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What tenants need to know about the law

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While you are living in your place

Rent receipts

Rent receipts can be very important if you have a dispute with your landlord. Receipts can also be useful when you fill out your income tax return.

Important: Be sure to get a receipt each time you pay your rent. The law says that your landlord must give you a receipt if you ask for one.

If you pay rent with a money order, your copy is not a receipt unless it is signed and dated by your landlord.

After you move out, your former landlord must give you receipts if you ask within 12 months.

Rent increases

There are 3 main rules your landlord must follow to raise your rent.

You do not have to pay a rent increase that does not follow these rules. If you do pay it, you can apply to the Board to get your money back. In most cases, you must apply within one year.

Exception for non‑profit housing: If you live in rent‑geared‑to‑income (RGI) or subsidized housing, these rules about rent increases do not apply to you. And some rules do not apply to other kinds of non‑profit housing. If you have a concern about your rent or your subsidy, get help from a community legal clinic. In section Where to get more information and help, there is information about how to find a clinic near you.

12 months apart: After you move in, your landlord must wait at least 12 months before raising your rent. And any increases after that also must be at least 12 months apart.

90 days' written notice: Your landlord must give you a written notice at least 90 days before your rent goes up. To do this, your landlord should use one of the notice forms from the Landlord and Tenant Board.

If your landlord does not use a Board form, the notice must include all the information that is on the Board form. You can check the form on the Board website.

Guideline amount: By the end of August each year, the provincial government announces the guideline for rent increases for the next calendar year. Your landlord has the right to raise your rent by this amount.

For rent increases in both 2018 and 2019, the guideline is 1.8%. In 2017, it was 1.5%.

Exceptions: The guideline does not apply to:

  • a building or new addition that had no one living in it on or before November 15, 2018
  • a self‑contained apartment created after November 15, 2018 in a house that contained no more than two units on or before that date, if:
    • the owner lived in the house at the time the apartment was first lived in, or
    • the apartment was created in previously unfinished space

In these units, there is usually no limit to how much a landlord can increase the rent. But the 12‑month and 90‑day rules still apply.

Rent increases above the guideline

To raise your rent by more than the guideline, your landlord must apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for permission. You and other tenants who are affected can oppose this application at the Board.

This kind of rent increase is sometimes called an above‑guideline increase or AGI. The Board can allow this kind of increase only for these reasons:

  • unusually high increases in property taxes,
  • the cost of hiring a security service, or
  • capital expenses.

Capital expenses are expenses for major repairs, renovations, replacements, or additions that:

  • will last at least 5 years, and
  • are not part of normal, ongoing maintenance.

The Board can consider capital expenses only if they are necessary, and are not just to make the building or unit look better.

If you get a Notice of Rent Increase for more than the guideline, usually you can pay just the guideline amount until the Board makes a decision. But try to save up the difference between the guideline and the increase your landlord has applied for. If the Board approves a higher increase, you will have to pay the difference all at once, going back to the date listed in the notice.

Rent decreases

There are some situations when your rent might go down.

If the Landlord and Tenant Board allows your landlord to raise the rent above the guideline because of capital expenses, the order will say that you will no longer have to pay this part of the rent increase starting on a certain date, usually a few years in the future.

If property taxes go down by more than a certain amount, your rent might go down. This would happen automatically. Your municipal (local) government should send you a notice telling you how much your rent should go down.

There are situations when you can apply to the Board to lower your rent, or to order your landlord to pay back some of the rent you have already paid. For example, the Board can lower your rent if your landlord has reduced or stopped services that used to be included in your rent.

Also, if your landlord does not do proper maintenance, the Board can lower your rent until your landlord fixes the problem and can make your landlord pay back some of the rent you have already paid. See Repairs and maintenance for more information.

Rent freezes

If there are serious repair or maintenance problems in your unit or your building, you can apply to the Board for a "rent freeze" until your landlord fixes the problem. This is called an Order Prohibiting a Rent Increase or OPRI. While this order is in effect, your landlord cannot raise the rent at all. Landlords must tell new tenants in writing about the order and how much the rent will be when the order is removed.

Interest on your rent deposit

Your landlord must pay you interest on your rent deposit each year. But, if your rent goes up, your landlord can add this interest to your deposit to make your deposit the same amount as your new rent.

The interest rate each year is the same as the rent increase guideline for that year, so often these two payments will cancel each other out.

Repairs and maintenance

Your landlord is responsible for maintenance and repair of your place, things that came with your place, such as appliances, and common areas, such as parking lots, elevators, and hallways.

Your landlord must keep your place in good condition and fit to live in. This is the law even if you knew about a problem before you rented the place, or if your lease says you took the place "as is".

