Most people living in rental housing in Ontario are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA)–a big exception is people in student residencies or other institutional settings.

The RTA is the law that governs landlord and tenant relations and it sets out both your rights and your obligations as a tenant. The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) settles disputes between property owners and tenants.

There are plenty of sources for what you need to know as a tenant, including the LTB, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations and Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation.

Tenant Rights at a Glance

You are covered by the RTA even if you do not have a lease or tenancy agreement.

If your lease expires, you do not have to renew it, you automatically become a month-to-month tenant.

When you are new to a private market rental, the rent can be set by the landlord wherever the market puts it. Once the tenancy starts, RTA rules around rent are in effect.

  • Landlords can only raise the rent once every 12 months. Unless there are significant repairs or renovations involved, they can only raise the rent by the legislated guideline amount. In 2018 it will be 1.8 per cent of the existing rent.
  • To raise rent above the guideline, landlords need to give written notice at least 90 days ahead of time and make a case before the LTB, and you can have input to the matter.

You are entitled to your privacy. Landlords must have a valid reason to enter your unit.

You cannot be evicted simply for having a roommate. (However, if the roommate is causing problems for other tenants and/or damaging the property, or there is overcrowding, there could be cause for a notice of termination and an application to evict you and everyone in the unit.)

You cannot be evicted for having a pet (unless the pet is dangerous, making too much noise, damaging the unit, or causing others to have allergic reactions).

If your landlord is responsible for heating your home, you are entitled to a comfortable 21 degrees C minimum September 15 to May 31.

The landlord cannot change your locks or tell you to leave.

Only the Sheriff can evict you. But before that happens, the landlord must provide a notice terminating the tenancy giving the reasons. He must then apply to the LTB for an order to evict you. There will be a hearing and you have a right to attend and present your facts.

Tenant Responsibilities at a Glance

If you are asked by a prospective landlord to provide information about your income, credit references and rental history when you apply for a rental, you are obliged to do so.

However, nothing gives a landlord the right to refuse anyone because of receipt of public assistance, race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap.

Pay first month’s rent when you move in. Your landlord can also ask for last month’s rent at this time—but no more than that. Payment for that last month’s rent has to be used to cover last month’s rent. It is not a damage deposit.

If a key deposit is required, it can only cover the replacement cost of the key.

Pay your agreed upon rent on the agreed upon time.

If you are unhappy with your landlord’s maintenance record (and it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the unit in a good state of repair), you are not entitled to withhold the rent. Withholding rent payments could give the landlord a valid reason for a notice of termination for non-payment of rent, leading to an application with the LTB to evict you.

You are responsible for keeping the unit clean. You are also obliged to repair or pay for any damage that you caused or that was caused by your guest or other person living in your unit.

If your landlord has a valid reason to enter your unit and has provided this reason in writing 24 hours in advance, you have to let him enter.

If you change your locks, immediately, you must give the landlord a key.

If you want to sublet or assign your unit, you must have your landlord’s consent.

If your landlord needs your unit for his personal use or for that of a family member or caregiver, you may have to leave your home.