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10 things you should know about tenant rights

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The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) covers all the legal rights that tenants have in Ontario. If you are a first-time renter or not familiar with the RTA, here are some important things you should know about your legal obligations and rights as a tenant:

Who does the RTA cover?

The RTA covers tenants in Ontario whose names are on a written lease. There are some cases where the RTA does not apply. For example, if you share common spaces with the landlord or any of the landlord’s immediate family members, such as their children, or if your name is not included in the lease or if you have a contract as an “under tenant”, such as when you sublease from a tenant. In these cases, you would not be covered by the RTA.

Your legal obligations as a tenant

Paying rent

You must pay rent in full and on time. If you are late to pay rent, a landlord can serve you with an eviction notice right away and this can leave you with just 14 days to pay off the rent that you owe. A landlord can also give a notice of eviction for persistent late rent payments. Eviction can be a quick process and have serious consequences. Starting the process does not always lead you to losing your home but it can put you at risk.

Consideration of others

You should not interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord if they live in the building. For example, you shouldn’t play loud music in the middle of the night or do anything that would bother others to a really high degree.

Take care of your space

You should not willfully or negligently damage the property. You must treat the space with respect and care as you would if you owned the property. This includes being responsible for pest, maintenance and repair issues. This does not include reasonable wear and tear, such as if the floor is breaking down due to age. If your landlord can prove that you’re responsible for any damage and have acted unreasonably, then you have to pay for the repair costs.

Some tenant rights you should know

Controlling temperature

If your landlord controls the temperature of your unit, they must keep it heated to a minimum of 20 degrees Celsius between September 1 and June 15.

Landlord information

Your landlord is required to give you their full legal name and an address for service such as a home or business address or post office box. Before you give any rent money, it’s good to have this information, in addition to their contact information, in order to trace where your money is going.

Landlord visits to your unit

Your landlord is only allowed to enter your unit for specific reasons and must give you 24 hours notice except in the case of emergency.

Maintenance

Every tenant has a right to live in a rental unit that is in a good state of repair, consistent with local housing maintenance and health standards. Things like shoveling, cutting the grass, pest care, etc. are the responsibility of your landlord.

Terminating a lease

When you’re covered by the RTA, you will have a lease term (e.g. six months, a year) and a pay schedule (e.g. first of the month, etc.). Once the lease term ends, the lease is automatically renewed on a month to month basis unless the landlord or tenant terminate it. A landlord must have legal cause to terminate the lease. If you want to terminate your lease, you are required to give 60 days notice in writing.

Rent increases

If your landlord is increasing rent, they are required to give you 90 days notice before the end of the lease term and they can only raise it once a year. The rent increase must follow legal guidelines such as it cannot be higher than 2.5% if the unit was constructed before November 15, 2018. Anything built or converted into living space after that is exempt from this guideline and can be increased by any percentage.

Whenever communicating with your landlord, make sure to get it in writing. If you find that they are not complying with the law, follow up to let them know about your rights and needs. If you need any help navigating your rights and responsibilities or conflict with your landlord, get Housing support and advice. If you need legal help or advice, reach out to Downtown Legal Services.

To learn more, check out some of these other resources: