Frequently Asked Questions
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FAQ's

Should I call ACTO if I'm having a problem with my landlord?

ACTO does not provide individual service to tenants. If you are a low-income tenant, contact your local legal clinic to see if they can provide free legal advice. To find your nearest legal clinic, go to http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=cl

My landlord wants me to start paying the electricity bill for my apartment.  Can he force me to do this?

Most tenants in Ontario pay for the electricity they use as part of their rent.  This arrangement is made at the beginning of the tenancy and cannot be changed unless you sign an agreement with your landlord that says you will start paying for it separately.  New technology, new regulations and rising prices are encouraging landlords to get tenants to agree to this change.  You must receive a rent reduction as part of this agreement and there are other requirements that a landlord must meet.  See our tip sheet called "Individual Metering of Electricty in Apartment Buildings" before you agree to this or if you need more information.

Can I be evicted in winter?

Yes. There are no seasonal restrictions on when a landlord can apply to the Landlord & Tenant Board to evict a tenant.

My landlord gave me a "Notice to Terminate a Tenancy Early." Do I have to leave?

No. That is just the first step of the eviction process. In most cases, a landlord must first give you notice, then apply to evict you at the Landlord & Tenant Board, receive an order to evict you from the Board, and then take that order to the Sheriff to enforce the eviction. Only the Sheriff is able to evict you from your unit. For more information about the eviction process, see materials provided by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)including http://guides.cleonet.ca/article/rental-housing

My landlord changed my locks because I didn't pay rent. Can she do that?

No. It is an offense under the Residential Tenancies Act  for a landlord to change locks without providing the tenant with the key, or for a tenant to change the locks without permission. Contact your local legal clinic for help, or your local police force. There is also an Investigation and Enforcement branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that deals with violations of the Act. It can be reached at 1-888-772-9277. For a list of other offenses under the Residential Tenancies Act, see the Ministry's offenses section at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1175.aspx

I'm new to Canada and having a hard time finding housing. Are there particular resources for new immigrants?

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) has a helpful website called http://www.settlement.org/index.asp. You can also visit the Centre of Equality Rights and Accommodation's website and/or the Housing Help Association's website http://www.findhousinghelp.ca/

I'm looking for an apartment and several landlords have told me that they don't rent to people on welfare. Can they do that?

No. It is against the Ontario Human Rights Code to discriminate against a person in respect of their housing simply because they receive social assistance. You can contact (1) your local Legal Aid Clinic http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=cl, (2) Human Rights Legal Support Centre  http://www.hrlsc.on.ca, and/or (3) the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation at http://www.equalityrights.org/cera.

My landlord told me she's going to raise my rent next month. Can she do that?

There is an annual guideline set by the provincial government. In most cases your landlord can only increase your rent once every twelve months by the guideline amount. In most cases, your landlord must give you 90 days written notice of the annual rent increase (unless you specifically agreed to a rent increase in writing or have accepted an additional service and agreed to the increased cost). Landlords can also apply to the Landlord & Tenant Board for an increase above the guideline, based on items like increased utilities costs or renovations. The increase above the guideline must be approved by the Board. See the Landlord & Tenant Board's rent increase guideline document at: http://www.ltb.gov.on.ca/en/Key_Information/STEL02_111283.html

I'm not a low-income tenant, but do need some legal advice on a landlord and tenant matter. How do I find a lawyer?

There is a free service called the Lawyer Referral Service, operated by the Law Society of Upper Canada. The service will provide the name of a lawyer who will provide up to 30 minutes free consultation to help you determine your rights and options. You can access the service by calling 1-900-565-4577 or visit http://www.lsuc.on.ca/public/a/finding/lrs/

My landlord won't make some really important repairs to my unit, and I keep asking. What should I do?

