For many newcomers, finding a place to live is one of the most important tasks you need to attend to once you arrive in Canada. Part of finding safe and comfortable housing for you and your family includes understanding your rights as a tenant. For people who choose to settle in Ontario, there are legal rights to protect them from discrimination and from unlawfully being evicted from a property. These rights also ensure that rent increases are controlled and that you’re living in a home that is safe and in good repair. Here’s what you need to know when finding a place you’ll be happy with.
In this article:
What documents do you need to rent in Ontario?
Renting a house, apartment or another type of dwelling in Ontario usually requires you to provide certain documents as part of your application process. These documents will support your financial information and any previous rental history. Here is a list of common documents you’ll likely be asked to submit as part of your rental application:
- Employment letter: A letter from your employer stating how long you’ve been employed at your current job and your annual salary.
- Pay stubs: In addition to an employment letter, you may be asked to provide copies of recent pay stubs as proof of your income.
- Bank statement: If you’re self-employed or still looking for a permanent job, you could be asked to provide a copy of a recent bank statement in replace of pay stubs and employment letters. This is a way to show a potential landlord you have sufficient money to pay your rent.
- References: Similar to applying for jobs, you can expect to be asked for references from a trusted friend or manager who will speak to your character and reliability as a tenant. These references have to be based in Canada.
- Credit report: A full credit report is often requested as part of your rental application. Your credit report is a summary of your credit history, and you’ll be provided with a three-digit number. The higher the number, the better your financial health. A full credit report, which will cost approximately $25 CAD, also shows any debts or bankruptcy.
It takes at least a few weeks to a month for newcomers to receive their first Canadian credit card and a few additional months of credit transactions to generate a credit history. EQUIFAX and TransUnion are the two major credit rating organizations in Canada, and you can choose either one to get your credit report.
Eviction rules in Ontario
The provincial government in Ontario has established rules to protect both renters and landlords from wrongful eviction. Landlords must act in good faith when evicting a tenant for reasons that are not the tenant’s fault. A landlord can only evict you in specific circumstances, and they must first serve an eviction notice form provided by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Even if you receive an eviction notice from your landlord, you have the right to go to a hearing and explain why you should not be evicted.
Common reasons for eviction in Ontario include:
1. Personal use
If your landlord wishes to evict you to live in your lodging themselves or for use by a close family member, they are legally entitled to do so. However, they must now give you the equivalent of one month’s rent as compensation or offer you another unit if one is available. A landlord must fill in a N12: Notice to End your Tenancy Because the Landlord, a Purchaser or a Family Member Requires the Rental Unit.
2. Selling the property
A landlord can evict you if they wish to sell the property, and the person purchasing it will be using the lodging themselves. Again, your landlord must provide the equivalent of one month’s rent as compensation or offer you another unit if one is available.
If a landlord wishes to do a major renovation, repair or demolish a property, they can legally evict you for this reason. However, they are legally required to give at least 120 days notice if you have a fixed-term lease or the last day of the rental period if there is no fixed term. The landlord is required to fill in a N13: Notice to End Your Tenancy Because the Landlord Wants to Demolish the Rental Unit, Repair it or Convert it to Another Use. Depending on the landlord’s reasons for submitting a N13 form, they will be required to either offer another rental unit or provide compensation, as outlined by the LTB.
4. Non-payment of rent
You can also be evicted for non-payment of rent. In this instance, a landlord can issue you with a N4: Notice to End your Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent. A landlord must give at least 14 days notice for tenants who have a monthly or yearly lease, and 7 days for tenants on a week-to-week lease. You would then have the notice period to repay the outstanding rent or the landlord can legally apply to the LTB for an order to evict you based on this notice. Be aware that if a landlord does apply to the LTB to evict you successfully, you will likely have to pay the outstanding rent plus the costs for the filing fee to the LTB on behalf of the landlord.
5. Eviction for cause
A tenancy agreement can also be terminated for breach of the agreement. Reasons to evict for cause can include:
- You or your guests unreasonably disturbing other tenants and/or the landlord.
- You or your guests engage in illegal activities.
- Causing extensive damage to the property and failing to make repairs in a reasonable time.
- Using the property for something other than residential use that could cause damage to the property.
- Overcrowding or having too many people live in the property.
- Lying about your income on your tenancy application.
In the instance of neglect or causing damage to the property, a landlord can serve a 20-day eviction notice. If you or your guests engage in illegal activities at the property (for example, selling drugs or other illegal substances), a landlord can serve a 10-day eviction notice.
Your responsibilities as a tenant in Ontario
While landlords certainly have a responsibility to their tenants, similarly as a tenant renting in Ontario, you also have responsibilities to your landlord. They include:
- Paying your rent on time and in full on the date it is due.
- Contacting the landlord as soon as possible if a serious problem arises that involves repairs.
