Tenants are subject to laws and have rights, just like landlords. These laws and rights are in place to protect you, the tenant, from unfair treatment. While tenant laws and rights vary in each province and territory, the following apply across Canada.
As part of the terms of living on the landlord’s premises, you have responsibilities to uphold. These responsibilities will be outlined in a lease agreement.
- Pay the full amount of rent on time
- Behave well, including limiting noise
- Keep the property reasonably clean
- Repair any damage that is your fault or the fault of one of your guests
- Treat the landlord with respect by not harassing, threatening, or interfering with them
- Contact the landlord if there are any serious issues, including emergency repairs
- Allow the landlord to enter the premises to make repairs or to show the premises to the next tenant if proper notice is given
Tenant Privacy and Information Collection
Landlords have the right to choose their tenants. They collect information to determine your suitability as a tenant. Information is collected for credit checks, to check your ability to pay rent, and for background checks.
What Kinds of Documents do You Need To Provide?
A landlord may refuse to rent to you if you do not provide them with the documents they need. You may need to provide:
- Date of birth
- Banking information and other financial records
- Identification numbers, including driver’s license number and Social Insurance Number
- Pay stubs
- Contact information for residential and professional references
Your personal information must be handled according to federal and provincial/territorial law to comply with your right to privacy. Landlords must get your consent to use your personal information, explain why they need it, give you access to the personal information they have about you, use it for its intended purpose, and protect it.
Rental and Lease Agreements
There are two types of rental and lease agreements: written agreements and verbal agreements. Written agreements are the better choice because they are physical evidence of the agreement. This physical record protects you. Verbal agreements can be difficult to legally enforce, and the protection they offer you as a tenant is limited.
What Should Be Included in the Agreement?
The agreement should include information on:
- Your name and the name of your landlord
- The rental property’s address
- The amount of rent due each month and the amount of any extra costs, such as parking, utilities, and pets
- When rent is due each month
- The amount and terms of the deposit
- Agreements about repairs, and which repairs are your responsibility
- The length of the rental period
- How much notice you must give to terminate the lease
- Rules on subletting
- Rent increases
- Restrictions put in place by the landlord
- Rules on when and how the landlord can enter your residence
- How and when a lease can be ended
- Dispute resolution terms
- Emergency contact information for you and your landlord
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Who Takes Care of Maintenance and Repairs?
Landlords are responsible for most maintenance and repairs.
Tenants are responsible for:
- Making minor repairs if they or their guests have caused any damage
- Making minor repairs if they have agreed with the landlord to do so
- Contacting the landlord if emergency repairs are needed, and allowing time for them to respond
- Contacting an external repair person if the landlord is unavailable
- Attempting pest control (tenants should try to deal with pest issues on their own first, then contact the landlord to step in)
Landlords are responsible for:
- Maintaining and repairing appliances (if included in the cost of rent) and all common areas
- Making and paying for all emergency repairs
- Pest control, if the tenant cannot eliminate pests on their own
Security Deposits and Rental Payments
Two payments are usually made to the landlord before you move in: the security deposit and a rental payment.
A security deposit is a payment made to cover unpaid rent or the cost of cleaning or repairing the unit after you move out. It is usually equal to one month’s rent but varies across Canada. In Ontario, a security deposit can only be applied to cover unpaid rent. In Quebec, you don’t need to pay a security deposit.
Landlords pay interest on the deposit as long as you live on the premises. This interest is repaid to you if there hasn’t been a rent increase. If there has been a rent increase, this interest is applied to the difference in rent increase.
When you move out, the balance of the deposit is returned to you after unpaid rent and cleaning and repair costs are covered.
A rental payment is how much the landlord is charging you to stay on the premises for one month. The lease or rental agreement will list a day when rent is due each month. Landlords can choose to be paid by cash, cheque, or bank transfer. Post-dated cheques for rent payments are illegal in some provinces.
The landlord can choose to increase the rent but must notify you in advance. That notice depends on how long the tenancy agreement is, the anniversary of the lease, and any provincial or territorial laws. Some provinces prevent rent increases until you move out or without approval from the local rent authority.
If you can’t afford your rent, your landlord may choose to do any of the following:
- Allow It – Landlords are within their rights to not collect payments due to them.
- Take You to Court – Your landlord may attempt to collect rent through the court system.
- Begin the Eviction Procedure – Not paying rent is a violation of the lease or rental agreement. Your landlord is within their rights to evict you if this is the case.
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Tenant Evictions and Complaints
Both tenants and landlords have rights when it comes to eviction. Tenants are protected against unreasonable eviction, and landlords are protected against troublesome tenants.
When Can a Landlord Evict You?
A landlord can evict you if the conditions of the lease or rental agreement have been violated. There are different eviction procedures in each province or territory that a landlord must follow. You cannot be evicted and removed from the premises immediately.
Violations of the lease or rental agreement that would warrant eviction include:
- Not paying rent (without court approval)
- Excessive noise
- An unreasonably unsanitary living space
- More people on the premises than agreed to in the lease agreement
What if You Have a Complaint About Your Landlord?
Sometimes a landlord may try to evict you without reasonable cause. You may stay on the premises until the local rental authority orders you out. The local rental authority and any tenant advocacy agencies can help deal with any landlord complaints or disputes.
End of Lease Options
All good things, including leases, eventually come to an end. In Canada, leases usually end after one year.
Three Things You Can Do When Your Lease Has Ended
- Renew the Lease – The simplest option is to renew the lease. This will allow you to stay living on the premises.
- Terminate the Lease – There is also the option to not renew the lease and to move out. The lease agreement requires you to give your landlord notice that you are terminating the lease. If you don’t give enough notice, you may need to pay rent for the time that you’re not living on the premises.
- Sublet the Lease – If you choose to move out before the lease has ended, you may sublet the lease to another person. This shifts the responsibility of paying rent and following the lease agreement to them. Because your name is still on the lease agreement, you are responsible for their actions.
Landlords can approve or reject a potential sublessee, but they cannot refuse a subletting request.
As a tenant in a rental or lease property, you have laws and rights that protect you. You also have responsibilities to uphold. Your landlord also has protections and duties to fulfil. Violating these responsibilities is grounds for eviction. As long as you follow the terms of your lease agreement, you shouldn’t have any issues with your landlord.