Maintaining a tenancy – Ontario housing law basics

March 15, 2022

What laws in Ontario govern my tenancy?

  • All housing laws in Ontario

    As a tenant in Ontario, it is important to know which laws apply to the type of housing you live in. Some of the laws that may impact your tenancy are:

    • Municipal property standard by-laws – these vary depending on where you live in Ontario
    • Municipal building, fire and electrical codes – these consist of rules that ensure landlords maintain safe housing

    The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is a law that defines what landlords and tenants are, and sets rules around their rights and responsibilities, tenancy agreements, repairs and maintenance, eviction and tenancy termination, rent and utility costs, care homes, mobile home parks and land lease communities. It also outlines the administration and enforcement of the law and offences under the RTA.

    The RTA also defines the role and function of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) as the exclusive body responsible to determine how the RTA must be applied. If tenants have concerns about their landlord or their tenancy, they can file an application with the LTB. When landlords want to evict tenants, they must also file an application with the LTB.

    The Housing Services Act (HSA) provides rules related to subsidies for people who live in subsidized housing. Tenants who live in most subsidized housing are protected under the RTA and the HSA, as well as any additional rules set by their service provider, which is typically their municipal government.

    The Co-operative Corporations Act provides rules and regulations for people who live in co-operative housing. Other rules are found in each housing co-operative’s own by-laws. Members of housing co-operatives are not considered tenants under the RTA, but they still have some rights and responsibilities under it.

    The Retirement Homes Act provides rules and regulations for people who live in retirement homes. These individuals are protected under the RTA.

    The Ontario Human Rights Code protects individuals from discrimination when dealing with a private organization. The Code does not protect every type of unfair treatment. Instead, it identifies different grounds upon which individuals should not face discrimination. If a person is treated badly or unfairly but their treatment is not connected with one or more of the protected grounds, then it is not considered discrimination under the Human Rights Code even though the person may be significantly impacted.

    The sixteen grounds that are protected when accessing housing are:

    • Disability
    • Race
    • Colour
    • Ancestry
    • Place of origin
    • Citizenship
    • Ethnic origin
    • Creed (religion)
    • Receipt of public assistance
    • Gender Identity
    • Gender Expression
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Marital status
    • Family status
    • Age

    Municipal by-laws determine whether basement apartments are legal in a community, and they also establish residential property standards. For example, municipal by-laws can set rules for minimum temperatures in a home, as well as how many people can live in an apartment.

    The Ontario Fire CodeBuilding Code and Electrical Safety Code each set standards related to the construction and safety of different types of buildings.

  • Laws for Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing

    The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) applies to most social housing in Ontario, including Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing. However, some parts of the RTA do not apply to tenants who live in social housing, such as the rules about rent increases and the rules about subletting or assigning a lease.

    The Housing Services Act (HSA) is the law that governs social housing and RGI housing. The HSA also covers provincially-mandated community-based planning and the delivery of housing and homelessness services. Service managers (who are often municipal governments) and housing providers have the authority to make certain decisions under the HSA.

    The HSA also outlines certain rights related to processes for determining eligibility for RGI housing such as:

    • Notice of an adverse decision.
    • The right to request a review of a decision.
    • Reasons that a person could be denied a subsidy or have their subsidy amount lowered.

    Finally, each service manager has written policies and procedures that govern things like determining household income, rules for filling vacancies and for record keeping. In Toronto, these policies can be found in the RGI Administration Manual.

What are the rules related to my tenancy?

  • Rent and rent increases

    Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) sets the following rules related to rent and rent increases.

    Rent amounts

    When you enter into a rental agreement, there are no rules about how much your landlord can charge for rent. A landlord can charge a new tenant any amount they wish, even if the previous tenant paid much less. In other words, once a unit is vacated by a tenant, there are no rules in place to control how much rent a landlord can charge the next tenant who will occupy that same unit. This is known as “vacancy decontrol”.

    Rent payments

    Tenants are required to pay their rent in full and on time every month. If you consistently pay rent late, your landlord could apply to evict you.

    Tenants are also required to pay rent each time it is due.

    Tenants are not allowed to use their last month’s rent deposit to cover any other month except the last month they plan to stay in the unit. Read our FAQ on Starting a Tenancy for more information about rent deposits.

    Rent increases

    In most cases, a landlord can only raise the rent for an existing tenant once per year. A landlord must provide tenants with a written notice of a rent increase at least 90 days before the increase will take effect.

