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While landlords are responsible for providing a safe and habitable place for their tenants to live, renters also have their own responsibilities to take care of. If you’re planning to get your own place for the first time or are moving from a different province or country, you’ll want to get familiar with the rental laws in Ontario first. 

Let’s go over the rules surrounding rentals in Ontario.

Tenant vs. Landlord Responsibilities

Landlords and tenants each have their own set of obligations in a lease arrangement.

Landlord responsibilities include the following:

  • Ensure the unit complies with minimum standard rules in terms of health, safety, and maintenance
  • Ensure the property meets municipal property standards, building codes, zoning bylaws, and fire safety regulations
  • Maintain the property in an acceptable state of repair 
  • Ensure the property is fit for habitation
  • Ensure a reasonable supply of electricity, fuel, running water, and other utility services unless the tenant agreed to obtain and cover the cost for these services on their own
  • Allow for the reasonable enjoyment of the property by the tenant 
  • Not seize the property for rent default or other breach of contract without going through the proper legal channels
  • Not harass, threaten, or interfere with the tenant

Tenant responsibilities include the following:

  • Pay rent on time
  • Clean the property 
  • Repair any damage caused by a purposeful or negligent act of the tenant or anyone permitted on the premises
  • Not harass, threaten, or interfere with the landlord
  • Get in touch with the landlord as soon as possible when a significant issue problem arises regarding needed repairs or services
  • Allow entry (with adequate notice) for repairs or for showings to the next tenant or buyer

How Long Does The Landlord Have To Make Repairs?

The landlord is responsible for making certain repairs to a rental property to ensure it is habitable and safe. These include the following:

  • Plumbing, electrical, and heating systems
  • Appliances
  • Carpeting
  • Roofing
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Windows, doors, and locks
  • Lighting
  • Laundry rooms
  • Garages and sheds
  • Patios and walkways 
  • Pools

As mentioned earlier, tenants must inform their landforms of an issue right away if something needs to be repaired. The landlord must make the necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time. 

If the landlord does not fix the problem within an acceptable time frame after being notified of the issue, the tenant can do the following:

Report The Issue To The Local Municipal Government

The municipality can inspect the property for any violations and issue a notice of violation or work order that requires the landlord to take care of the necessary repairs by a certain date. Failure to comply with these orders could result in the government taking the landlord to court or having the work done at the landlord’s expense. 

File An Application With The Landlord And Tenant Board

The tenant will need to show evidence that the landlord is not maintaining the property, such as photos of the problem, copies of written communication with the landlord, and copies of work orders from the city.

What Happens If You Damage Your Rental Unit?

If you are responsible for damaging your home, you will be obligated to make the repairs or pay to have the repairs done. It doesn’t matter if the damage was done on purpose or by accident — you will still be held liable. That said, tenants aren’t responsible for any damage caused by normal wear and tear. 

It should be noted that a landlord is not permitted to collect a damage deposit to cover the cost of any damage done to the unit. A landlord also can’t use the last month’s rent deposit to pay for repairs. 

That said, the landlord can issue a notice of termination or ask the tenant to pay for the damages if it is discovered that the tenant damaged the unit. If the tenant does not pay, the landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to decide what should be done. 

Can A Landlord Say No To Pets?

Landlords cannot prevent tenants from having a pet, even if the lease includes a “no pets” clause. Section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act specifically states that tenants are allowed to have pets, no matter what the lease may say. That means that any clauses in a lease agreement that forbid pets are not enforceable.

Can A Landlord Say No To Overnight Guests? 

No, a landlord cannot restrict overnight guests in a rented unit, as long as the law does not currently allow landlords to prevent tenants from having guests. However, issues can arise when it comes to tenant insurance policies if tenants do not disclose long-term guests to landlords. In this case, the landlord might assume that another person is living in the unit, in which case that person’s name might need to be added to the lease. 

It should be noted, however, that subsidized government housing rentals are an exception. Landlords who oversee these types of properties can limit how long tenants can have guests. 

What Should Be Covered Under A Rental Lease?

A Residential Tenancy Agreement (RTA) is used as a contract between a landlord and a tenant. The contract is designed to make sure that each party is protected and is treated fairly. Several things should be included in a rental lease, including any of the following: 

  • Names of the landlord and tenant
  • Names of all people who will be living on the premises
  • Details of the rental property, including the address and number of parking spaces it comes with
  • Landlord’s contact information
  • Terms of the tenancy (such as month-to-month or one-year) and the tenancy beginning and end dates
  • Rent amount
  • How and when the rent must be paid (such as by cheque on the 1st of each month)
  • Administrative charges for NSF cheques
  • Who is responsible for paying for utilities and services
  • Rent deposit and the amount
  • Rules about smoking
  • Changes the tenant can legally make to the property while living there
  • How the landlord is to maintain the property 
  • Tenant’s responsibility to keep the property clean
  • Tenant’s right to sublet the unit 
  • Changes to the agreement must be made in writing
  • Signatures of both parties signifying that they agree to the terms of the lease

Security Deposits In Ontario

A landlord is allowed to collect a rent deposit as long as it is requested on or before the day that the tenancy agreement takes effect. The rent deposit cannot be any more than 1 month’s rent or the rent for 1 rental period, whichever of the two is lower. 

