We’ve all known, or heard of, someone who has had a nightmare rental experience. In fact many of us have nightmare rental stories of our very own. But what are our legal rights when push comes to shove? What do we do in the case of a landlord-tenant dispute?

If you are looking to rent, it is important to be educated on your rights as a tenant and understand what is – and what isn’t – legally acceptable for your landlord to do.

First Things First

As with everything else, before you move in, it’s advisable to have a written contract that spells out the terms and conditions of your rent. Make sure to read the contract carefully before signing to understand your rights and responsibilities and any restrictions.

Here are some things that should be included in the agreement:

  • When is rent due?
  • Length of the agreement.
  • Who is responsible for paying for the utilities?
  • Can you have a pet/smoke in the unit?
  • When can you terminate the agreement? How much notice must be given?
  • Conditions under which you can be evicted.
  • etc

If you need help understanding the terms of your rental agreement, you can consult with a real estate lawyer. We can help you find the best lawyer for your needs here.

Money Talk

For many of us, rent is our number one expense. Indeed, a recent report by TD Economics indicated that renters in Toronto are spending close to 50% of their pay on housing costs. This is significantly higher than the golden rule of spending 30% of your income, but unavoidable when you consider average rental prices. The average two-bedroom rental unit in Toronto was $1251 with a bachelor pad going for $896.

Upon moving into a new apartment, the landlord is able to charge whatever prices they want. After that, annual rent increases are capped (this is governed at the provincial level). In Ontario, landlords must provide 90 days notice for a rent increase, and may only increase rents once every 12 months. The maximum allowable rent increase in Ontario in 2016 is 2.0%. Ontario landlords may also apply for above average rent increases.

To learn about guidelines in other provinces, check out the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

It is standard practice for landlords to collect a last month’s rent deposit upon signing a rental agreement, and potentially a key deposit (the amount is not to exceed the cost of replacing the key). A “damage”, “incidental” or any other type of deposit is not legally allowed in Ontario.

Knock Before You Enter

A landlord may need to enter your unit at some point in time, however prior notice must be given. Twenty-four hours is the minimum amount of time that must be given. Your unit can only be accessed between the hours of 8am-8pm by the landlord.

A landlord may only enter for the following reasons:

  • To make a repair
  • Perform a maintenance inspection
  • Show the unit to future tenants if you have given your formal notice of terminating your lease agreement

No Arctic Temperatures Please

Canadian winters can chill you to the bone, but you shouldn’t need to wear your gloves inside. When you sign a rental agreement, your landlord has a legal duty to provide tenants with heat from September 1 until June 15 and at a minimum temperature of 20°C.

A landlord must also provide “vital services”  to its units. These vital services include heat, hot and cold water, electricity, and fuel. The only time that these essentials can be temporarily disabled is if maintenance and repair work is being done to them. Even if you have been delinquent in your rental payments (hopefully that will never happen), a landlord does not have the right to turn off anything.

Names and Numbers to Keep on File

While we can’t cover everything in this blog post, we hope that we have given you a good general overview of some of key issues you might face. Here are some numbers and resources to keep handy and on file:

Looking for more information on rental rights in Canada? We can help! Use Kabuk to find real estate lawyers and book an appointment with the best real estate lawyer for your needs. It’s free to use!

Kabuk connects consumers, and small businesses, with the legal providers they need, when they need them, and enables them to request desired appointments online. Our platform is designed to streamline the legal discovery process, putting needed information right at the fingertips of consumers, and helping them to make more informed decisions. For legal providers, we help increase your online presence and improve your customer acquisition efforts. Check us out at kabuklaw.com and follow us at @KabukLaw.