What is the RTA & LTB?
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the provincial legislation that governs the relationship between residential landlords and tenants in Ontario. Your rental accommodation may be an apartment, a house, or a room in a lodging or boarding house; these units are covered under the RTA.
The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) is a quasi-judicial agency set up under the RTA to provide information about the Act and resolve tenancy disputes through mediation or adjudication. The Landlord and Tenant Board also provide landlords and tenants with information about the rights and obligations each has under the RTA.
**NOTE: If you share a bathroom or kitchen with the owner or the owner’s son or daughter (common in many student housing situations), your living accommodations will not be covered under the RTA. If you are planning to look for this accommodation type, consider developing some “House Rules” that can cover many of the points discussed in this section. Ideally, these should be negotiated and signed as part of your original discussions with the owner.
A lease may be written, verbal or implied (e .g .through the payment of rent). All are equally binding and can only be terminated in accordance with the RTA. The difficulty, however, for anyone relying on verbal agreement always lies in proving exactly what was agreed to. As a rule, always get any important agreements in writing.
Prior to signing, a prospective tenant is free to negotiate the terms of the lease with the owner. You can amend a lease by deleting or adding sections and then having all parties to the lease initial the change(s). However, it is important to remember that the RTA will override any provisions of the lease, which are contrary to the Act.
Any term in a lease that does not contradict the RTA may be valid. Therefore, it is important to review a lease very carefully.
Never sign anything you do not understand! You should always be given some time to read the lease through and consult with someone to be sure of what you are agreeing to.
Important Notes and Questions About Your Lease
Can I sign an 8 month lease? What should be on it? What are you responsible for? You can find the answers to these questions and so much more right here.
- The name and address of the landlord and tenant(s);
- The address of the rental property;
- The agreed upon monthly rent amount, with or without utilities (be specific – Heat? Hydro? Water? Parking? Internet? Etc);
- The term of the rental period (usually 12 or 8 months, or month-to-month) and specific dates of occupancy;
- When the rent is due (e .g . on the first day of each month);
- The amount and terms of the rent deposit (e.g. is the deposit refundable; it can only be used towards last month’s rent, etc.)
- Which repairs are your responsibility, and your obligation to do repairs at the request of the landlord (if applicable);
- Who is responsible for snow shovelling and cutting the lawn?; who will supply the tools to do so, and maintenance of such;
- The notice period that the tenant is required to give when terminating a tenancy, such as 60 days prior to the end of the lease term;
- Subletting rules;
- Specific restrictions, such as no additional tenants, pets, smoking;
- When and how a landlord can enter the rental premises;
- Conditions for termination of a lease (by either party);
- Terms for dispute resolution (late payment, damage and repairs)
As of April 30, 2018, all new tenancies must use the approved Standard Lease Form found on the Ontario Ministry of Housing website.
- If you sign a lease on or after April 30, 2018, that does not use the standard lease, renters can ask the landlord for one in writing. The landlord must provide one within 21 days. Renters cannot ask for a standard lease if they signed a lease before April 30, 2018, unless they and their landlord negotiate a new lease agreement with new terms on or after this date. Additionally, renters cannot ask for a standard lease if they sign a fixed-term lease before April 30, 2018, and it renewed automatically to a month-to-month tenancy after April 30, 2018. If a landlord fails to provide the standard lease within 21 days after a renter has asked for it in writing, the renter may withhold one month’s rent. If the landlord fails to provide the standard lease within 30 days after the renter has begun withholding rent, the renter does not have to repay the one month’s rent. Please note, you cannot withhold more than one month’s rent and you must continue paying your rent for the term of your lease, even if your landlord never gives you the standard lease. However, if a standard lease is not provided, special rules allow you to end your fixed-term lease early.
- If the landlord does not provide the standard lease within 21 days after the renter has made a written request, the renter may give 60 days’ notice to terminate a yearly or fixed-term tenancy early. If the landlord provides a renter with the standard lease after the renter has asked for it, but the renter does not agree to the proposed terms (for example, a new term is added), the renter may give the landlord 60 days’ notice to terminate a yearly or fixed-term tenancy early. To terminate a tenancy early, in this case, the renter must give the 60 days’ notice no later than 30 days after the landlord provided the standard lease. In both cases, the effective date for termination must be the last day of a rental period (for example, the end of a month).
Under most tenancy agreements, if you all appear on the same lease, you are each responsible to the landlord for the whole rent. Your obligation to the landlord is referred to as being “joint and several” in nature. If one of your housemates fails to pay their share of the rent, the landlord can look to the remaining housemates to make up the difference and will be in a position to begin eviction proceedings. It would then be your responsibility to pursue the defaulting housemate for their share of the rent. (It is best to seek legal advice concerning potential actions by the landlord and your rights against the defaulting housemate. Contact the Hamilton Legal Clinic for some free tenant advice).
If you have separate (individual) leases, you are only responsible for the payment of the amount specified in your lease and the landlord can take no further action against you.
Most landlords want students to sign a lease for 12 months (the “term” of the lease) because it can be difficult finding tenants for the summer months. You can try negotiating a shorter term, or alternatively, suggesting a reduced rent over the summer months; remember to always ensure such agreements are contained in the written lease contract.