The rent deposit must only be used to cover last month’s rent before the end of the tenancy and can’t be used for anything else, including covering for damages. As such, “security deposits” to pay for damage done to the property are technically not allowed. Only rent deposits for last month’s rent are permitted. 

Rent Increase Limits In Ontario

Landlords can only increase the rental price once every 12 months and must provide the tenant with written notice of the increase at least 90 days in advance. 

Learn more about rent control laws across Canada

How To Terminate A Lease Early

Tenants who want to end their lease early and move out before the end of the term as stipulated in the rental agreement must provide the landlord a written notice or come up with an arrangement with the landlord to terminate the tenancy. 

The tenant must use the Tenant’s Notice to Terminate the Tenancy (Form N9) available on the LTB website or from an LTB office. For the most part, the written notice must be provided at least 60 days prior to the last day of the rental period. 

If you move out without giving your landlord adequate notice, you may be required to pay the rent until the date the unit is rented to someone else or the earliest lease end date that could have been provided in a notice, whichever of the two is earlier. 

It should be noted that tenants are bound to their lease agreement, including the term of the lease. That means they are legally obligated to continue making rent payments up until the end of the lease term unless an alternative agreement can be arranged with the landlord. However, there may be some circumstances in which the lease may end early, such as the following:

  • Your landlord agrees
  • You assign the lease to someone else
  • The Landlord and Tenant Board issues an order to end the tenancy agreement early
  • You are a victim of abuse 

You may also end your lease early by subletting, in which case you want to move out of your unit for a certain amount of time but plan to move back prior to the term of your lease ending. You would then have another person move into the unit, known as the ‘subtenant’, who pays the rent to you (the original tenant), who then pays the rent to your landlord. You’ll need to get your landlord’s approval before taking this route. 

Eviction Rules In Ontario

Landlords may have reason to evict a tenant from a rental unit, but can only do so legally within certain parameters. Landlords can’t arbitrarily kick a person out of a rental unit as they see fit. Instead, there’s a certain protocol that must be followed.

In most cases, landlords must provide the tenant with written notice of the termination that explains in detail why the tenant is being evicted. In some cases, the landlord must give the tenant some time to rectify the situation. 

If the tenant doesn’t rectify the issue or doesn’t vacate the premises, the landlord can then apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board. A hearing will likely be scheduled. at which time the member will listen to the arguments from both the landlord and the tenant and then come to a decision.

If the tenant is ordered to be evicted, the tenant will be informed of when they must vacate the property. If the tenant fails to move out, the landlord can file an order with the Court Enforcement Office, who has the power to evict a tenant. 

The following are some reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant:

  • Not paying rent
  • Persistent late rent payments
  • Damage caused to the rental property
  • Illegal activities carried out in the unit
  • Impeding the safety and well-being of others
  • Interfering with reasonable enjoyment of other renters
  • Unauthorized people not specified on the lease who are living on the premises
  • Major repairs or renovations need to be made
  • Personal use by the landlord or a new purchaser

Tenant Rights In Ontario FAQs

Do you need a written lease in Ontario?

In Ontario, a written standard lease form must be used, referred to as the Residential Tenancy Agreement.

Do I have to purchase tenant insurance to rent in Ontario?

It’s not a legal requirement to have tenant insurance, and landlords cannot enforce it. That said, if your lease agreement specifies that you agree to purchase tenant insurance, then your landlord may have grounds to evict you for breach of contract.

When is rent considered late in Ontario?

If you do not pay your rent on the date that it is due as specified in your lease, then it is considered late. 

When can my landlord enter my apartment? 

Landlords can lawfully enter a rental unit in certain situations, such as to show the property to a prospective buyer or to make repairs. The landlord must first provide written notice at least 24 hours before entering the property and the reason for doing so. However, in an emergency situation, the landlord may enter at any time without ample notice. 

Can a landlord say no to smoking?

Yes, landlords are legally permitted to prohibit smoking in rented residential units.

Can a tenant be evicted if the landlord sells the house or building and the person who bought it wants to move in?

Yes, a new buyer of the property is one of the many reasons why a landlord may want to evict a tenant, as long as the building has only 1 to 3 units. The landlord may also want to move into the property themselves or allow a family member to move in. After the landlord provides written notice to the tenant for any of these reasons, they can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an order of eviction. 

Final Thoughts

Tenants have specific responsibilities when it comes to renting a property in Ontario. If you plan to rent a place, it’s important that you carefully review all the terms of your lease agreement before signing. And after you move in, be sure to follow them to avoid any issue with your landlord. 

Lisa Rennie avatar on Loans Canada
Lisa Rennie

Lisa has been working as a personal finance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content that helps to educate Canadian consumers in the realms of real estate, mortgages, investing and financial health. For years, she held her real estate license in Toronto, Ontario before giving it up to pursue writing within this realm and related niches. Lisa is very serious about smart money management and helping others do the same.

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