It's best to keep records of your requests for maintenance, especially in writing. Take pictures if possible. It is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the unit in good repair. In some cases you may want to contact your local municipal property standards office or the Maintenance and Standards Section of the provincial Investigation and Enforcement Unit at 1-888-772-9277. You can find the contact information for your local property standards office at the Maintenance and Standards web site at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1181.aspx

You may want to make an application to the Landlord & Tenant Board. See the Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) Maintenance and Repairs pamphlet under http://www.cleo.on.ca/english/pub/onpub/subject/landlord.htm.

My landlord says he needs to come over to do something in my unit. Can he just show up?

In most cases, the landlord must provide a tenant with 24 hours written notice of entry. Entry must be between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The notice must specify the reason, day and time of entry. Only certain reasons for entry without written notice are permitted under the Residential Tenancies Act, such as emergency repairs or showing the unit to potential buyers. The landlord is not required to provide the tenant with 24 hours written notice in certain situations, including:

  • an emergency;
  • the tenant lets the landlord in;
  • the landlord shows the unit to prospective tenants after notice of termination has been given

See also http://www.cleo.on.ca/english/pub/onpub/subject/landlord.htm

My landlord keeps the heat really low in winter! What can I do?

Some municipalities have their own rules about heating and a local enforcement system, while others rely on the province to ensure adequate heating. Try your local municipal office or call the Maintenance and Standards Section of the provincial Investigation and Enforcement Unit at 1-888-772-9277. See http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page142.aspx

My landlord shut the heat off because I haven't paid my rent. Can she do that?

No. It is an offense under the Residential Tenancies Act  to interfere with vital service [fuel, hydro and/or water], and is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000. Contact your local legal clinic and/or call the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Enforcement and Investigation Unit at 1-888-772-9277 or visit http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page142.aspx

Where can I find a cheap apartment?

It is increasingly difficult to find an affordable place to live if you are a low-income tenant. In some communities in Ontario, there are agencies, often referred to as "Housing Help Centres" that try to help low-income people find accommodation in private rental housing. A number of communities also have social housing units operated by the municipality or region, but the waiting lists can be very long. For a list of the social housing providers in Ontario by region, see the Ontario Non Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) web site at http://www.onpha.on.ca/about_non_profit_housing/tenants/default.asp?load=coordinated_access. See also http://www.settlement.org/sys/faqs_detail.asp?faq_id=4000231

Is there financial help just to tide me over until I can pay my rental arrears?

In some communities in Ontario there are "rent banks" that loan tenants money to pay their rental arrears. These rent banks are administered by different agencies in every community, and often have strict criteria about lending money. If you are on social assistance, you may qualify for some kind of "shelter fund" or be able to get access to "community start-up" to prevent your eviction and you should contact your worker, or visit http://www.ontariorentbank.net.

How do I form a tenants' association?

There are a number of ways to bring tenants together for short-term projects or longer term organizing. The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations in Toronto has published a Tenant Organizing Manual that you can find at http://www.torontotenants.org (look in "FMTA literature on line") and click on the document.

I live in a housing co-op. Does the Residential Tenancies Act apply?

No. You are covered by the Ontario Co-operative Corporations Act. If you are in a provincially funded co-op, and on subsidy, then the Social Housing Reform Act also applies. If you are in a federally funded co-op, only the Co-operative Corporations Act applies. The Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (Ontario Region) has information for both co-op housing managers and co-op members at http://www.chfcanada.coop/eng/pages2007/onthome.asp.

I live in non-profit/social housing. Does the Residential Tenancies Act apply?

Yes. You are also covered by the Social Housing Reform Act (SHRA). The SHRA sets out very strict timelines for reporting changes in income or household size for subsidized households. It is very important that you know  these new rules, because in some cases you can lose your subsidy if you don't report a change in your income on time.

Each of the 47 service managers across the province has their own rules. The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, an umbrella association of housing managers, does have information for both providers and tenants about the Social Housing Reform Act and other issues at their web site at http://www.onpha.on.ca/.

I'm a landlord. Where can I get help?

The Landlord's Self-Help Centre is an incorporated non-profit organization that provides information, assistance and educational programs to Ontario's small scale landlords free of charge. http://www.landlordselfhelp.com/frontpage.asp