But this does not apply to anything that you or your guests damage on purpose or by being careless.

If you have a maintenance or repair problem, first talk to your landlord about it. If this does not work, write a letter asking your landlord to fix the problem. Some landlords have a special form for you to fill out for this. Keep a photocopy of your letter or form and make a note of when you gave it to your landlord.

If your landlord does not respond to your letter or form in a reasonable time, or refuses to do the repair, contact your municipal (local) government and ask for an inspection.

It is usually not a good idea to hold back rent because your landlord could give you an eviction notice. See the section starting on Reasons for eviction for more information, and get legal advice.

If these steps do not work, you can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

You must apply to the Board within one year after the problem happened. But it is not always easy to tell when the one year started. If you are not sure, try to get legal advice and apply as soon as possible.

If the Board agrees that your landlord has not done enough to fix the problem, the Board can order an "abatement" of rent. This means that your landlord must pay you back part of the rent you paid while the problem existed. The Board can order that your rent will stay at the lower amount until the problem is fixed. The Board can also order your landlord to make repairs, to repay money to you if you had to pay for repairs, or to make other payments to you.

If you are having maintenance problems, other tenants in your building might be having these problems too. So, you might want to work together to get your landlord to fix them. You could do this informally or as members of a tenants' association. And, if you have to get legal help or apply to the Board, doing this with other tenants can sometimes save time and money.

Privacy

Your landlord may own the place you are renting but it is your home. Your landlord must respect your right to have privacy.

The law says when your landlord has a right to enter your home. In most situations, your landlord has to let you know ahead of time.

The only times your landlord can enter your home without telling you ahead of time are when:

  • there is an emergency, or
  • your rental agreement says that your landlord gives you cleaning services.

Your landlord can also enter your place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to show it to a new tenant if your landlord makes a reasonable effort to let you know when they are coming. Your landlord can enter for this reason only if:

  • you have given notice to move out,
  • your landlord has given you a legal notice to move out, or
  • you and your landlord have agreed that you will move out.

In any other situation, your landlord must give you notice in writing 24 hours ahead of time and can come in only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. This rule applies if your landlord wants to:

  • do repairs or inspect your place to see if any repairs are needed,
  • show your place to a possible buyer, insurer, or mortgage lender,
  • let a real estate agent show your place to a possible buyer,
  • have a property inspection done before making your building into a condominium, or
  • come in to your place for any reasonable purpose listed in your rental agreement.

Your landlord has a right to enter your place only for the reasons listed above. You can let your landlord in at other times and for other reasons, but that is up to you.

Harassment

Harassment is behaviour that bothers you so much that it gets in the way of enjoying living in your home. There are many different kinds of harassment. For example, your landlord, or someone who works for them, might harass you by:

  • knocking on your door or phoning you at unreasonable times,
  • entering your home without giving you proper notice,
  • making sexual suggestions or advances knowing that you do not want them,
  • trying to stop you from organizing or taking part in a tenants' association
  • threatening to do any of the things listed above, or threatening to harm you.

It is against the law for your landlord to harass you in any way. But harassment can be hard to prove. It is a good idea to keep detailed notes about what is happening and to get legal advice.

One thing you can do is make a complaint to the province's Rental Housing Enforcement Unit. They can call your landlord and try to get the harassment to stop. In serious cases, they can lay charges that would be dealt with in provincial offences court. The Unit's phone number is 1‑888‑772‑9277 and its website address is www.mah.gov.on.ca/ieu.

If the harassment is very severe, you could call the police. Use the non‑emergency number for your local police department, unless someone's life or safety is in danger.

Another thing you can do is apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board. If the Board agrees that your landlord harassed you, it could order your landlord to pay a fine to the government. The Board could also order your landlord to give you back some of your rent or to pay you money. See Where to get more information and help for information about how to contact the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Harassment is also discrimination if someone does it because:

  • of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, colour, nationality, religion, or the country where you were born,
  • you have a disability,
  • you are receiving social assistance, or
  • you have children living with you.

See section Discriminationfor information on what to do about discrimination.

Utilities and vital services

Your landlord cannot cut off or interfere with any vital services. This includes things like your supply of water, electricity, or heat. It also includes food or care services if you get these from your landlord or another service provider. And it includes a vital service being cut off because your landlord did not pay for it, if your landlord was supposed to pay for it.

If any of these things happen, you should get legal help or contact the province's Rental Housing Enforcement Unit at 1‑888‑772‑9277. The Unit's website address is www.mah.gov.on.ca/ieu. There is information about getting legal help, in section Where to get more information and help .