Knowing your legal rights as a renter is often difficult. You may be getting different stories from different people.. Figuring out where to get solid information is the first step in learning about your rights, and this article sets out to point you in the right direction and answer some of the most common questions about Ontario tenants’ legal rights.
Rent Increases and Ontario Tenant Rights in 2021
In 2021, your renters rights in regard to rent increases are a little different from usual. Due to Covid-19, the government of Ontario has passed legislation to freeze rents at 2020 levels.
There are two main exceptions to this rule:
- Tenants and landlords can agree on a rent increase in exchange for an extra service or facility; and
- In a circumstance where the landlord has incurred costs related to certain capital repairs and security services, the rent may be raised – but only if approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board.
This special legislation is currently slated to end on December 31, 2021, with a landlord being able to issue a 90-day notice for a 2022 rent increase as early as October 2021. Keep in mind that this situation is fluid, and these dates may change.
Can my Landlord Increase my Rent Ontario?
Under normal circumstances, rent increases are capped by a rent increase guideline. (see exceptions below)
A landlord must give a tenant at least 90 days’ written notice before a rent increase takes effect.
In the majority of circumstances, rent for a residential until can only be increased 12 months after either:
- the last rent increase; or
- the date your tenancy began.
If you are receiving more frequent rent increases, your rights as a tenant potentially are being violated. If you have received notice of a rent increase and have questions, please contact us for assistance.
Exceptions to Rent Increase Rules
Of course, things are never simple and there are exceptions to the standard rent increase rules.
Your landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to increase rent above what is allowed by the official guidelines. If approved, the landlord will be within their rights to raise your rent by that amount.
If you live in a care home, the guideline applies only to the rent portion of your invoice and does not apply to added services, for example, nursing, food, or cleaning.
If you live in a unit built after November 2018, the rules may also not apply to you.
In addition, Ontario rent increase guidelines do not apply to:
- Vacant residential units;
- Community housing units;
- Nursing homes; or
- Commercial properties.
Housing Standards and Your Tenant Rights Ontario
The requirements for housing and maintenance standards are too numerous to cover comprehensively here. However, below is a summary of the basics and where to go to find more detailed information.
The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the “RTA”) which generally governs most landlord/tenant relationships in Ontario has this to say about rental housing standards:
“20 (1) A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing, and maintenance standards.
Subsection (1) applies even if the tenant was aware of a state of non-repair or a contravention of a standard before entering into the tenancy agreement.”
If you want to consider the issue furhter, what is meant by “maintenance standards” in the section of the RTA referenced above is further detailed in Ontario Regulation 517/6.
Property bylaws set by municipalities may also have an effect on your housing standards rights. For example, in Toronto, there are property bylaws that set standards for all properties, including rentals. Check the property bylaws in your city to see if any special circumstances apply.
There are, of course, special exceptions — not all residential tenancies are covered under the Residential Tenancies Act. The notion that all residential tenancies are covered under the RTA is just one of many common misconceptions about residential rental properties.
If you need assistance interpreting the regulations, please contact us and one of our lawyers can assist you with your questions.
Your rights in regards to who pays for utilities differ depending on what you and your landlord have agreed to in your standard lease.
Having said that, Ontario rental laws state that your landlord can not do anything that affects the supply of your vital services, which includes heat, electricity, hot and cold water, fuel, and gas.
Note that these vital services include heating but do not always include air conditioning. If you are wondering if a landlord can turn off the heat, please see our blog post on the issue, but the simple answer is, in most cases, no.
What is a Residential Tenancy Agreement or Standard Lease?
One other factor that can affect your rights as a tenant is your residential tenancy agreement, also known as a standard lease. If you are a renter, you and your landlord should have signed a residential tenancy agreement or standard lease around the time when you moved into the property. Although a lease cannot take away a right or responsibility under the Residential Tenancies Act, this document further clarifies what is included in the lease and what each party is responsible for.
An example of and full explanation of Ontario’s standard lease can be found online.
Your landlord should have given you a copy of this agreement within 21 days of signing. If you don’t have a copy, you should request one. A landlord is obligated, under the law, to provide you with a copy of your written lease agreement.
Remember, in any dealings with your Landlord it is important to keep a record of any communications, including dates, and preferably to communicate in writing.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, everyone has the right to equal treatment in housing without discrimination or harassment. Should you be experiencing discrimination based on a protected ground under the human rights code (for example race, age, or gender) you may be able to bring a lawsuit in Superior Court or bring the issue before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
If you have any kind of disagreement or dispute with your landlord, there are resources available to you, as a tenant, that can help. The Ontario Landlord & Tenant Board is the body with the authority to resolve disputes between residential landlords and tenants. Should you be required to enforce your rights, it most cases, it will be necessary to make an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Need more information? This is a general overview and may not cover special circumstances. If you need someone to talk to about your tenant rights, you may want to discuss your issue with a legal professional. Please call RBHF Professional Corporation at 613-546-2147 or contact us for assistance with your specific issue.
This article provides general information and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. It should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. Please contact RBHF Professional Corporation for detailed legal advice should you have questions of any kind.