know ahead of time if they are going to raise issues about their tenancy at the hearing. A tenant can do this in writing, or by talking to the landlord in person or by phone.
Tenants should also come to the hearing prepared to present any evidence they need to support any issues they want to raise. They should bring three copies of any evidence they want to use (for example, receipts or pictures), as well as any people they want to use as witnesses.
Tenants who have maintenance issues can also file a Tenant Application about Maintenance.
Tenants might get help paying the rent
Let’s consider the situation when a tenant usually pays the rent. But if the tenant lives on a shoestring budget, any emergency situation can get them out of balance. They might get financial assistance from organizations in their community including rent banks, emergency welfare or utility assistance programs. They provide information and support to low-income households to help stabilize their housing, prevent eviction and homelessness through access to interest-free loans and energy arrears grant.
The ultimate source to find programs in your area is 211Ontario:
Usually, these programs are available to low-income individuals and families who are on the verge of being evicted due to rent arrears.
Eligible applicants for rent loans are: the leaseholder of a rental unit covered by provincial tenant legislation, individuals who are employed or receiving EI, CPP, OAS or WSIB benefits; paying market rent (non-subsidized); have rental arrears of two months or less; have received written notice of non-payment or termination from their landlords; can afford their rent in the long term and have a legal status in Canada.
Applicants cannot be homeowners, or receive benefits through Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program or OSAP. If you get assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, ask your worker about how to get help paying your rent.
If you are not sure which application to file
If you are not sure which application to file, go to the Help for Tenants page of the Landlord and Tenant Board:https://tribunalsontario.ca/ltb/
The Landlord and Tenant Board contacts
For more information, or to obtain copies of forms and publications:
- Toll free: 1-888-332-3234
- Toronto area: 416-645-8080
- TTY: Bell Relay Service at 1-800-268-9242
- Website: https://tribunalsontario.ca/ltb/
- You can visit your local Landlord and Tenant Board office. A list of Board office locations can be found on the website.
By Carlos Perdomo