10 Important Tips for Tenants
1) You cannot stop paying your rent even if there are maintenance or repair problems (including rodent or insect infestations) or if your landlord is not respecting your rights as a tenant. The following resource describes how to take legal action against your landlord if these problems continue. Always pay your rent to help protect yourself from eviction.
2) The only “security” deposit your landlord can legally collect is a rent deposit, often called a “last month’s rent deposit.” Your landlord may collect this deposit when you enter into a tenancy agreement/lease. If you pay your rent by the month, the amount of the deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent. Your rent deposit can only be used as rent payment for the last rental period before you move out.
3) “Damage” and “cleaning” deposits are illegal. Landlords cannot use your rent deposit to pay for damages, cleaning, etc.
4) Your landlord and/or lease cannot require you to provide post-dated rent cheques. As well, a landlord cannot force you to pay your rent in cash.
5) Your landlord must provide a receipt any time you make a payment. You should always request a receipt for your rent deposit, when you pay any amount of rent, or when you make any other payment to your landlord.
6) Your landlord may try to collect charges and/or fees that are illegal, including “late payment” fees and charging extra rent for guests staying with you. Both of these, and many other “charges” and/or “fees” are illegal and prohibited by the Residential Tenancies Act.
7) If you signed a one-year lease, you can continue to live in your home on a month-to-month basis when your lease ends if your lease has not been renewed or terminated. Your landlord cannot make you renew or re-sign your lease and your landlord cannot change the terms of your lease without your permission.
8) With some exceptions, if you live in an “old” building or rental unit, the maximum amount your landlord can increase your rent is the amount set by Ontario’s Rent Increase Guideline.
If you live in a “new” rental unit or building (for example, a new condo building or unit), this Rent Increase Guideline does not apply: your landlord can raise your rent by any amount they want.
There is a lot of confusion about how much a landlord can raise your rent each year because there are two sets of rules – one for “old” buildings or rental units, and another for “new” buildings or rental units. The definitions of “old” and “new” are tricky: “old” buildings or rental units are ones that were either built or first occupied “for residential purposes” before November 1, 1991; “new” buildings or rental units are those that were either built or first occupied “for residential purposes” on or after November 1, 1991, or were not occupied for any purpose before June 17, 1998.
This confusion leaves thousands of tenants vulnerable to huge and arbitrary rent increases every year.
9) Your landlord cannot increase your rent until at least twelve months have passed since either the day your rental unit was first rented to you or since your last rent increase. This is called the “12 Month Rule.” In addition, a landlord cannot raise your rent without first giving you at least 90 days written notice.
10) Tenants can be evicted during the winter. There’s an urban myth that a landlord cannot evict you in winter. This is untrue.
It’s important to know that in Ontario, most but not all tenancies are regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act. There are exceptions. If, for example, you live in social housing, Co-Op housing, or you share a kitchen and/or bathroom with the owner/family member, the rules may be different for you and the above tips may not apply.
Many of these problems and misunderstandings could be avoided if the Ontario government passed a law requiring a general, standardized, and mandatory lease for all rental units in Ontario. If you want to take action and help make this happen, email the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin, to push for adoption of a general, standardized and mandatory lease.
REASONABLE DOUBT: 10 IMPORTANT TIPS FOR TENANTS, Jonathan Robart NOW Magazine
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