- Permitting entry to the property, with minimum 24-hour notice, for service people to make repairs or for the landlord to show the premises to future tenants or a purchaser.
- Keep the rental property clean and maintain it, which could mean clearing snow and cutting the grass.
- Repair any damages you or any of your guests may cause.
|Want to learn more about how to find a place to live in Toronto?
See Top 10 tips for first-time renters in Toronto for an overview of how to decide where to live, the best places to explore your options, and how to close a deal.
What is covered by a rental lease?
A standard lease in Ontario is a contract between a landlord and tenant. It is referred to as a Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTA) and is designed to ensure everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without being discriminated against or harassed. Here are the various components of a standard lease:
|Parties to the agreement
||This includes the names of the landlord and tenant.
||This section describes the property being rented out and includes its address, number of parking spaces available, and any condominium bylaws that a tenant must follow.
||It includes the landlord’s address and any other means of notification for emergencies or day-to-day communication, such as email or telephone number.
|Term of tenancy
||This section includes the terms of the tenancy, for example, a one-year lease, month-to-month or weekly as well as the date when the tenancy will begin and end.
||This section sets out the total amount of rent and includes base rent and any separate charges for services such as parking, air conditioning, or storage locker rental provided by the landlord. It also stipulates when rent must be paid, what methods of payment are accepted and any administrative charges for returned cheques.
|Services and utilities
||This section sets out who is responsible for which utilities at the rental unit and any other seasonal services, such as air conditioning, in exchange for a rent increase.
||This section allows a landlord to offer a rent discount.
||This section is where the two parties agree on whether a rent deposit is required and the amount.
||The landlord and tenant can agree on whether a key deposit is required and the amount. Requesting a key deposit is legal in Ontario, but there are conditions attached. A key deposit must be refundable once the keys are returned to the landlord at the end of the tenancy. Also, the deposit cannot exceed the cost of replacing the keys, nor can it be used to cover other expenses such as cleaning costs. An example of when you might be asked to provide a key deposit is for renting a condominium, where keys would include not only access to the condo, but to the building’s main entrance, garage, and any other shared spaces, such as a gym.
||In this section, the landlord and tenant agree to rules about smoking in the rental property.
||Here the landlord and tenant agree whether the tenant is required to take out liability insurance while renting the property.
|Changes to the rental unit
||This section covers changes a tenant can legally make while living in the property.
|Maintenance and reports
||This section outlines the ways a landlord must maintain the rental property and a tenant’s responsibility to keep the place clean.
|Assignment and subletting
||This section covers the tenant’s rights to sublet the unit to someone else.
||This section is where any additional terms that both the landlord and tenant agree upon can be added. Additional terms should be written in plain language and includes any additional terms a landlord wishes to include that take away the rights of the tenant under the Ontario RTA cannot be enforced.
|Changes to the agreement
||This section explains any changes to the lease agreement must be made in writing.
||In this section, both parties sign the tenancy and agree to follow the terms laid out. If there is more than one tenant renting then both parties must sign and each is responsible for all tenant obligations. All parties listed in section one must sign this section and a copy of the agreement must be provided to the tenant within 21 days of signing.
The standard lease has changed and an updated version should be used for new residential tenancy agreements signed on or after March 1, 2021.
What is included in a lease in Ontario?
When renting a property in Ontario, your landlord should be using a standard RTA. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination or harassment. Here is what can and cannot be included as clauses in a lease in Ontario:
Clauses that can be included in a lease
The following clauses can be included in a lease as the law in Ontario leaves these conditions up to you and your landlord to decide on. They include:
- Rental discount and deposit: The landlord can agree to any rental discounts for a period of time as well as agree with the tenant whether a rental deposit is required and the amount required. Note: In Ontario, a rental deposit equivalent to one month’s rent is typically required, and a rental deposit cannot be used as a damage deposit toward the rental unit. A rent deposit is the only deposit a landlord can legally request, with the exception of a key deposit. Requesting money as a damage deposit or applying the last month’s rent, which is held as a deposit towards paying for damages, is illegal in Ontario.
- Services and utilities: With this clause, a landlord and tenant can agree on who is responsible for which utilities, such as electricity, heat, water, and any service rentals on appliances.
- Smoking: Under provincial law in Ontario, smoking is not allowed in any common indoor areas in a building (such as a shared corridor). In this section, you and your landlord can agree to rules about smoking, including cannabis, in your rental property.
- Term of tenancy agreement: The date you move into the rental unit and the length and term of the tenancy, including whether it’s a fixed term or monthly tenancy.
- Tenants insurance: In this section, you and the landlord can agree on whether you require liability insurance. You may also have to provide proof of coverage if a landlord asks.
It is advisable to take out tenant insurance as it protects your belongings, living expenses, including moving costs, and liability claims if you cause accidental damage. Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive and costs around $25 CAD per month.
