More and more Ontarians, particularly new comers, are prompted to rent housing as costs of home ownership becomes increasingly unaffordable.
Your rights as a tenant
As a tenant in Ontario, you have legal rights as per the Human Rights Code and the Residential Tenancies Act. The Human Rights Code applies to every person in Ontario. The Residential Tenancies Act applies to most people who rent their housing.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination or harassment. Hence, a landlord cannot discriminate against you because you are a newcomer to Canada; or because of your race, ethnicity, religion, gender, marital status, disability or any other forms of discrimination.
As a tenant, it is important to know your rights. Examples:
- A landlord must ensure that your rental home is safe and in good repair.
- You are not obligated to have tenant insurance but having tenant insurance for your personal possessions and liabilities can protect you and cover damages in case of an accident.
- It is your right to have access to heat, hot and cold water, electricity, and fuel (such as natural gas). Your landlord cannot shut-off these services, even if you have not paid your rent. Your landlord may shut off services for a short time for repairs.
- Your landlord cannot enter your home without notice, usually 24 hours before they enter. The landlord could seek access to your home for certain reasons such as to make repairs, to show the home to possible tenants or buyers. However, a landlord can enter your home without notice in an emergency.
- Your landlord may raise your rent once in a 12-month period. The amount of the increase has to be within legal limits.
- A landlord cannot unlawfully evict you. However, you can be evicted legally for certain reasons and you have the right to a hearing with the Landlord and Tenant Board.
- You have a right to a written copy of your tenancy agreement, written notice of your landlord’s legal name and address, and rent receipts.
Your responsibilities as a tenant?
- As a tenant, you have to honour the terms and conditions in your lease or tenancy agreement.
- Pay your rent by the day that you agreed to in your lease or tenancy agreement.
- You have to keep your home reasonably clean.
- It is your responsibility to repair any damage that you or your guests damage or break.
- Do not interfere with your neighbours’ quiet enjoyment of their units.
- You have to obey the law, example your city by-laws about over-crowding. Meaning you cannot have more people living in your unit than is allowed.
- You cannot change the locking system on a door giving entry to a rental unit without the consent of the landlord.
- Do not provide false and misleading information in documents filed with the Landlord and Tenant Board.
- You cannot harass, obstruct, coerce or threaten a landlord. If you are unable to resolve a rental dispute with your landlord, contact the Landlord and Tenant Board for help.
Basic tips on costs of renting
- Before renting a home, review your budget and consider renting within your budget. Spending too much on rent may make it difficult to cover your other costs of living or save for future plans. As a general rule, your rent payment and household-related expenses should not be higher than 30% of your gross household income. Your gross household income is all income you receive before taxes and deductions. For example, if your gross pay is $4,000 a month, try to limit your housing costs to $1,200 a month or less.
- You have to budget for upfront costs such as first and last month’s rent.
- Your landlord may ask you to pay a security deposit before you rent an apartment. These deposits are typically used to cover potential damage to the rental unit. You’ll usually get your deposit back if you leave the rental unit in the same condition as when you moved in.
- You may need to pay a fee to set up a new account with a utility, cable, Internet or telephone company. You may also need to pay security deposits on these accounts.
- You need to consider upfront moving costs such as truck rental, movers, moving boxes and other supplies etc.
- Consider getting enough insurance to cover the value of damage or loss of your possessions, personal property stolen from your car, accidental damage you cause to any part of the rental property, injury caused to visitors etc.
- If you’re renting for the first time, consider costs of furniture, dishes, kitchen ware, small appliances, beddings, supplies etc.
- Plan for ongoing costs of living such as parking, utilities (hydro and heat), cellphone, Internet, cable, laundry, snow removal, lawn maintenance etc.
- Make saving part of your monthly budget to cover unplanned expenses.
- Instead of renting, you may consider buying a home. Deciding whether to rent or buy a home depends on your needs and financial circumstances.
Tips on how to protect yourself from rental frauds and scams
Watch out for rental scams. In general, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Warning signs of rental scams may include:
- The monthly rent is much less than the current market rate.
- You’re asked to leave a deposit without any formal rental agreement or lease in place.
- You’re asked to send a security deposit to a landlord outside the country.
- You’re offered a unit but no one does a background check on you.
- When you ask about the apartment, you get an email that sends you to a website asking for personal or financial information.
- Ads that show pictures of the outside of the property only, or pictures that don’t match the actual property.
By Terry Mutuku
Sources: Government of Ontario; Government of Canada; Settlement.org; Ontario Tenants Rights.