Area of Law: Landlord and Tenant
Answer # 425
Residential leasesRegion: Ontario Answer # 425
Advantages of having a lease
Until recently, a written lease was not necessary to establish a tenancy agreement. However, most landlords required new tenants to sign a lease to ensure that they would be responsible for certain obligations. The main difference between a tenant with a lease and a tenant without one was when and how the tenancy agreement could end.
Most lease agreements require tenants to live in the rental unit for at least one year, to pay a set amount of rent on time each month, and to follow other rules about how the tenant may use the premises. Whether a lease gives the landlord or tenant rights or obligations depends on the terms of the lease and what the law allows.
New mandatory standard lease form for new tenancies
In Ontario, new rules require that tenancies entered into on or after April 30, 2018, must use a newly created government standard lease, also referred to as a residential tenancy agreement.
This new standard lease applies to:
- single and semi-detached houses,
- apartment buildings,
- rented condos, and
- secondary units like basement apartments.
The new standard lease does not apply for new tenancies in:
- most social and supportive housing,
- retirement and nursing homes,
- mobile home parks,
- land lease communities, or
- commercial properties.
The government has designed the new standard lease in order to:
- reduce the use of illegal terms,
- help prevent disputes between landlord and tenants,
- make clearer the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, and
- help protect tenants from sudden and dramatic rent increases.
What is in the new standard lease?
- Names of landlord and tenant.
- Information on rental unit, including the address and if it includes a parking space.
- Contact information for where the tenant must send any notices, for emergencies and for day-to-day communications (also includes space for email addresses of both tenant and landlord).
- Terms of the tenancy agreement, such as when the tenant can move in, and the length of the tenancy.
- Rent, including any extra charges for parking, storage locker etc.
- When rent must be paid, to whom, and what payment methods are allowed.
- Services and utilities, including what is included in rent and what the tenant is required to pay for.
- Rent discounts, if any.
- Rent deposit, if required.
- Smoking: smoking is not allowed in any indoor common areas of the building outside of the rental unit under provincial law. In this section, a landlord and tenant can agree to rules about smoking in the rental unit.
- Tenants insurance: the landlord can require the tenant to have liability insurance.
- Changes to the rental unit: what changes are allowed and what changes must the tenant get permission to make.
- Maintenance and repairs: includes the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant.
- Assignment and subletting rules.
- Any additional terms, such as rules regarding the use of common spaces, and if guests are allowed.
- Changes to the agreement: outlines that any changes must be in writing.
- Signatures of the landlord and tenant indicating they agree to the agreement.
The landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the agreement within 21 days after the tenant signs it.
Exceptions to what is ‘standard’
However, there are some exceptions for certain rules depending on the type of rental unit. For example, it is illegal to ban pets from apartments, however, if the unit for rent is a condo, the condo board may have added a “no pets’ rule to their bylaws, and therefore it is legal to not allow a renter to have a pet.
Another exception is smoking. In Ontario, it is legal for a landlord to ban smoking from their entire building because it could create a health hazard. This means tenants could not smoke on their balconies because second-hand smoke could drift into another tenant’s window.
What if a landlord does not use the standard lease?
If a landlord fails to use the standard lease for tenancies that begin on or after April 30, renters can ask for one. If the landlord fails to provide one in 21 days, the tenant can withhold rent for a month.
Advantage of having a lease
Tenants who live in a small apartment building, rented house, or part of a house owned by an individual and not a management company, are at risk of being evicted if the landlord or the landlord’s family wants to move in. Tenants without a lease can be evicted if the landlord gives them 60 days’ notice that the landlord or their family requires the premises.
When the tenant has a lease, however, a landlord who may want to take over the premises for their own use cannot do so before the lease has expired, or if the lease gives the tenant an option to renew, unless the Landlord and Tenant Board has issued an eviction notice.
On May 18, 2017, the Rental Fairness Act, 2017 was passed making a number of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. The new Act has tightened the provisions under which a landlord can evict a tenant because the landlord, their family member, or a caregiver wants the unit for their own use. Landlords must prove that they or someone in their family, intend to move into the unit for their own use and that they require possession for the purpose of residential occupation for at least one year. Proof of “landlord’s own use” could include:
- Notice to end the tenancy given to the family member’s current landlord
- Booking with a moving company
- Notice of address change given to Canada Post
The legislation also states that landlords will have to compensate the tenant for one month’s rent or offer another acceptable rental unit. If the tenant feels the notice to vacate is invalid, the landlord must file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board to enforce it.
Disadvantage of having a lease
If a tenant wants the flexibility of moving without having to give much notice, a lease will usually be a disadvantage since the tenant may be legally responsible for paying the entire amount of the lease if they leave before the lease expires. Although landlords are required to make all efforts to find a replacement tenant for the premises, if the landlord is unsuccessful in finding a new tenant, they may be able to sue the previous tenant who broke the lease.
Once the lease has expired, the tenant does not have to sign another lease, and the landlord cannot require the tenant to move out without a good legal reason. However, a tenant who does not have a lease, or whose lease has expired, can usually end the tenancy by giving proper notice to the landlord.
Terms of a lease are not necessarily valid
Residential landlords and tenants have rights and obligations set out by the Residential Tenancies Act and previous court cases. Although terms of a lease may attempt to limit a tenant’s rights, they may not necessarily be enforceable by law. For example, even if a lease states that a landlord can evict a tenant without a reason by giving the tenant notice, the tenant will still have the right to stay unless there is a good legal reason for the eviction. However, the Residential Tenancies Act may allow landlords and tenants to waive some of their rights. For legal advice on the validity of a lease, you can consult a lawyer or contact a legal clinic in your area.
For more information about residential leases in Ontario, visit the Landlord and Tenant Board. For more information regarding the new provincial standard lease and to get a copy of it or the accompanying provincial Guide, available in 22 languages, visit ontario.ca.
A criminal record will affect your ability to be approved for a residential lease. To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-877-219-1644 or learn more at Federal Pardon Waiver Services. It’s easier than you think.
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For legal advice and assistance with a residential lease, and applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board, contact our preferred Landlord and Tenant experts:
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