Ontario Landlord Responsibilities and Obligations

August 10, 2018

A drawing that says for rent with a house and a tree
For rent house colorful chalk drawing and hand writing text on blackboard or chalkboard as real estate landlord housing concept

How to choose tenants without violating their human rights

In Ontario, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against rental applicants or tenants on sixteen grounds known as “prohibited grounds “. Some rental ads can be explicitly discriminatory while others discriminate “by accident”. Ontario Human Rights Commission states that “preferential” language choices by landlords are just as problematic as blatantly discriminatory word choices:   

“Some landlords, when listing “selling points” to attract tenants, make statements that may discriminate, even if they don’t mean to. This often happens when you are trying to appeal to people you think may like the rental unit… These statements suggest that the landlord prefers some people over others. …These ads discourage good tenants from applying, because they think they won’t be treated fairly.”  

 Examples of explicit discriminatory language and preferential language:   

  • Available for ONE person
  • Employment letter with salary required
  • Employment and government ID is required
  • Perfect for a single mature adult
  • The perfect place for working professionals
  • Ideal place for young professional or a couple
  • Suitable for quiet professional couple without kids

The Ontario Human Rights Commission advises landlords to keep a few things in mind when write a rental ad.

  • Instead of describing the ideal tenant, list the rent, size and other information about the unit itself, the building, and nearby services that may appeal to tenants. 
  • You can request landlord references, rental credit or credit history, but keep in mind that a lack of rental credit or credit history doesn’t mean that a person cannot pay their rent.   
  • You can ask for income information, but only to confirm that the person has enough money to pay the rent.   
  • A lot of info requested on applications is not necessary and could be used to demonstrate discrimination, such as SIN number, Employer information and identification documents.

Ontario landlord responsibilities

Landlords are required to:   

  • Provide repairs in a timely manner   
  • Only request legal deposits  
  • Provide interest on rent deposit at end of tenancy 
  • Provide at least 24 hours’ written notice if they need to enter the unit 
  • Only raise the rent once per year by the amount determined by the municipality   
  • Respect the rights of all tenants and treat them with courtesy   
  • Provide a receipt for rent if requested     

Landlord responsibilities to tenants with disabilities

Landlords’ duties in case of request for accommodation:  

  • Accept the request for accommodation in good faith, unless there is a legitimate reason to do otherwise   
  • Take an active role searching for accommodation solutions  
  • Maintain confidentiality   
  • Grant accommodation requests in a timely manner   
  • Pay for any required medical documentation or information   
  • Bear the cost of accommodation up to the point of undue hardship

What does undue hardship mean?

A women pushing another women in a wheelchair

Landlords are required to take accommodation requests from tenants with disabilities seriously and respond to them in a timely manner. Landlords are only able to deny an accommodation request if they can prove that meeting the request constitutes “undue hardship.”   

A landlord can only claim undue hardship if accommodating a tenant would seriously threaten the financial viability of their business or endanger the health or safety of other tenants.   

Both the landlord and the tenant should look into whether any outside sources of funding, such as government grants, are available to help pay for the cost of accommodation.   

It is the responsibility of the landlord to prove undue hardship. They should consider:  

  • The threshold for undue hardship is high  
  • Evidence of undue hardship must be objective and real (e.g. financial statements and budgets)  
  • Landlords may have to hire qualified experts and consultations. Speculation is not persuasive evidence of undue hardship 
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