Generally, if you decide to stay in the same house/apartment for a second year, and do not sign a renewal, you will become what is known as a “month-to-month” tenant, with “security of tenure”, under the Residential Tenancy Act. This means that your tenancy is deemed to be renewed as a monthly tenancy agreement containing the same terms and conditions that are in the expired tenancy agreements, and subject to an increase in rental charges made according to the RTA.
Your landlord cannot force you to sign a new lease or a renewal. At the end of the term, you are automatically deemed to have renewed your lease as a monthly tenancy agreement on the same terms and conditions as your old lease, except for any permitted rent increases. This gives you more flexibility in terminating your lease early if needed.
End of Tenancy – Giving Notice
All tenancies must be terminated by giving the landlord appropriate written notice of termination. Do not just assume that because there is an end date on your lease, that the landlord knows you will be moving out. Under the RTA, a tenant can stay beyond that end date and become a month-to-month tenant. If you don’t give at least 60-days written notice that you will be vacating on the termination date of your lease, your landlord can assume you are staying and you will, therefore, become responsible for additional rent charges.
It is also worth noting that a tenant cannot just give 60-days notice in the middle of a lease and then move out. The RTA clearly states that a termination date cannot be before the last day of the fixed term of a lease.
Similarly, your landlord cannot proceed to rent your unit out to someone else, just because there is an end date on your lease. Again, you have the right to stay and become a month-to-month tenant. If he signs a lease with someone else without receiving notice from you, then he is essentially evicting you without reasonable notice or cause.
BE SURE TO GIVE YOUR LANDLORD AT LEAST 60-DAYS WRITTEN NOTICE IF YOU WILL BE VACATING AT THE END OF YOUR LEASE. This will save lots of confusion for everyone involved.
Can You Leave Early?
Generally, tenants must abide by the notice of termination provisions discussed above. A tenant with a one-year lease must wait for the end of the term discussed above and provide the landlord with the appropriate notice.
There are a few exceptions:
- The landlord and the tenant can agree in writing to end the tenancy before the end of the lease
- Sometimes a landlord may be willing to accept a cash settlement (be sure to get this type of agreement in writing)
- The tenant may be able to assign the lease, which relieves them of all obligations under the lease
- The tenant may, with the landlord’s consent, sublet the premises (although this will not relieve them of their obligations to the landlord)
- A tenant may have grounds (e .g . substantial lack of repair, substantial interference with the enjoyment of the unit, etc .) to ask the Landlord and Tenant Board to terminate the lease.
It is best to seek legal advice in these circumstances. If a tenant abandons the premises, the landlord can take the tenant and his guarantor, if any, to Small Claims Court for unpaid rent for the remainder of the lease, or until such time as a replacement tenant is found. As well, a tenant may be liable for interest and the landlord’s costs in obtaining the amount owed.
Termination of Tenancy by Landlord
Your landlord cannot terminate the tenancy against your wishes unless he or she has grounds under the RTA and has given you the required notice. Your landlord must have a valid reason, as outlined in the RTA, for regaining possession of the property. Some of the grounds on which a landlord may give notice of termination are:
- Conversion of the premises to other than rental residential use
- Repairs or renovations so extensive as to require a building permit and vacant possession of the premises
- Demolition of the property
- The landlord, or a purchaser of the property from the landlord, genuinely requires the premises for their own occupancy or that of a marriage partner, or their children or parents
- The tenant has persistently failed to pay rent on the date it became due and payable
Some of the grounds on which a landlord may give notice of termination are:
- Non-payment of rent
- Undue damage to the premises
- Carrying on an illegal activity or business
- Conduct by the tenant (or another occupant of the unit or a person permitted in the building by the tenant) which substantially interferes with the reasonable enjoyment of the premises by the landlord or other tenants
What is Subletting?
Many tenants often try to sublet their units when they are away for the summer. Some rules to follow:
- You cannot charge the subtenant more rent than you pay the landlord
- When you sublet, you remain ultimately responsible to the landlord for your obligations under the original lease, and your rights under the lease return to you when the period of subletting is over
- Therefore, if a subtenant does not pay their rent or causes damage to the property, the tenant will have to pay the landlord and then chase the subtenant for reimbursement
- You need your landlord’s consent to sublet; however, the landlord may not “arbitrarily or unreasonably” withhold his or her consent
- The landlord can charge you for “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses” incurred in giving his consent to the subletting. You are entitled to an itemized list of such expenses and if you feel they are unreasonable, you may apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to have the amount examined
- It is advisable to obtain the landlord’s written consent ahead of time
- It is always advisable for you to sign a sublet agreement with the subtenant. In the event that you ever have to sue a subtenant for unpaid rent, a written agreement will provide proof of your arrangements
Assigning the Lease
When you assign your tenancy, you transfer all of your future rights and obligations under the original lease agreement to the new tenant. A tenant must have their landlord’s consent to assign a lease. A landlord may permit assignments but reject a particular assignee, as long as they are not acting arbitrarily or unreasonably. A tenant may have the right to terminate a lease (with proper notice) if a landlord refuses to allow assignment. If you assign a lease without the consent of the landlord, the landlord may negotiate a new tenancy agreement with the person now occupying the residence. It is best to obtain legal advice in these circumstances.