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Most Asked Questions And Answers


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Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, index page online

Copyright: Robert B. Levitt
(rev. 5, January 31, 2007, published since July 1997)

This is a guide based upon the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, (RTA,) Statutes of Ontario, which is the landlord tenant law presently governing these matters and the regulations of the Landlord and Tenant Board, LTB, (formerly known as the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal).

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS PROVIDED WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND IS ONLY MEANT AS A GUIDE; YOU SHOULD GET APPROPRIATE LEGAL ADVICE BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION. THE AUTHOR IS NOT A LAWYER NOR A PARLEGAL AND THE INFORMATION IS ASSUMED TO BE ACCURATE AS OF ITS DATE.

Before distributing this document or putting it onto any web site you must get the permission of the author.

I will not answer individual questions.

If you need answers about the Residential Tenancies Act you may contact the Customer Service line for the Landlord and Tenant Board at 416-645-8080 or outside of the 416 calling area, toll free at 1-888-332-3234.

If your landlord is violating the law, then you can contact the Investigation and Enforcement Unit, (IEU,) of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing at 416-585-7214, or outside of the 416 calling area, toll free at 1-888-772-9277.

You can read the following if you want to organize a tenants association.

A quick index is next so you can go directly to what you want, but it is a good idea to read this whole document when you have some time.


ORGANIZING:
Why would I want to be a part of a tenants association; how do I set one up?

DOCUMENTATION:
Do I have to keep records of my rent and lease?

LEAVING YOUR APARTMENT:
Can I end my lease early? And do I have to give notice?
Are fees for "breaking a lease" legal?

PRIVACY:
When can a landlord enter my apartment?

PETS:
The landlord says I must either move out or get rid of my pet; Do I?

HEAT:
My apartment is too cold. What must the landlord provide?

REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE:
How can I get the landlord to make needed repairs in my apartment?

EVICTIONS:
When can I be legally evicted? And what can I do about it?
Can the landlord lock me out of my apartment?

RENT:
I am moving into a new apartment. What is the legal rent?
What about Rent Controls?
How often can my landlord raise my rent?
How much can my landlord raise my rent?
Should I sign an agreement on raising my rent?
Does the landlord have to give me a rent receipt?
Do I have to pay the landlord a "last month's rent deposit? Does the landlord owe me any interest on this deposit?
What about other "deposits" or "fees"?
If the landlord or their employee(s) are harassing or threatening me, what should I do?



LEARN WHAT RIGHTS YOU HAVE AND STAND UP FOR THEM

OTHERWISE YOU HAVE NONE!




ORGANIZING:

Q1: Why would I want to be a part of a tenants association and how can I organize one up in my building?

A1: There are many advantages to creating a tenants' association in your building as well as to being part of a larger area association, such as the High Park Tenants' Association, North Toronto Tenants' Network or the West Lodge Tenants' Association.

By having people involved in your building, you can share information such as stories about people being illegally evicted or having to pay illegal fees. This can give you advance notice before it happens to you and to prepare you and your fellow tenants to fight it. Also, if you are in conflict with the landlord, it feels better to be talking to others going through the same thing.

There is some safety in numbers. The landlord is less likely to try to do something improper if the landlord knows there is a tenants' association in that building that is monitoring what they are doing, and will work as a group to fight them.

To have any rights you must first know what your rights are and then to stand up for those rights. It is a lot easier for tenants as a group to get information on their rights and share it, than for each individual to try to get that information separately.

Smaller "building" tenants' associations usually meet in members' apartments, and larger ones can meet in common areas of the building, or book a room in a nearby location such as a library or community centre. Any number of tenants can work together to form an association. In large highrises, you will likely want to have elections to vote for an "executive" (ie. A President, secretary, etc.). Some suggestions are provided in this tenants association organizing manual.

If your problem is an urgent one and you qualify for assistance for being working-poor or on government benefits you may want to contact a Community Legal Clinic immediately for support.

It is your legal right to be a member of a tenants' association and to organize one in your building. The landlord's company can face a fine of up to $100,000 under the Residential Tenancies Act, Section 238 if they harass you for being a member of an association, or interfere with you trying to organize one. Individuals such as the superintendent can face fines under this section as high as $25,000. If this happens you will want to contact the government's Investigation and Enforcement Unit.



DOCUMENTATION:

Q2: Do I have to keep records of my rent and lease?

A2: Technically, you do not have to keep any records, but it is extremely important that you do keep all records. Keep copies of: your lease, of any cancelled rent cheques and bank statements and any notices given to you by the landlord. If there is any future dispute between you and the landlord it will be your word against their's, so it is extremely important to save all these documents as long as possible.


