A popular story from CBC has put the spotlight on rental law in Ontario.
Shannon Martin, a reporter for CBC Toronto, wrote about her experience as a self-proclaimed 32-year-old couch surfer. Shannon’s former landlord forced her out of her apartment by raising the rent by almost $1,000 per month.
The shocking part is, what the landlord did was perfectly legal.
Landlords in Ontario can increase the rent as they wish so long as they follow the Residential Tenancies Act. Many people were shocked to learn this. But that’s not the only thing people don’t know about the law.
Here are five key points about the rental law in Ontario. Keep in mind that this is not intended as legal advice. If you have a legal issue with tenancy law, talk to a licence paralegal or lawyer.
1. Rental law in Ontario is Subject to the Residential Tenancies Act.
The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 has been around since January 31, 2007. Before that, there were various other statutes that regulated different aspects of the residential landlord and tenant relationship. Now, all rental units in residential complexes in Ontario are subject to the RTA.
The stated purpose of the Act is threefold:
- To protect residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and evictions.
- To balance the rights and responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants.
- To provide a way to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.
2. Landlords Cannot Ban Pets.
Under section 38(1) of the Act, any tenancy agreement that prohibits pets is null and void. While landlords can choose not to rent to you because of your pets, they have no power to stop you from bringing pets into your home once you’re settled in.
3. You Do Not Need a Written Contract to Rent Property.
There is no requirement to have a written tenancy agreement or lease in Ontario. Landlords and tenants who have a verbal agreement have all the same rights and responsibilities as those who signed formal lease agreements.
Not only is this true of the residential tenancies, but it’s a basic principle of contract law in general. With some exceptions, an oral agreement is just as valid and enforceable as a written and signed contract.
Of course, it can be tough to prove that an oral agreement exists. That’s why it’s highly recommended to get your lease in writing.
4. Landlords Cannot Enter a Rental Unit Without Notice.
Once a tenant has moved in, the landlord has limited rights to enter the unit without written notice. Landlords must give 24 hours’ notice before they enter. In that notice, they must specify the reason, day, and time of entry. And landlords may only enter between 8AM and 8PM.
There are exceptions. The landlord can enter at any time as long as the tenant gives permission. Landlords can also enter without notice in an emergency.
5. There is No Rent Control for New Buildings.
Whenever a landlord rents a unit to a new tenant, the landlord can set the starting rent. The landlord can then increase the rent once every 12 months with at least 90 days’ notice of the increase. There is no limit to the starting rent or how much a landlord can increase the rent in later years.
The exception is for residential buildings that was used for residential purposes before November 1, 1991. Older apartments are subject to the annual rent control guidelines. That means the landlord can only up the rent by a certain percentage, usually less than 2% of the previous year’s rent.
Unfortunately for Shannon Martin, her apartment did not fall under this exception.