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Having recently watched my own parents go through the transition from homeowners to tenants, I know first-hand how difficult it can be – but I’ve also seen the freedom it brings. Whether you are retiring, downsizing, moving to a new city, or just looking for a change, it’s important to have realistic expectations and an understanding of how the Residential Tenancies Act will impact you. Here’s our best advice:

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA)

In Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the primary legislation that governs landlord-tenant relationships, and it’s important that renters understand their rights and obligations. The RTA outlines the process for giving notice to terminate a tenancy, how rent increases are calculated, and the obligations of landlords and tenants regarding maintenance and repairs. Renters should review the RTA thoroughly and consult with a lawyer or legal clinic if they have any questions or concerns.

The Ontario Standard Lease

In 2018, Ontario introduced a standard residential lease in order to discourage landlords from including illegal and unenforceable clauses to their leases. Unfortunately, we still see shady landlords inventing their own rules and lease clauses (we see this a lot with landlords who rent to new immigrants or senior citizens who may not understand the current laws). 

Note that typical leases in Ontario are for 12 months.

Section 15 of the Standard Lease

Section 15 of the Standard Lease is where landlords and tenants can agree to additional terms that are specific to the tenancy. Ontarios’ Guide to the Standard Lease outlines what can and cannot be included:

“Any additional term which attempts to take away a right or responsibility under the act is void (not valid or legally binding) and cannot be enforced. Some examples of void and unenforceable terms include those that:

  • Do not allow pets (however, the landlord can require the tenant to comply with condominium rules, which may prohibit certain pets)
  • Do not allow guests, roommates, any additional occupants
  • Require the tenant to pay deposits, fees or penalties that are not permitted under the act (for example, damage or pet deposits, interest on rent arrears)
  • Require the tenant to pay for all or part of the repairs that are the responsibility of the landlord

Additional terms should be written in plain language and clearly set out what the landlord or tenant must or must not do to comply with the term. If typed, the additional terms should be in a font size that is at least 10 points.

Additional terms may set out rules that are very specific to the rental unit or property, such as rules about the use of common spaces or amenities. The landlord and tenant may want to get legal advice before agreeing to any terms or conditions.”

If You’ve Signed a Non-Standard Lease

While a non-standard lease does not void a tenancy, some of the clauses you agreed to may not be enforceable – and some may be downright illegal. Your landlord also should have provided you with a copy of the Brochure: Information for New Tenants, outlining your rights. 

You can request a copy of the standard lease from your landlord at any time during your tenancy – if the landlord does not provide one to you within 21 days, you can end the tenancy by completing the N9 form and providing 60 days’ notice. Talk to the LTB about the process. Please note that we don’t provide individual guidance or advice to non-BREL clients, sorry!

Unenforceable/Illegal Clauses

Some unenforceable or illegal clauses we regularly see in Toronto:

  • Damage deposits
  • Agreements for above-average rent increases
  • Illegal rent deposits
  • Key deposits greater than the cost of the key
  • Requirements to pay cleaning fees or maintenance
  • Requirements for post-dated cheques or automatic withdrawals
  • Requirements to give you ‘general notice’ in accessing your suite
  • Not allowing you to sublet or assign your lease
  • Requirements to renew your lease at the end of the initial 12-month lease ( in Ontario, all tenants are automatically considered ‘month-to-month’ tenants and can stay as long as they wish, or provide 60 days’ notice that they are vacating)
  • Restrictions on legal activities in your apartment
  • Limitations on guests
  • Restrictions on pets (unless the rules are from the Condominium Corporation, which trumps the LTA)

If you see these clauses in your lease, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your landlord is shady – just know that they can’t be enforced, and you can’t suffer any consequences for not abiding by them.  

Click here to access the rights, responsibilities and obligations of tenants and landlords in Ontario.

Lawn Care and Snow Shoveling

In Ontario, landlords are responsible for maintaining the property, including lawn care and snow shovelling. While many landlords try to offload this responsibility to the tenant, the law is very clear – this is the landlord’s job. If you sign a lease agreeing to be responsible for cutting the lawn or shovelling, it’s important to know that this clause is NOT enforceable. Simply tell your landlord that you understand that lawn care and snow removal are the landlord’s responsibility and that you will not be doing it. You cannot be evicted because of it. 

Some landlords get tenants to agree to be responsible for lawn care and snow removal in the lease and then offer to do it for them, at a cost – they actually collect EXTRA money from them! No, nope, nope….they can’t do that. If you’re in this situation, stop paying the bills and don’t do the work.  

If, however, you want to do the yard work, your landlord should be paying you and should put that agreement in writing, in a document that’s separate from the lease. In this case, note that any issues with the yardwork can never affect the lease – you cannot be evicted or suffer any other repercussions. 

Also, note that landlords in Ontario are not allowed to give a ‘rent discount’ for you agreeing to do the yard work – that’s not enforceable either. 

Rent Increases

In Ontario, landlords can only increase the rent once per year and must provide written notice to the tenant at least 90 days before the rent increase takes effect. For rental units first occupied before November 15, 2018, the maximum amount by which a landlord can increase the rent is set by the government and is typically adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. In 2023, the maximum allowable rent increase is 2.5%. 

IMPORTANT! For rental units first occupied on or after November 15, 2018, there are no limits as to how much the landlord can increase the rent each year, meaning that they could increase it by hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. Doug Ford’s government passed this law to encourage developers to build more rental units – but it can result in devastating consequences for the tenant. If you are renting a newer home or an apartment first occupied as a rental after November 15, 2018, it’s important that you understand this risk. If a tenant feels that their landlord has increased the rent unfairly or has not followed the proper procedures, they can seek assistance from the Landlord and Tenant Board.