LEAVING YOUR APARTMENT:

Q3: Can I end my lease early? And do I have to give notice of termination?

A3: It depends on what type of tenant you are.

If the original lease you signed has not expired, check the date. It is probably for a term of one year and you have a commitment towards that lease. Talk to your landlord and if they will agree to early termination of the lease, get it in writing, including the date you will be leaving and make sure the landlord and you both sign the document. If your landlord will not agree to any early termination of your lease, call your lawyer or your Community Legal Clinic. The tenant is obliged to give the landlord 60 days minimum written notice of their intentions to leave.

A very common way of getting out of such a lease is to find a tenant who is willing to take over your lease, such as by advertising it yourself. See Part VI of the Residential Tenancies Act, about Assignment and Subletting. Check here if the landlord refuses or doesn't respond to an assignment, or contact the IEU.

Assignment of your lease is preferred because the new tenant takes over all responsibility for the lease on the apartment. Subletting is another alternative but because you continue to be liable for the conditions of the lease and so this is usually only used when you want to retain your lease, but will be away for a period of time and want someone else to be living there and (hopefully) paying the rent.

If you never had a lease, or if your original lease expired and you have continued to live in the apartment without signing another one, and you pay your rent on a monthly basis, you have a month-to-month tenancy. You must still give at lease 60 days written notice before the end of the last month you intend to live there. See Period of notice, monthly tenancy.

If you give your notice late, you will be responsible for an extra month.

There are two exceptions to this 60 day rule for monthly tenancies, and those are for terminations which are to be effective on either the last day of February or March. For terminations of a tenancy for the last day of February, the notice must be given no later than the preceding January 1. For a termination effective March 31, the notice must be given no later than Feb. 1. For more information see Period of notice, February notices

Tenants who rent on a week-to-week basis need only give 28 days notice.


Q4: Are fees for "breaking a lease" legal?

A4: If you have signed a lease for a specific period of time and it has not reached its end date yet, you may want to negotiate something with the landlord. If you are going to end your lease at the end date of that agreement and give 60 days notice of that, or are a month-to-month tenant and give 60 days notice, or a week-to-week renter and give 28 days notice, the landlord can not legally charge you any fees for not renewing your lease.

PRIVACY:

Q5: When can a landlord enter my apartment?

A5: Before entering your apartment the landlord or their employee must give you 24 hours written notice of entry giving a reason as well as a time (the time must be between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.). Formerly even under the Tenant Protection Act, the landlord had to have a good reason to come in, such as to make necessary repairs, but now under the Residential Tenancies Act, they can claim it is just to do an No notice is necessary in cases of emergencies, if you give the landlord permission to do so, or in cases where a notice to terminate the lease (by either the tenant or landlord) has been given.


PETS AND "NO PETS CLAUSES":

Q6: The landlord says I must either move out or get rid of my pet; Do I?

A6: Only if the pet is dangerous, causes allergic reactions or causes problems for other tenants or the landlord, must you get rid of your pet or consider moving elsewhere as per Landlord application to terminate tenancy based on animals.

Even if you signed a lease with a "no pets" clause, if the pet is not a problem for anybody they can not enforce it; such no pets clauses are invalid under the law.

You do not have to move or get rid of the pet unless the Board issues a written order to do so.


HEAT:

Q7: My apartment is too cold. What heating must the landlord provide?

A7: The temperatures are set under municipal bylaws. If you are not the cause for the cold temperatures, such as by keeping your windows open, or setting a thermostat to a lower temperature, then the landlord has a responsibility to maintain a minimum temperature as set by the municipality/city you live in. If the landlord is not meeting the minimums, you can complain to the city's Building and Inspections department or your city councillor.

Information for some cities and towns are:

