The new season brings many challenges for tenants, including those brought on by the COVID 19 Pandemic. As a tenant in the City of Toronto, you have legal rights. It is important that you know them and exercise them.
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Renting and Lease basics
Leases and tenancy agreements are contracts between a property owner and a tenant. They usually indicate:
- the length of a tenancy (e.g., 12 months)
- the amount of rent
- services that will be included in the rent (e.g., parking, cable, heat, electricity, air conditioning)
Landlords use the standard form for a lease agreement
The lease must contain the legal name and address of the landlord.
Both parties are to have a copy of a signed agreement within 21 days of the start of the tenancy.
You should read your lease carefully before signing it. If you need help, you can call the Tenant Hotline at 416-921-9494.
You do not have to renew the lease when it expires, you automatically become a month-to-month tenant. All the terms of your original lease continue even if you do not sign a new lease.
If you want to move out, you must give the property owner 60 days (two full months) written notice before the end of your tenancy if on a fixed term lease. 28 days if on a weekly or daily tenancy. You may owe your landlord more rent if you do not give notice in proper time.
Upon signing a lease, the landlord may collect a deposit, which should not exceed one rental period. This deposit is also used as the tenants final rent payment for the last rent period (month or week).
A landlord is not permitted to charge a damage deposit or any other additional fees.
The landlord is allowed to raise the rent by a guideline amount once per year. This can happen 12 months after:
- a tenant first moves in, or
- the last rent increase
The annual rent increase guideline amount is set by the Ontario government every year (e.g., between January 1 and December 31, 2020, rent increases up to 2.2 per cent may be applied).
The landlord must provide the tenant with written notice of a rent increase at least 90 days before it takes effect.
This guideline does not apply to new buildings, additions to existing buildings and most new basement apartments that are occupied for the first time for residential purposes after November 15, 2018.
If the landlord wants to increase your rent above the guideline amount, they must first apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board and notify you 90 days before the increase. A landlord may apply for an AGI if:
- there has been an extraordinary increase in municipal taxes or costs associated with the residential complex,
- the landlord has eligible capital expenses related to significant renovations or repairs, or
- the landlord has additional operating costs related to security of the residential complex.
If you have any questions or concerns after receiving a notice for an Above Guideline Increase, please call the Tenant Hotline at 416-921-9494 (the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations also works with tenants facing Above Guideline Increases).
Unless it is an emergency, a landlord must provide 24 hours written notice to enter a unit and can only enter an occupied rental unit:
- if something needs to be fixed
- to do a maintenance inspection
- if you have given notice to move out, and the property owner is showing your apartment to new tenants
The notice has to explain the reason for the entry and state a time between 8 am and 8 pm. A tenant does not have to be home for the landlord to enter. All unreasonable entries can be considered harassment.
If the landlord and tenant have agreed to end the lease, the landlord many show the unit to prospective tenants between 8 am and 8 pm having taken reasonable effort to notify the current tenant.
The landlord is responsible for cleaning and maintaining common areas as well as removing the snow from driveways and walkways. The building must be kept in a good state of repair complying with all health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.
Landlords also must provide heat between September 15th and May 31st to make sure that the temperature in the unit is at least 21 Celsius according to City of Toronto by-laws.
The air conditioning has to be turned on between June 1st and September 14th to maintain the indoor temperature not higher than 26 Celsius.
If you are experiencing temperature issues in your apartment, learn more about rental housing standards and enforcement.
The landlord also must provide access to hot and cold water, electricity and gas and cannot shut off these services even if the tenant has not paid rent. These vital services maybe only temporarily shut off during repair. Landlords must notify tenants of such interruptions.
Tenants are responsible for fixing any damage they or their guests cause. If you are facing maintenance issues that your landlord has not dealt with, do not withhold rent. If you withhold your rent to get repairs done, the property owner may apply to evict you.
If the property owner has filed an eviction application against you, you may bring up any repair and maintenance issues at the hearing.
If you need to ask your landlord for repairs, you should put it in writing noting the date and time the note was given. If possible, get the landlord or superintendent to sign your copy as proof. Retain your copy.
Tenants of TCHC can call 41-981-5500 to request repairs. An Easy Trac number will be given and should be written down for reference.
Landlords have the right to refuse tenants if they suspect they may move in with pets. However, once a tenant is accepted, they can not be legally evicted for having a pet unless there is a valid reason, such as:
- damage to the property
- dangerous or an illegal breed (e.g. pit bull)
- breaking of the municipal law (e.g. too many pets)
- the tenant does not clean up after the pet.
A landlord must adhere to the Human Rights Code and cannot select or refuse tenants based on:
- place of origin
- ethnic origin
- sexual orientation,
- marital status
- family status (e.g. children)
For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you are a newcomer to Canada or because you have children.
If you are experiencing discrimination, find legal help.
There is a legal process under the Residential Tenancies Act which a landlord must follow to evict a tenant. There are many points in this process at which a tenant can try to fix the situation and/or pay arrears and have the eviction stopped.
A landlord cannot change the locks or cut off vital services to evict a tenant. This can only be done by the Court Enforcement Office (the Sheriff) on the basis of an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
You do not have to move out upon receiving a notice of eviction (any LTB form that begins with an “N” or an informal letter notifying you of eviction). This is just a notice. If you do not want to move out, your landlord must then file an application to evict with the LTB. It will be determined at your LTB hearing whether or not the eviction will proceed.