Clauses that cannot be included or changed in a lease
The RTA is designed to be fair to all parties and to protect the human rights of tenants. The following clauses cannot be included in a lease:
- Changes to the rental unit: This clause refers to changes to the unit that are permitted. For instance, the right to install decorative items such as pictures and window coverings. However, other changes must be made with the landlord’s permission first. An example would be painting the walls. Items in this section cannot be changed.
- Subletting: In section 14, a tenant needs a landlord’s permission to sublet a unit or part of the property, such as a spare bedroom, to someone else, and that the landlord cannot arbitrarily or unreasonably withhold their consent.
- Pets: A landlord cannot include a clause that does not allow pets in the tenancy agreement. The exception is if the landlord and tenant must comply with condominium rules which prohibit types of pets, such as dogs.
- Guests: A landlord cannot include a clause restricting a tenant from having guests, roommates or additional occupants, such as a family member.
- Additional deposits or fees: A landlord cannot request a tenant pay any additional deposits or fees that are not outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act. This includes requesting a deposit for pets or potential damages or interest on rent in arrears.
- Payment for repairs: A landlord is not permitted to request a tenant pay for any or part of repairs that fall under the responsibility of the landlord. This includes items your landlord is legally responsible for, such as repairs to heating, plumbing, electricity and appliances that come with the rental unit, such as a stove, dishwasher or refrigerator.
Rental increase limits in Ontario
The Ontario government provides guidelines for rental increases, which are calculated using the Ontario Consumer Price Index. Therefore the amount fluctuates each year, and in 2020 was set at 2.2 per cent. This would mean if your rent was $2,000 CAD, then after 12-months, a landlord could raise your rent by 2.2 per cent to $2,044 CAD. A landlord can legally raise your rent once every 12-months and must provide written notice of at least 90 days before any increase in rent.
The government of Ontario has currently passed legislation to freeze rent prices at 2020 levels for tenants in rental houses, apartments and condos. This means rents will not increase in 2021. This rent freeze will end on December 31, 2021.
What are my rights as a tenant in Ontario?
While it might seem that a landlord holds all the power when it comes to renting a property, tenants in Ontario also have rights that are designed to safeguard them. Here are some common questions on your rights as a tenant in Ontario:
Can a landlord say no to overnight guests?
Despite what a landlord might say or even try to include in a rental agreement they legally cannot prevent you from having overnight guests stay at your rental property in Ontario. You have the right to decide who you can invite to visit and stay at your place. A landlord is not permitted to create any sort of limitations on your right to do this, nor can they charge you an extra fee or threaten to raise your rent if you have guests stay. However, please note, as a tenant you are also responsible for any disturbances or damages your guests may do to the property.
Your landlord should use a standard Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTA) dated April 30, 2018, or later, which includes a Clause 15 Additional Terms. This document outlines that a landlord cannot add, “An additional term cannot take away a right or responsibility under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006… Do not allow guests, roommates or any additional occupants.”
Can a landlord say no to pets?
A landlord is permitted to ask if you have pets as part of the rental application process in Ontario. They also have the right to deny your application for this reason. However, once you have signed a lease and moved in, a landlord cannot evict you for owning a pet, even if your rental agreement stipulates “no pets.” However, a landlord does have a right to ask for you to remove a pet if it is against any local or condominium by-laws, if a pet is making an unreasonable amount of noise or causing damage to the property, or if the pet is dangerous.
Can a landlord terminate a month-to-month lease?
A landlord can legally terminate a month-to-month lease in Ontario for reasons that are legal, and the termination is processed correctly. Reasons for terminating a lease include:
- Failure to pay rent in full or always late
- Tenant causing damage to the property
- Tenant disturbing others in the building
- Engaging in illegal activities in the rental property
- Allowing too many other people to live in the rental unit
They can also terminate a month-to-month lease for some of the reasons outlined earlier. These reasons, which include personal use, renovation or selling the property, fall under what is called “no-fault.” In either situation, a landlord must provide the proper amount of notice.
The terms of my tenancy are up. Do I have to move out?
If a tenancy ends, a tenant does not have to move out or sign a new agreement in order to stay. Under the rules of the tenancy agreement, a tenant still has the right to stay:
- As a monthly tenant, if the agreement was for a fixed term such as one year or monthly.
- As a weekly tenant, if the agreement was for a weekly tenancy.
- As a daily tenant, if the agreement was for daily tenancy.
Where to get help
If you have any questions or concerns about renting in Ontario, you can contact the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) for advice. Customer service offices are available from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to provide information about the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), but are unable to provide legal advice. Call 416-645-8080 or Toll-free 1-888-332-3234. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an informal place to seek advice as a tenant in Ontario, you can join the Ontario Tenant Rights group on Facebook.