In Barrie it is 20C (68F) year round under the Barrie apartment heat bylaw 84-200 Section 32
Belleville is 21C (70F) from September 15 to May 31 under they bylaw 2000-45
Brampton is 20C (68F) from September 15 to June 1.   Brampton Heat Bylaw
Cornwall is 21C by day and 16C by night, from Oct. 1 to April 30, with no definition of day or night, under Section 2.35, Heating System, of the Property Standards By-law. If these requirements are not being met you may call for a Property Standards Inspector (613) 930-2787.
Guelph is 21C (70F). If it isn't warm enough call the Building Dept. Property Standards at (519) 837-5615
Hamilton is now 20C (68F) from September 1 to May 31, (which was lowered from the previous 22C level,) under 2004 bylaw 04-091 Hamilton apartment heating by-law.
Kingston is 21.1C (70F) from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and 18.8C (66F) the rest of the day from September 15 to June 1, Kingston minimum apartment temperature heat bylaw.
Kitchener is 21C (70F) year round under their bylaws for Property Maintenance, chapter 640.
London is 20C (68F) from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and 18C (65F) the rest of the day from September 15 to June 15, under the London apartment heat by-lawCity of London, Vital Services By-law PH-6, section 3.4
In Mississauga it is 20C (68F) from September 15 to June 1.   Mississauga Apartment Heat Bylaw 365-95
In Niagara Falls it is 21C (70F) from September 15 to May 31 under By-Law 98-50.
In North Bay it is 21C (70F) year round. North Bay' adequate heat bylaw 193-81 in Adobe PDF Format.
Oakville is 21C (70F). If it is not warm enough call the Halton Environmental Health office at (905) 825-6000.
Oshawa is 20C (68F) from September 15 to June 15.
Ottawa is 20C (68F) from 6:00 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 16.7C (62F) from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., year round, under Ottawa Apartment Heat By-law #201-89. If your apartment is too cold in Ottawa, the number to call is (613) 311.
Peterborough is 21C (70F) from September 15 to May 31 Property Standards - 599 Adequate Heat in Rental Accommodations (Adobe PDF document)
Richmond Hill is 20C (68F) year round.
Sarnia is 21C by day and 18C by night (from 11:01p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) under bylaw 16 of 1994.
Sault Ste. Marie under bylaw 3627 is 20C (68F) year round.
St. Catharines is 20C from September 15 to May 31 under By-law #66-48 "A By-law to require adequate heat for rented dwelling accomocadation" from 1966 and amended in 1983
Sudbury is 21C (70F) year round, under By-law #2001-200.
Thunder Bay it is 21C (70F) year round. Property Maintenance - Chapter 831 Heat in Rented Dwellings a 730k Adobe PDF file
Timmins is 21C (70F) year round under Section 2.7 of the Maintenance and Occupancy By-Law 98-5118.
Waterloo is 21C (70F) under the Heating Systems section of the Property Standards By-law 94-16 If there is not sufficient heat you can call Standards enforcement at (519) 747-8557, or contact your City Councillor.
Windsor is 21.11C (70F) from September 15 to June 15 under by-law 1152.
If you need to contact your city/town or your city councillor about this you can find their web page at the city links above.

In Toronto the temperature must be a minimum of 21C (70 Fahrenheit) from September 15 to June 1 according to Chapter 497-2 of the Toronto Municipal Code under bylaw 499-2000 Toronto Apartment Minimum Temperature by-law. The numbers to call are: 338-0338 (Access Toronto)
East District
    East York   416-397-4590
    Scarborugh   416-396-7322
North District
    North York   416-395-7000
South District
    Toronto   416-392-7539
West District
    Etobicoke and York   416-394-8002
(Source: City of Toronto, Telephone Directory, January 2004, Directory of Services, page 291)


REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE:

Q8: The landlord is refusing to make needed repairs in my apartment. How can I make the landlord carry out their maintenance obligations?

A8: If the landlord does not make repairs on your verbal request, or has a history of not making repairs, put your request in writing, including the date of the letter, and keep a copy.

If the landlord still hasn't done the repairs in a reasonable time, then call your city Building Inspector to make an appointment for them to come out and look at the problem. If the inspector won't come then ask to speak to their supervisor. Get a copy of the inspectors report to save for your records.

If you are still having problems getting repairs done, you will want to contact the Investigation and Enforcement Unit, at 416-585-7214, or outside of the 416 calling area, toll free at 1-888-772-9277.

If problems persists, then you may want to contact your lawyer or Community Legal Clinic, City Councillor, and maybe even apply for a rent reduction on the basis of lack of repair being a reduction of services in your apartment.


EVICTIONS:

Q9: When can I be legally evicted? And what can I do about the eviction?

A9: If you have been given a Notice of Termination by the landlord, you should immediately contact your lawyer or the local Community Legal Clinic in all cases. Legal Aid Ontario community legal clinics provide mostly free services to lower-income people and families.

And yes, you can be evicted any time, even in the middle of winter.

The landlord can evict you for the following grounds:

  • Nonpayment of rent on the day it is due. The landlord can give you a Notice of Termination, but it can not take effect until the 14th day after the notice is given, (or only 7 days if you pay your rent on a daily or weekly basis). This notice must include the fact that this termination can be avoided by paying the amount due before the date it is to take effect.

