Students and housing – Ontario housing law basics

August 3, 2021

  • What legal protections do I have if I live in on-campus housing administered by my college/university?

    If you live in on-campus housing, the rules in the Residential Tenancies Act most likely do not apply to your living situation because of s. 5(g) of the Act. To know your rights, obligations and recourses, you must look at the agreement you signed with the university and your university’s housing policies. The agreement and policies may include a complaints procedure and process, with a final recourse to the court system if the issue cannot be solved internally.

    While the Residential Tenancies Act may not apply to your on-campus housing situation, the Human Rights Code of Ontario does. If you feel that you are being discriminated against by on-campus housing administrators or if you are not receiving disability accommodations that you require in your college housing, you can file an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal under the Human Rights Code.

    The remainder of this FAQ post discusses leases that are subject to the Residential Tenancies Act.

  • Can I have someone else live in my apartment when I’m away, and, if so, what are my responsibilities?

    Generally, tenants can transfer their rental unit to someone else for a period of time. This is referred to as a sublease. In a sublease, the individual who moves into the rental unit is called a subtenant. The subtenant is responsible to the tenant, who is responsible to the landlord. The subtenant often pays rent directly to the original tenant, who then pays the landlord.

    Section 97 of the Residential Tenancies Act requires that you get consent from your landlord to sublet your unit. Your landlord cannot refuse to allow you to sublet the unit. If your landlord refuses to let you sublease to a specific person without good reason, you can file an A2 Application about a Sublet or an Assignment with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). At the hearing, the LTB may decide to make an order authorizing your sublease agreement, ending your tenancy, or confirming that the landlord’s refusal was reasonable.

    When subletting your unit to someone else, the initial lease agreement between you and the landlord continues to exist. This means that if your subtenant causes damage to the unit or fails to pay rent, you may be held responsible.

    If you want to transfer your rental unit to someone else permanently, that is called assignment and has similar rules to subletting, except you are no longer responsible for the unit after the other tenant takes over the lease.

  • Can my landlord restrict me from having guests over or hosting parties?

    A landlord cannot control who you invite over to your home. In fact, in certain circumstances, if your landlord tries to limit who you can invite over, this may be considered harassment. However, if you live in subsidized housing, landlords may restrict the length of your guests’ visits.

    It is important to note that under s. 34 of the Residential Tenancies Act, you are responsible for your guest’s actions while they are at your apartment building. For example, if they break something, commit a crime, or substantially interfere with other tenants, your landlord may have grounds to evict you.

  • Can my landlord request a guarantor if they are concerned about my income and ability to pay rent as a student?

    Under the Human Rights Code, landlords are allowed to ask for a guarantor, also called a co-signer, when you sign a lease. This is to ensure that, if you do not pay rent, your guarantor will. Landlords most commonly ask for guarantors when the potential tenant has a low credit rating, bad landlord references or a history of missed or late rent payments. However, landlords cannot ask that you provide a guarantor for a discriminatory reason under the Human Rights Code.

  • Can I terminate my lease before it ends?

    In general, tenants must give proper notice. For a fixed-term tenancy or a month-to-month tenancy, you must give at least 60 days’ notice. If you pay rent daily or weekly, and you are not in a fixed-term tenancy, then you must give at least 28 days’ notice.

    There are, however, a few ways you can legally terminate a lease early.

    If you and your landlord come to a mutual agreement about ending the lease early, you can move out by an agreed upon date. It is best to fill out the N11 Agreement to End the Tenancy form available from the Landlord and Tenant Board to set this agreement out in writing to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.

    If you can find another individual to take over your lease agreement, which is referred to as assignment, you can move out before the end of your lease. In this situation, the lease is transferred to someone new. There are rules in place that could release you from your lease if the landlord refuses to let you assign your tenancy.

    Additionally, Ontario has used a standard lease form since 2018. If your landlord did not use the standard lease form for your lease agreement after April 2018, there is a process you can use to terminate your lease early.

    Lastly, if your landlord has not upheld their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, you may be able to end your lease early through an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

    If you or a child are a victim of domestic or sexual violence occurring in your home, you may be able to terminate a lease with 28 days’ notice by providing your landlord with the N15 Tenant’s Notice to End my Tenancy Because of Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse and the Tenant’s Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse. You might also want to consult the following resources for help in this situation: The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres, the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and Legal Aid Ontario. The Ontario government website also has a list of crisis and help lines, emergency shelters and victim services.

  • If my roommate is not upholding their legal responsibilities as a tenant, am I responsible? What can I do?

    If you and your roommate rent the entire apartment and have each signed the lease, you are likely “joint tenants.” In this situation, both of you are jointly responsible towards the landlord. This means that if rent is not paid on time or damage is done to the unit, you can both be evicted or held responsible. If you signed separate leases with the landlord, or have locks on your bedroom doors, or moved in at different times, you may be “tenants in common”, and each responsible for your own behaviour.

    If you signed the lease but your roommate did not sign the lease, they may be considered an “occupant”, which is not defined under the Residential Tenancies Act, and they may not be protected by the Act. Even though your roommate may still be subject to the terms of the lease, only you , as the tenant, are responsible and liable to the landlord. If your roommate does not pay their share of the rent, you would be held responsible.

    Determining if your roommate is a joint tenant, a tenant in common or an occupant is not always easy. You can use this interactive tool to better understand what kind of relationship you have with your roommate. The Landlord and Tenant Board has the final say on what the true nature of the relationship is.

    The Residential Tenancies Act does not mention roommate relationships. Therefore, if you have a dispute with your roommate, you will need to sort things out through conversation, negotiation, mediation or court. It may, therefore, be a good idea to create an agreement between roommates to create clear expectations for everyone in the apartment.

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.

Get the latest updates about the right to housing in Canada