    Rent increases for most units in Ontario are governed by the province’s rent increase guideline, which says that rents can only increase by a certain percentage for a given year. That percentage is calculated each year using the Ontario Consumer Price Index. Every year, the provincial government will announce the new rent increase percentage for that year.

    It is important to know that the province’s rent increase guideline does not apply to the following types of renters and rental units:

    Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) units, where rent is calculated based on income and household size.

    Rental units that have only been occupied for the first time for residential purposes from November 15, 2018 or later.

    Renters who are exempt from the RTA, such as those who share a kitchen or bathroom with their landlord.

    These rules can be confusing and we recommend seeking legal advice if you are not sure if your rental unit is covered by the province’s annual rent increase guideline.

  • Guests

    As a tenant, you have the right to decide who comes into your home and your landlord cannot control who visits you. Your landlord cannot raise your rent or charge an extra fee because you have guests. When you have guests in your home, you are responsible if their actions cause any negative impacts to the landlord’s property. For example, if your guest causes property damage, as the person who invited them to the property, you could be responsible for that damage.

    The issue of guests becomes more complicated in Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI) housing because rent is based on the income of tenants who live in the unit. In RGI housing, all tenants must be provided with a copy of the housing provider’s guest policy. A guest policy that does not allow any guests is not legal.

  • Pest control and management

    Pest control is a normal part of maintenance that all landlords must carry out in the interior and exterior of all properties.

    In Toronto, large apartment buildings with three or more storeys and ten or more units have higher standards for pest control. In those buildings, once a landlord becomes aware of pests, they must:

    • Eliminate pests and prevent their spread into other areas of the property.
    • Inspect the common areas of the property at least once every 30 days.
    • Inspect any area where the presence of pests has been reported, within 72 hours of receiving that information.
    • Keep pest management records and post them on tenant notification boards.
    • Not rent any unit with pests to new tenants.

    Landlords of large apartment buildings in Toronto must post pest management plans including documentation of pest control services, a schedule, service standards, and product information related to pest control activity.

    As a tenant you must allow your landlord or a pest control company to do their job so that pest control treatment can be done. This might include preparing your unit for treatment by moving furniture away from the wall or allowing a pest control company to enter your unit. If you need help to prepare your unit, you should tell your landlord. If you need help because of a disability, your landlord must accommodate you.

  • Heat and air conditioning

    Requirements around the exact temperature and dates that units should be heated vary across Ontario and also depend on the type of housing. The standard temperature is around 20 degrees. In Toronto, rental units must be kept at a minimum of 21 degrees from September 15 – June 1. This rule does not apply to common areas.

    If air conditioning is provided by your landlord and the air conditioning unit breaks, your landlord must repair it at their own cost because the air conditioner is considered to be part of your rental unit.

    The rules around air conditioners are more complicated if the air conditioner is not provided by your landlord. The first step is to look at your lease. If your lease does not mention an air conditioner, you are allowed to have one. Your landlord could require that the air conditioner be safely installed, for instance by a professional. If your lease says that you, as a tenant, need permission to have air conditioning, you will be required to get permission from your landlord before installing an air conditioner.

    Whether or not your landlord can charge a fee for air conditioning depends on who pays for electricity. If you pay for electricity, your landlord cannot charge a fee for air conditioning. If your landlord provides electricity in the lease, your landlord can charge you a fee for air conditioning. The amount charged cannot be more than the actual cost to your landlord and it must be “reasonable.”

    Sometimes air conditioning is necessary as an accommodation for a tenant’s disability. For instance, if a tenant’s asthma is worsened by heat, an air conditioner could be an appropriate accommodation. In that case, your landlord may have to pay for the cost of the air conditioner, the electricity, or both.

  • Entries to your unit

    There are a few circumstances when your landlord is allowed to enter your unit.

    Your landlord may enter your unit to carry out renovations or maintenance. In these circumstances, your landlord must provide you with written notice that they plan to enter your unit, which must be given at least 24 hours in advance and include:

    • The time and day they plan to enter (which must be between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.).
    • The reason why they are entering.

    Your landlord may also enter your rental unit without notice:

    • In cases of emergency;
    • With your consent; or
    • To show the unit to prospective tenants, if a notice or agreement to end the tenancy has previously been given. In this case, your landlord can only enter your unit between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and they must try to provide you with advance notice.

    A landlord’s agent, superintendent or a person hired by the landlord may also enter on the landlord’s behalf.

  • Addressing issues at the Landlord and Tenant Board

    If you have informed your landlord about an issue with your tenancy – for example your landlord has broken a term of your lease or the Residential Tenancies Act – and your landlord has failed to correct the issue, you can bring an application against your landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

    Tenant applications can be made for things like neglected repairs, illegal rent charges, illegal entries to your unit, and other reasons. Generally, you must bring your application to the LTB within one year that the problem began.