  • If you are a tenant in subsidized or public housing and provide false information on your income or the incomes of those living with you, or changes to those incomes as per Section 60;

  • If you do illegal acts or allow someone to do illegal acts on the grounds or anywhere in the building. Section 61 says this is the case if you commit such act. It does not state that it is necessary for you or the other person(s) to have been found guilty in a criminal court, so if this follows the protocols of the previous law then it is likely it only has to be proven to the satisfaction of an adjudicator of the Landlord and Tenant Board;

  • Section 62 on damage says if you, other residents of your unit or your guests wilfully or negligently causes undue damage to your apartment, the building or property you can be evicted. The notice of termination of your lease must state how you can remedy the situation and thereby prevent the eviction; Section 63 may also apply;

  • If you, other residents of your unit or your guest "substantially interferes" with the reasonable enjoyment of the building for other tenants as per Section 64 or in the case of a building with 3 units or less where the landlord also resides under Section 65;

  • If you, other residents of your unit or your guest impair the safety of any person in the residential complex as per Section 66;

  • If the number of persons occupying the rental unit on a continuing basis results in a contravention of health, safety or housing standards required by law, under Section 67, on overcrowding;

  • Animals can be a reason for eviction if the Landlord and Tenant Board is convinced that the tenant is keeping an animal and that the animal(s) is substantially interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of the premises, causes allergic reactions, or is inherently dangerous to safety.

There are other grounds for eviction, such as if the landlord personally needs the apartment to live in, if they are demolishing the building, converting the building (such as to a condominium) or doing such major repairs or renovations that they need your unit vacated. As unscrupulous landlords could falsely use these other situations as an excuse for eviction, contact your legal advisor or legal clinic immediately, and if you are certain they are in violation of the law the Investigation and Enforcement Unit, at 416-585-7214, or outside of the 416 calling area, toll free at 1-888-772-9277. See Sections 72 through 75 in Part V of the Residential Tenancies Act and it might be an idea to read all of this part of the Act.

These situations have many conditions and so can not be adequately covered in a summary such as this one. GET LEGAL ADVICE.


Q10: Can the landlord lock me out of my apartment?

A10: If no "Eviction Order" has been issued by the Tribunal, no. If an "Eviction Order" has been issued, then the Sheriff can have the locks changed but the landlord can not do it themselves.

Unscrupulous landlords may break the law and lock you out. You must immediately contact the police and get legal advice from your lawyer or the IEU 1-888-772-9277 or 416-585-7214 as this is a violation of the Act under Section 24 of the RTA.



RENT:

Q11: I am moving into a new apartment. What is the legal rent?

A11: Under the McGuinty's government's Residential Tenancies Act, the landlord may charge a new tenant in a unit anything they wish. This is often referred to as "Vacancy Decontrol". If you think the rent being asked for is too high, it is up to you to try to negotiate something lower with the landlord before you move in, if you can. This means you really need to compare apartments and prices to make sure you are not being charged higher than typical rents.

How this is phrased in the act's section about lawful rent for new tenant is "The lawful rent for the first rental period for a new tenant under a new tenancy agreement is the rent first charged to the tenant", that is whatever the landlord can get away with charging you.

It is unspecified in the Act, but very likely, that if you moved into a different unit in the same building you will be considered a new tenant.


Q12: What about Rent Controls?

A12: Regulation of the rent only applies while you are living in the apartment; This is not considered "Rent Control" by tenant advocates and housing experts though the government is claiming they have "brought back real Rent Controls".

Note, under Section 5, Exemptions from the Act, not all tenants are covered, and additionally under Section 6, Other Exemptions, that tenants such as those who are living in any part of any building, or mobile home park, or land lease community, where that space was never previously occupied for residential purposes before November 1, 1991, are not covered at all by rent controls.


Q13: How often can my landlord raise my rent?

A13: The landlord can raise the rent only once every 12 months for as long as you remain in that unit. The landlord must give you at least 90 days' notice in writing of any rent increase, or you do not have to pay the increase, but you still have to pay the rent.


Q14: What is the "Annual Guideline Increase", and can my landlord increase my rent more than this amount?

A14: The Annual Guideline Increase is an amount set each year by the government. The "Annual Guideline Increase" is 2.6% for 2007. For previous years see the: Ontario Rent Increase Guidelines.

The landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an above-guideline rent increase. They can get annual increases of up to 3% above the "Annual Guideline Increase" amount for things such as repairs or renovations or new security measures, and those increases can be carry-forwarded for an additional two years. And by exclusion from Section 126, subsection 11 it appears landlords can also get rent increases with no maximums for increases in municipal property taxes, municipals fees, or increased utility costs.

The landlord can not charge you above the "Annual Guideline Increase" without first getting approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board. Under the law, the landlord must make available to you a copy of their "Application For An Above Guideline Increase" and inform you of the date for the hearing. You can challenge the landlord's application if you have good reasons. See Part VII - Rents, Rent Increases and Decreases particularly sections 116 through 136.

Many landlords will include bills for ineligble items, or even work not yet completed that should not be permitted for an increase, so get advice from your legal representative or legal clinic on what to do. If you do wish to challenge the landlord's application it is usually wise to do it as a group, and the easiest way to do this is to form a building tenants' association.


Q15: Can the landlord ask me to sign an agreement to raise my rent above the level permitted under Ontario rental housing regulations?

A15: They can ask you, but they can not make you sign such an agreement. The agreement can not be for more than 3% above the annual guideline under the Agreement Section 121. Be very careful what you agree to! If you do sign such an agreement, you have 5 days to inform the landlord in writing if you have changed your mind. And remember in this situation Section 116 no longer applies.

You may want to sign an agreement for an added service the landlord has offered such as a dishwasher put into your unit and may want to agree to pay more for that, but check the price, you will likely find it is cheaper to buy it yourself.

Some landlords may ask tenants to sign an agreement for an increase in rent to replace faulty refrigerators or stoves. Remember that if your apartment came with these appliances, it is the landlord's responsibility to make sure you have working ones; the landlord does not have to provide you with new appliances, only working ones. So don't offer to pay extra for what is the landlord's responsibility to provide!


Q16: Does the landlord have to give me a rent receipt?

A16: Under Section 109 of the law, the landlord must give you a receipt for paying the rent if you request it at no charge. If you pay with cash or the landlord has a bad reputation it is a good idea to demand a receipt upon payment. If the landlord refuses you should contact the IEU at at 1-888-772-9277 or 416-585-7214, and probably set up a tenants' association in your building to fight the landlord on this.

Always get a receipt for your last month's rent deposit and for any key or pass card deposits.


Q17: Do I have to pay the landlord a "last month's rent deposit? Does the landlord owe me any interest on this deposit?

A17: Under the Residential Tenancies Act, if the landlord requested it when you applied for the apartment, you must provide such a deposit. Once you are a tenant, you do not need to provide one, unless you agreed to do so before getting the apartment. See Section 106.

I have often seen that if a new landlord buys a building they often try to get the tenants to pay another deposit. Since you already paid it to the previous landlord you do not have to pay another one as per Section 106, subsection 4.

For 2006 and January 2007, under the old law landlords must pay you 6% on your rent deposit, but under the Residential Tenancies Act, interest will now be set annually at the rate of inflation. This is in spite of the fact that the landlord can easily invest your deposit at rates much higher than the rate of inflation. For more details see Last Month's Rent Deposit and Interest.


Q18: What about other "deposits" or "fees"?

A18: Additional fees or deposits are illegal, except "last month's rent" and those listed below:

  • Charges that are allowed Under Regulation 516/06, Section 17, include payment for additional keys, remote entry devices or cards requested by the tenant, not greater than their direct costs, and refundable key/card deposits not greater than their direct costs. Be sure to get a receipt for this so that when you return these cards or keys when you are moving out, it will be easier to get your deposit for these back.

  • Where the tenant has provided a cheque that bounced due to insufficient funds in the account, the landlord may not charge more than any NSF charge the landlord had to pay to the financial institution plus up to an additional $20 "administrative charge".

  • A charge not exceeding $250 for transferring between units, at the request of the tenant.

Landlords and their employees are breaking the law if they demand that you buy furniture, carpeting or draperies in an apartment, or demand that you pay painting fees, damage deposits, locker or parking space registration fees, finder's fees, or application or registration fees to get the apartment.

If parking or a locker are not included in the rent, though they can not charge you a registration fee for getting them, they can charge you a monthly fee for those services.


Q19: If the landlord or their employee(s) are harassing or threatening me, what should I do?

A19: You should immediately contact the Investigation and Enforcement Unit (IEU) of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (it is separate from the Landlord and Tenant Board) at 1-888-772-9277 or 416-585-7214, your lawyer or community legal clinic.




Written by: Robert Levitt



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