It’s that time of the year again – the start of a new school year.
If you’re a university or college student studying away from home, you probably started searching for off-campus housing to rent. Some of you may have already signed a lease with your new landlord. But did you know that as of April 30, 2018, most residential tenancy agreements in Ontario must use a standard form lease?
The standard form lease is a plain language agreement meant to ensure that both tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities. It is also intended to eliminate illegal terms found in many old leases and prevent misunderstandings that could arise from verbal tenancy agreements.
Here’s what you need to know about Ontario’s standard form lease:
The Standard Lease Applies to Almost all Types of Properties
The standard form lease applies to almost all types of residential properties, except care homes, mobile park homes and land lease communities. Cooperative housing and transitional housing that meet certain requirements are also exempt from using the standard lease.
If you are signing a fixed-term lease for an apartment, a condominium unit, a basement apartment, single or semi-detached houses, a granny suite or a laneway home, then your landlord should be signing an agreement with you using Ontario’s new standard lease.
Tenants Signing a New Lease
If you are a new tenant signing a lease with your landlord – after April 30, 2018 – then your landlord should be using the standard lease. If your landlord does not know about the new standard lease then let them know that the form is available on the Ontario government’s website. You can also familiarize yourself with the lease by downloading the guide to the standard lease.
Landlords refusing to provide the standard lease
If your landlord did not use the standard lease, you can ask your landlord (in writing) for the signed standard lease. If 21 days have passed since your request and your landlord has not provided you with the standard lease then you can withhold one month’s rent.
If your landlord does not provide you with a signed standard lease within 30 days of you withholding your one month rent, you do not have to repay the one month’s rent. Do not withhold more than one month of your rent. You must continue paying rent after that one month even if your landlord doesn’t provide you with the standard lease.
If the landlord’s failure to provide you with a lease creates a situation of distrust for you as a tenant and you want to terminate your lease agreement, you can give 60 days’ notice to terminate a yearly or fixed-term tenancy early.
You may also give your landlord 60 days’ notice to terminate your lease if your landlord provides the standard lease, and after reviewing it you no longer want to sign it. In both of these cases, the date for termination of your lease must be the last day of a rental period (e.g. the end of the month).
Spotting Illegal terms on the standard lease
The standard lease has a section called “additional terms”, which allows landlords to add their own clauses that are not part of the standard lease. The rationale behind this is to give landlords the flexibility to add rental terms that are unique to their property. Read the clauses in the “additional terms” section carefully and know what you are agreeing to. Any illegal terms inserted by the landlord should be considered to be void. A dispute over a term could end up before the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Some common illegal clauses may be:
- Banning pets from an apartment. This is illegal under the Act. You can keep your pet and move into your new home. However, some condos have a no pet by-law, which could prevent you from bringing certain pets.
- No smoking. This is illegal. However, you should ensure that your smoking does not harm the health of other residents. Be aware if you are in a condo there might be additional rules.
- Requiring you to pay rent by post-dated cheques. That’s illegal. You should be given a few different options to pay your rent in a way that fits your needs.
- Asking for a rent deposit that is more than last month’s rent. This is illegal, no matter what the reason may be. A landlord can only request a last month rent deposit.
- No overnight guests. This is illegal. You are paying rent and should enjoy your new home with your guests. However, you are responsible for any disturbances they may cause.
Most Ontario cities are experiencing low vacancy rates, and finding another place is a difficult endeavour. The reality of the rental market is that many tenants don’t exercise their legal rights because they fear becoming homeless. But it is important to know your and your landlord’s legal rights and responsibilities under the Act and the possible legal remedies to enforce those rights.
If you are unsure about what is legal or illegal, be sure to check out a great resource called Steps to Justice. Under the housing law section, you can learn about all your legal rights as a tenant. If you are living in Toronto, you can also contact the tenant hotline by dialing 416.921.9494
**This blog post contains general information. To provide you with sound legal information, I interviewed our staff lawyer Dania Majid. This post is not a substitute for getting legal advice about your particular situation. **