Visit Understand & Fight Evictions to learn more about the eviction process and your options.
If your landlord changes your locks, cuts off any vital services or is harassing you by telling you to leave your apartment, contact the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (Toll Free: 1-888-772-9277 or 416-585-7214) to address this issue. Find Legal Help right away. You may be eligible for free legal services. If not, you can learn about your options.
You may also file a T2 form: Application about Tenant Rights with the LTB.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some commonly asked questions with guidance and appropriate contacts for each situation.
Maintaining the temperature in your unit
If your unit has an existing air conditioning (A/C) system installed by the landlord/property manager, it must be operated from June 2 to September 14 to maintain an indoor temperature of no more than 26C. If the A/C unit is not functional, your landlord is required to fix or replace it. Unfortunately, a landlord is not required to install A/C in a unit that does not have one already.
Speak to your landlord/property manager if you have questions or concerns about A/C in your rental unit. For immediate assistance with heating in your unit, contact 311 or the Ontario Rental Housing Enforcement Unit at (416) 585 - 7214.
What to do if you're behind on rent?
My team and I have heard from many residents who have had difficulties paying their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should speak to your landlord or property manager as soon as you realize you will be unable to pay your rent. You may be able to arrange a rent deferral or other repayment plan.
The City of Toronto Rent Bank (416-397-7368) provides interest-free loans to tenants who are unable to pay their rent. The Housing Stabilization Fund is also available to people who are currently receiving social assistance.
Make sure your unit fire-safe
Your landlord/property manager is responsible for ensuring that your unit is fire safe. They must provide at least one smoke alarm per apartment or sleeping area (for rooming houses or homes renovated into apartments). Your landlord is also required to inspect and maintain smoke alarms, including changing batteries annually. They should also ensure that doors, hallways, and exits are free from obstructions and hazardous conditions.
Maintain communication with your landlord/property manager, especially if you are planning to leave your unit for extended periods of time. Both tenants and landlords can request inspections of the unit to ensure appropriate fire safety measures are in place by calling 3-1-1. There are no set criteria, but potential violations will likely be inspected by the Fire Prevention Office.
Eviction Hearings at the Landlord & Tenant Board
Eviction hearings are ongoing at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Tenants can be legally evicted for a variety of reasons, including:
• You haven't paid your rent;
• You have interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants;
• You have committed an illegal act; and
• You have persistently paid rent late.
If you receive an eviction notice, you are not yet being evicted. Rather, your landlord is likely applying to the LTB which may schedule an eviction hearing. It is very important that you attend this hearing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the LTB is holding most hearings remotely, either by telephone or video-conference. We also recommend that you obtain legal representation, which you can obtain for free from your local legal aid clinic. In Don Valley North, many residents receive support from Willowdale Community Legal Services.
Establish a line of communication with your neighbours
One of the best ways to address any issues in your building is by establishing a line of communication with your neighbours! Having your neighbour's phone number or email can be extremely helpful if
you need immediate assistance with property maintenance, groceries, or even a nice conversation. It can also prompt your landlord to act more quickly if they hear from multiple tenants about the same issue.
You can form a tenant association with tenants in your building or those who live in your neighbourhood. Tenant associations can help residents work together to educate one another on community issues, organize group responses, and advocate for better living conditions. The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations' (FMTA) Tenant Organizers can assist you with forming a tenant association.
Key Contacts for Tenants' IssuesSome important contacts for you to reach out to for various tenants' concerns. As always, feel free to reach out to our office with any municipal related questions or concerns!
Councillor James Pasternak
Always here to help with any municipal matters!
If you need any assistance, please reach out to our office. We speak Italian, Russian, Tagalog, and Spanish.
(416) 392 1371
Federation of Metro Tenants' Association
The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations (FMTA) is a non-profit organization which advocates for better rights for tenants.
They help Inform and Educate Tenants, Organize Tenants, and Campaign for Tenants' Rights!
(416) 921 9494
Downsview Community Legal Services
Downsview Community Legal Services is a Community Legal clinic providing free legal assistance to low income people living in our area.
(416) 635 8388
Legal Aid Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario is a publicly funded and publicly accountable non-profit corporation, responsible for providing legal assistance for low-income people.
1 800 668 8258
RentSafeTO works to ensure that owners and operators of apartment buildings meet building maintenance standards through initiatives like evaluations.
(416) 396 7228
Toronto Rent Bank
The Toronto Rent Bank, a partnership between the City of Toronto and Neighbourhood Information Post, provides grants to eligible Toronto residents who are behind on their rent or need help with a rental deposit.
(416) 397 7368
Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB)
The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) resolves:
- disputes between residential landlords and tenants
- eviction applications filed by non-profit housing co-operatives
The LTB also provides information about its practices and procedures and the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act.
(416) 645 8080
Tenant Defense Fund Outreach and Organizing Team
The City of Toronto created a Tenant Defence Fund to help tenants preserve affordable rental housing. The Fund helps tenant groups through an Outreach and Organizing Team hired to provide a range of services.
(416) 413 9442
The City is actively working to create more affordable housing. This work is guided by the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan which will help create a range of housing opportunities. To help achieve this, the City aims to approve 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 deeply affordable homes with supports, as well as 4,000 affordable ownership homes by 2030.