What tenants need to know about the law
Before you move in
Here are some things you might need to know about when you are first renting a place.
The term "tenancy" means your legal right to live in your place. Usually that right comes from an agreement between you and your landlord. This is sometimes called a tenancy agreement, a lease, or a rental agreement.
A tenancy agreement is a legal contract between you and your landlord. It can be in writing or it can be a spoken agreement. A spoken agreement is sometimes called an oral or verbal agreement.
If your tenancy agreement is in writing, read it carefully and make sure you understand it before signing it. For example, make sure that everyone who will be living with you is listed, and that you know how much you are agreeing to pay.
After you sign it and give it to your landlord, they must give you a copy that they have signed within 21 days.
Even if your tenancy agreement is not in writing, it is still legal. And you and your landlord must follow it. So make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.
But anything in your tenancy agreement that conflicts with the RTA is not valid. For example, your landlord cannot evict you without following certain steps set out in the RTA, even if your tenancy agreement says something different. And, if the RTA puts limits on how much your rent can go up, these limits apply even if your tenancy agreement says they do not.
Most tenancy agreements made on or after April 30, 2018 have to be in writing on the government's standard lease form. This form is on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.
Landlords and tenants cannot change or cross out any parts of the form. They can only fill in blanks and checkboxes.
But they can add terms, as long as the terms do not go against the law or anything on the form. Some landlords might have several pages of additional terms. Tenants can suggest terms too, but the landlord has to agree to add them.
You should read the "Additional Terms" section carefully. The additional terms will be on separate pages, attached to the standard lease form.
If a landlord does not use the standard lease
Some types of rentals do not have to use the standard lease form, for example,
- places rented for a business
- public or subsidized housing
- mobile homes or land lease homes
- housing co‑ops
- care homes, for example, retirement homes
Landlords of most other rented rooms, apartments, condominiums, and houses have to use the standard lease form. If you rented one of these places on or after April 30, 2018 and did not get a standard lease, you can write to the landlord and ask them for one.
After you ask for a standard lease
Once you ask in writing, your landlord then must give you a standard lease to sign within 21 days. If they do not, you can hold back up to one month's rent.
If they then give you the lease within 30 days after you held back rent, you must pay the rent you held back. If the landlord does not give you the lease within 30 days, you can keep the rent. But you cannot hold back more than one month's rent, even if the landlord never gives you a standard lease.
After you ask in writing for a standard lease, you also get the right to move out on 60 days' notice even if you originally agreed to a fixed term such as a year. You can give this notice within 30 days after your landlord gives you the standard lease, or if 21 days have passed since you asked in writing for it and your landlord still hasn't given it to you. There is more information on giving notice in section Moving out.
If you do not want to move out, you can do nothing or you can sign the standard lease if your landlord gives you one. Doing nothing means that you and your landlord stay with the agreement you originally made.
Information for new tenants
When you first move in, your landlord must give you a brochure from the Landlord and Tenant Board, called Information for New Tenants. This brochure tells you about the Board and about your legal rights and responsibilities.
This brochure is also on the Board's website at www.ltb.gov.on.ca.
Setting the rent when you first move in
There is no limit on how much rent landlords can charge new tenants when they first move in. So your starting rent will be whatever you and the landlord agree on.
There is one exception to this rule. See Rent freezes.
After you agree on a starting rent, there are usually limits on how much and how often your rent can go up. See Rent increases.
Deposits and other charges
Your landlord can make you pay a security deposit before you move in. This deposit cannot be more than one month's rent if you pay your rent by the month. This is often called a last month's rent deposit or LMR. If you pay your rent by the week, the deposit cannot be more than one week's rent.
Your landlord can use this deposit only as a rent payment for your last month or week. Your landlord cannot keep it or use it for any other reason, such as paying for damage or cleaning.
Your landlord can also ask you for a deposit for your keys or access card. But the amount cannot be more than it would cost to replace them. Your landlord must give this deposit back to you when you move out and return the keys or card.
Your landlord can also charge you a fee if you write a cheque and do not have enough money in your bank account. This is often called an NSF or bounced cheque.
Most other deposits, extra charges, or advance payments are illegal. For example, sometimes landlords say that if you want to get the apartment, you must buy something in it, such as curtains or appliances, or that you must pay a damage deposit, rental fee, or commission. This is illegal.
It is also illegal for a landlord to make you give them post‑dated cheques or other types of automatic rent payments.
Always get a receipt when you pay a rent deposit or any other charge.
If you have paid an illegal deposit or charge, you can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to get the money back. You must apply within one year or you may lose your right to get the money back.
It is against the law for landlords to discriminate against you 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.
Sometimes discrimination is direct. For example, a landlord might refuse to rent to you for one of the reasons listed above.
Other kinds of discrimination are less direct. For example, a landlord might refuse to put in a ramp or make other changes for a tenant who uses a wheelchair. There might be strict rules about noise that are harder for people with children to follow. Or a landlord might refuse to rent to people who have no credit rating. This can be a problem for young people and for people who are new to Canada.
Landlords who will not change things like these to meet the needs of tenants could be discriminating against those tenants.
To make a complaint about discrimination, you can contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by calling 416‑326‑1312 or 1‑866‑598‑0322. TTY users call the Bell Relay Service at 1‑800‑855‑0511. Their website is at www.hrto.ca.
For advice and help with your discrimination complaint, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre by calling 416‑597‑4900 or 1‑866‑625‑5179. TTY users call 416‑597‑4903 or 1‑866‑612‑8627. Their website is at www.hrlsc.on.ca.
For legal advice about discrimination, you can contact the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). You can reach CERA at 1‑800‑263‑1139 or 416‑944‑0087. CERA's website is www.equalityrights.org.
You may also be able to get help from your community legal clinic. In section Where to get more information and help, there is information about how to find the community legal clinic nearest you.
Having your own liability insurance can help protect you if you cause damage by accident to your landlord's or another tenant's property. Some tenancy agreements might require you to have liability insurance.
Many tenants think that they do not need contents insurance because they are covered by their landlord's insurance. But this is not usually true. The only time that damage to your belongings might be paid for by your landlord's insurance is when the damage is your landlord's fault.