    After filing your application, the LTB will set a date for a hearing with you, your landlord, and an LTB member. At the hearing, you will have to present your claim showing that your landlord has broken the law. It is important that you bring evidence to convince the LTB that your claim is true, such as witnesses, photos or anything else that could help to prove your case. Any documents that you want to present during the hearing must be sent to the LTB and your landlord at least 7 days in advance of the hearing.

    You can read more about tenant applications on the LTB’s website.

    For more information, please get in touch with us:

What is my landlord required to do during my tenancy?

  • Accommodating your needs related to a disability

    Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, landlords are required to accommodate the needs of tenants with disabilities. There are many different kinds of disabilities that can each require different accommodations to be made. Some examples include:

    • Putting a grab bar in a bathtub so that a tenant with a physical disability is able to safely bathe.
    • Repairing and maintaining an accessible building entrance for tenants who use assistive devices, such as a walker or a wheelchair.
    • Installing sound damping material, such as carpeting, for a tenant whose disability causes them to produce loud noises.
    • Avoiding cleaning chemicals that a tenant is allergic to.
    • Providing notices that are easy to read.

    Both landlords and tenants have duties and responsibilities that they must follow during the process of making an accommodation.

    As a tenant requesting accommodation, you must:

    • Inform your landlord about your disability and accommodation needs in writing.
    • Provide information about your restrictions and limitations, including medical documentation if requested (see further details below).
    • Participate in discussions regarding possible accommodation solutions and work with your landlord on an ongoing basis to manage the process.

    Your landlord may request medical documentation, but you are not required to disclose specific medical diagnoses. If requested, medical documentation must provide enough information for your landlord to understand your limitations and need for accommodation. This documentation should be treated with confidentiality by your landlord, as it is personal health information which should not be shared.

    In order to meet their responsibilities, your landlord must:

    • Accept your request for accommodation in good faith.
    • Take an active role in seeking solutions.
    • Keep your information private.
    • Grant your accommodation request in a timely manner.
    • Pay for any medical documentation or information that they request from you.
    • Pay for costs associated with making the accommodation, up to the point of “undue hardship” (see further details below).

    Undue hardship

    Landlords have a duty to accommodate their tenant’s disabilities up to the point of “undue hardship.” This means that a landlord is only discharged of their duty to accommodate if they can show that:

    • The costs of making an accommodation would be so high that it would affect the very survival or change the essential nature of the landlord’s business.
    • No outside sources of funding are available to assist with paying for the accommodation.
    • Significant health and safety risks are likely to arise while making the accommodation, and these risks would outweigh any benefit of making the accommodation itself.

    If a landlord claims that making an accommodation would cause them undue hardship, they would be required to demonstrate to a court or tribunal that this is true, based on any or all of the three circumstances listed above. A court or tribunal can only consider these three circumstances in their decision as to whether or not an accommodation process would cause the landlord undue hardship. It is not the tenant’s responsibility to prove that the accommodation can be made without causing undue hardship. If a court determines that undue hardship would be caused, a landlord would not be required to make the requested accommodation. If undue hardship is not found to be a concern, the landlord would be required to make the accommodation.

    If a landlord refuses to accommodate a tenant’s disability, the tenant has the right to bring an application to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to address the issue.

    For more information about accommodations for a disability, please get in touch us:

  • Repairs and maintenance

    Your landlord is responsible to repair and maintain your rental unit. This includes items that came with the unit, such as appliances, as well as common areas, such as parking lots and hallways.

    The Residential Tenancies Act says that “A landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.”

    This obligation does not change even if you agreed to accept the unit “as is,” or you were aware of a problem when you moved in, or even if the lease says something else about repairs and maintenance. Your landlord is always responsible for repairs.

    In most parts of the province, property standards are in place that landlords must follow. These can vary depending on where you live, but could include rules around garbage, heat, pest management, exits and the number of people who can live in a unit. In locations where no local property standards by-law exists, the provincial Regulation 517/06: Maintenance Standards applies.

If you need help in your housing, we may be able to assist you.

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) provides free, individualized services to renters in Ontario who are facing challenges in their housing.

Learn more about Ontario renters’ rights and landlord responsibilities.

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This page was produced as part of the project entitled “Implementing the Right to Housing in the Supportive Housing Sector” which receives funding from the National Housing Strategy under the NHS Demonstrations Initiative. The views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them.

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