If you haven’t rented a home in a long time, you may not realize that the laws in Ontario are very tenant-friendly, and it’s very difficult to be evicted. While some landlords bully their tenants and use fear and intimidation, the law is on your side. In Ontario, tenants can be evicted for their behaviour for the following reasons:

  • not paying the rent in full
  • persistently paying the rent late
  • causing damage to the rental property
  • illegal activity
  • affecting the safety of others
  • disturbing the enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord
  • allowing too many people to live in the rental unit (“overcrowding”)
  • not reporting income in subsidized housing

There are other valid reasons for eviction that are not related to what the tenant has done or not done. For example:

  • The landlord wants the rental unit for their own use or for the use of an immediate family member or a caregiver
  • The landlord has agreed to sell the property, and the purchaser wants all or part of the property for their own use or for the use of an immediate family member or a caregiver
  • The landlord plans major repairs or renovations that require a building permit and vacant possession
  • The landlord plans to demolish the rental property
  • In a care home that is occupied for the sole reason of receiving therapy or rehabilitation, the tenant’s rehabilitation or therapy program has ended
  • A tenant of a care home needs more care than the care home can provide or no longer needs the level of care provided by the landlord

Note that the eviction process is lengthy and can take months to complete. 

Sale of the Property

Many new tenants worry about what will happen to them if the landlord decides to sell the property they are living in. 

Sale of the Property During the Term of a Lease

If the landlord decides to sell the property during the term of your lease, there is no immediate impact on you – your lease and obligations simply transfer to the new owner.

Sale of the Property For Month-to-Month Tenants

In Ontario, at the end of your lease, you automatically become a month-to-month tenant, meaning that you can continue living there under the same terms and conditions, or you can provide a 60-day notice of termination. 

If your landlord decides to sell the property and you’re a month-to-month tenant, they cannot automatically terminate your tenancy. Despite what many landlords try to do, there is no such thing in Ontario as giving notice because of an intent to sell. They can, however, provide 60 days’ notice on behalf of the new buyer – if, and only if – the new buyer or their immediate family member will be moving into the home. Note that in order to terminate the tenancy, they must also pay you one month’s rent. 

If your landlord sells to an investor who will be renting it out, the terms and conditions and your current tenancy transfer to them. 

Decorating and Renovations

The RTA allows tenants to make minor alterations or changes to the unit, such as hanging pictures or painting, as long as it doesn’t damage the property. However, any major alterations or renovations require the landlord’s permission. Note that if you’re moving to a condo, there may be restrictions on window coverings and balcony decor as well. 

Maintenance and Repairs

The landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a good state of repair, and the tenant is responsible for keeping the unit clean and repairing any damage that’s not due to regular wear and tear. 

Pre and Post-Move Inspections

It’s normal for a landlord to conduct an inspection with you when you move in so that the state of the apartment is agreed to together, and any issues are identified. 

Before you move out, most landlords will conduct another inspection to ensure that no significant damage happened while you live there. Tenants are responsible for any damage that they (or their guests) do to the property that is not regular wear and tear. 

Building a Positive Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Your landlord will be in your life for as long as you rent from them, so it’s important to build a positive relationship and communicate openly and honestly with them. You should feel comfortable speaking to your landlord about any issues and concerns and should make sure to respond to any of their requests in a timely manner. If you’re dealing with a difficult landlord, consider putting your requests and concerns in writing via email or text so there is a record of the conversation. Mutual trust and respect will go a long way to ensuring a comfortable tenancy. 

Understanding Your Landlord’s Role

One of the biggest challenges new tenants face is understanding their landlord’s role. As a soon-to-be former homeowner, you’re probably used to doing everything yourself. Here’s a quick recap of a landlord’s responsibilities and obligations in Ontario: 

  • Providing and maintaining the rental property in a good state of repair 
  • Complying with health, safety, and housing standards
  • Providing tenants with a written copy of the lease agreement 
  • Notifying tenants of any changes in the tenancy agreement, such as rent increases, with proper notice
  • Providing tenants with reasonable notice before entering the rental unit for repairs, inspections, or other reasons
  • Not interfering with a tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of the rental property
  • Respecting a tenant’s privacy rights
  • Refraining from harassing or threatening a tenant or engaging in any other illegal activity that interferes with a tenant’s right to peaceful enjoyment of the rental property
  • Complying with the rules and regulations set out in the RTA and other relevant laws and regulations

Adjusting to the Change

Renting (vs owning) offers a new, simpler lifestyle, so embrace it! Explore your new neighbourhood, meet new people, use the facilities and try out new experiences. Make sure you understand the RTA, build a positive relationship with your landlord and new neighbours and remember to be flexible and give yourself time to adjust.

Resources for Tenants:

Residential Tenancies Act – The full Act that guides residential tenancy in Ontario. 

Landlord and Tenant Board – The Landlord and Tenant Board provides information and resources on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Ontario.

Ontario Tenants Rights – Ontario Tenants Rights is a website that provides information on the rights of tenants in Ontario, including resources on leases, security deposits, and evictions.

RentSeeker – RentSeeker is a Canadian-based website that provides a directory of rental properties in Ontario and across Canada, as well as resources and information on renting.

Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing – The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing provides information and resources on housing, including rental housing, in Ontario.

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