Area of Law: Landlord and Tenant
Answer # 440
Rights and obligations of roommatesRegion: Ontario Answer # 440
The Residential Tenancies Act is the law that deals with residential landlord and tenant relationships in Ontario. This law sets out the rights and obligations that both landlords and tenants have. However, it says almost nothing about rights and obligations that roommates have toward each other.
The Act defines a tenant to ” include a person who pays rent in return for the right to occupy a rental unit and includes the tenant’s heirs, assigns and personal representatives…”
The Act says that landlords only have to recognize tenants that the landlord knows about and that the landlord has approved of. For example, if you live alone and have a lease with a landlord, and a friend comes to stay with you, your friend will usually only be considered a guest, not a tenant. You will still be responsible for paying all the rent to the landlord. If you leave your tenancy, your friend would have no right to stay in the apartment.
In the case of spouses (whether legally married or living common-law), it is not always clear if the spouse is considered a tenant. Although it may not matter if both spouses are registered on the lease, it is one factor which is considered. However, if the spouse pays rent, or if the spouse is the heir of a deceased tenant spouse (and continues to occupy the premise), he or she will be considered to be a tenant, and will have all the rights and obligations of a tenant.
If you and another person wish to rent an apartment as roommates, you should ensure that both of you sign the lease with the landlord. However, you should understand that if your roommate does not pay their share of the rent, you may have to pay it. Also, if your roommate leaves without giving notice, you may be responsible for the whole lease.
If your roommate leaves the apartment, you may be able to find another roommate to replace them. In order for this person to be added to the lease, you must have the landlord approve them as a tenant.
Because the law is not clear about the legal obligations of roommates, it is a good idea to be very careful about entering into such an arrangement with anyone.
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