Tenant Rights in Canada
By Kathleen Charlebois
Posted on May 24, 2021
Looking for a home to rent in a new place can be extremely overwhelming. You need to decide a budget, read through page after page of rental listings, and hope that your new home will be relatively close to amenities like grocery stores, and that’s all before you move in. As a tenant, you have guaranteed rights that protect you. Knowing these rights can help empower you when you’re dealing with your new landlord.
In Ontario, tenant rights are outlined in the Human Rights Code and the Residential Tenancies Act.
Your landlord cannot discriminate against you based on protected grounds such as age, race, ethnic origin, citizenship status, or religion. A landlord cannot refuse to rent to you a home because you are a newcomer to Canada or because you have children, for example.
These rights protect you when you apply to rent and also when you move into the home. Your home must be safe to live in and in good repair. Even if you are aware that some items need repairs before you rent the home, your landlord has the responsibility of addressing those issues before you move in.
You must also have access to basic utilities like heat, hot and cold water, electricity, and fuel. Even if you haven’t paid your rent, your landlord cannot shut off these services. They can only do so for a short time if they need to make certain repairs. The cost of these utilities may be included in your rent; your landlord may cover some or all of them, or you may have to pay for them yourself. This information should be made clear to you before you agree to rent the home, and it should be outlined in your tenancy agreement.
Your landlord can only enter your home once you’ve moved in for specific reasons, such as doing necessary repairs, to show the home to potential tenants, or there is an emergency. Typically, a landlord will communicate with you ahead of time to let you know if they need to enter your home.
Your landlord is also only allowed to raise your rent once in a one-year period within legal limits. Because of COVID-19, the Ontario government passed legislation to freeze the rent at 2020 levels, which means that your rent will not increase in 2021. This rent freeze will end on Dec. 31, 2021, and landlords must give you at least 90 days’ notice before increasing your rent in 2022.
You have a right to have your children live in the home with you, and you and your family have the right to make a reasonable amount of noise. Your landlord cannot prohibit you from keeping pets in your home.
You also have a right to a hard copy of your tenancy agreement, your landlord’s address and contact information, and your rent receipts. In Ontario, landlords are required to use a standard lease template written in a clear language. It includes important information such as the rent amount and the day of the month when it’s due.
Your landlord can demand a rent deposit for the last month of your rent either on or before you enter into a tenancy agreement. The deposit must be used to pay for your last month of rent; it is illegal for your landlord to use it for anything else, such as to pay for repairs.
You are not legally required to have tenant’s insurance, but it provides good protection in case of an accident, even if it’s one you didn’t cause. Having this kind of insurance can cover any expenses from damages.
As a tenant, you have the responsibility to pay your rent on time, keep your home neat and tidy, repair any damage, keep things reasonably quiet, and honour your lease or tenancy agreement.
Your landlord can only evict you for certain reasons. These reasons include: frequently missing rent payments or not paying rent at all, doing something illegal in your home (whether it’s you or your guests), intentionally causing excessive damage to the property, disturbing other residents in the building if there are any, having too many people living in your home, or lying about your income when you agreed to rent.
If your landlord wants to evict you, you have the right to a hearing with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which helps to settle most disputes between tenants and landlords. At this hearing, you will get a chance to explain why you should not be evicted. Your landlord must also give you written notice of their intent to evict you with an LTB eviction order, which must include the reason for eviction.
Your landlord may also have to evict you if they want to use the unit you are living in for themselves or their own family, or if they want to sell the property and the new purchaser wants to live in the unit. In these cases, your landlord must either compensate you with one month’s worth of your rent or offer you another unit to live in. Your landlord must also give you compensation if they have to evict you from your home for repairs, demolition, or renovations.
In the case of eviction due to repairs or renovations, your landlord must first give you the option to move back to the unit before they can offer it to anyone else. This is also known as the “right of first refusal.” For this to happen, you must tell your landlord in writing before you move out that you want them to offer you the repaired or renovated unit. If your landlord does not provide you with the right of first refusal even after you request it, you can file a claim for compensation with the LTB up to two years later.
Landlords must also act in an honest way when they evict you for reasons that are beyond your control. They must use the unit for the purpose stated on the eviction notice and for no other reason. Landlords must also let the LTB know about other no-fault tenant evictions. This is so the LTB can determine if their eviction application was made with good intentions.
If the LTB finds that your landlord has been dishonest about their reasons for evicting you, the board may order them to:
- Pay you the difference between the rent last paid for your former unit and the rent charged for your new unit
- Pay you the equivalent of your last rent’s payment for your former unit for up to 12 months
- Pay a reasonable amount of money to cover moving, storage, and other out-of-pocket costs
This applies to all bad faith evictions.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government is trying to encourage landlords to negotiate repayment agreements with tenants who are not able to pay rent in order to avoid evictions as much as possible. If your landlord applies for an eviction order due to non-payment of rent, the LTB must take into consideration whether you and your landlord attempted to work a plan out to repay your rent.
If you have to appear in front of the LTB, you may consider getting legal help. If you are considered low-income, you can contact a community legal clinic in your area. The Ontario Bar Association, under the direction of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, is now offering up to 30 minutes of free legal advice for tenants facing evictions. By going to the portal and registering, you will be matched with a volunteer lawyer who will discuss your situation and your legal options. See this article on low-cost legal services for more information on how to seek legal assistance.
Another right you have as a tenant is the right to join a tenants’ association in your building or community. Through this type of association, you can work together with other tenants to demand better living conditions and protest issues like unreasonable rent increases. Organizations like ACTO and ACORN Canada offer many resources on how to organize a tenants’ association if you don’t have one already.
- The Landlord Tenant Board Help for Tenants page, which includes list of common tenant complaints
- Provincial renting changes during COVID-19
- Community Legal Education Ontario, which provides resources on housing law
- Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario