Whether you’re a first-time renter or you’ve been renting an apartment for years, it’s up to you to be aware of your tenant rights. Everyone is entitled to a safe environment in which to live with access to vital services (these include heat, hot and cold water, electricity and natural gas). There are also expectations of you, as a tenant, that you must abide by no matter where you live.
It’s important to remember that specific rights vary between provinces, so if you are moving across the country it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the tenant rights in your new home province. Unfortunately, sometimes issues do arise between tenants and landlords simply because one (or both) parties either did not understand the law or were not aware of it. Prevent these circumstances from becoming part of your life by learning about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
There are certain tenant rights that apply to everyone in every province when it comes to renting an apartment. Including access to vital services and a safe living environment, a landlord also cannot discriminate against you based on your race, religion, sex, disability, marital status or sexual orientation. They also cannot refuse to rent you an apartment because you have children or because you are a newcomer to Canada.
The issue of rent is where the province that you reside in will come into play. In Ontario, it’s legal for a landlord to request first and last month’s rent upon the signing of the lease agreement. In British Columbia, a landlord may instead ask you to pay a damage or security deposit (generally the equivalent of half a month’s rent). When your rental agreement ends and both you and your landlord have agreed that no damage was done to your suite, they must return the full deposit plus interest.
As you can see, the laws regarding your money vary widely from province to province and come with a number of stipulations. Visit the website of your provincial Residential Tenancy Board to read up on your complete tenant rights when it comes to rent payments and deposits.
Another thorny issue for tenants is not knowing when it is acceptable for their landlord or property manager to access their apartment. The short answer is that your landlord cannot enter your apartment for any reason without providing you with 24 hours written notice, explaining when and why they will be entering your suite. The long answer is that your landlord can enter your suite without the required notice, provided that there is an emergency situation or that you agree to let them in. It’s also important to note that you cannot refuse your landlord access to your apartment if they have met all of the above criteria for gaining entrance. On the other side of the coin, if your landlord has indeed entered your apartment illegally, you have the right to file an application with your provincial Residential Tenancy Board who will decide the appropriate course of action.
If you’ve decided you’d like to end your tenancy, your responsibilities again vary depending on where you live. For Ontario residents, you are required to provide your landlord with 60 days written notice. Failure to provide the full 60 days notice may result in you having to pay for an extra month of rent. If you would like to “break” your lease, it is legal for you to do so provided that both you and your landlord agree to it. In cases such as these, you will want to protect yourself by getting this agreement in writing. If your landlord doesn’t agree to you breaking your lease, you have the right to assign your unit to a new party.
If you’ve chosen the assigning route, keep in mind that it is different than subletting your apartment. The Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario explains the difference on their website:
What is the difference between assigning and subletting a unit?
Assigning a unit means that the tenant moves out of the unit permanently and transfers their tenancy to another person. All the terms of the original rental agreement stay the same – the amount of the rent and what services are included, etc.
Subletting a unit means that the tenant moves out of their unit for a specific period of time but the tenant plans to move back into the unit before the end of the tenancy. The person who moves in is known as a subtenant. They are responsible to pay the rent to the original tenant who then pays it to the landlord. A landlord cannot refuse the idea of subletting the unit, but they can refuse to allow the tenant to sublet to a specific person if they have a good reason.
How can a tenant sublet their unit?
If a tenant has to leave their unit for an extended period of time but they want to return to it, they can ask their landlord for consent to sublet the unit. For example, if a tenant’s job is being transferred to another city for six months and then they want to return to their unit, they might ask their landlord if they can sublet the unit. They must tell the landlord when they are leaving and when they will be returning to the unit, and they must get the landlord’s consent before subletting.
A landlord cannot refuse the idea of subletting a unit, but they can refuse a specific person if they believe the person is unsuitable. However, if the tenant thinks that the landlord is being unreasonable in withholding their consent to sublet to someone, the tenant can file an application with the Board.
What happens if a tenant assigns or sublets their unit without the landlord’s consent?
If a tenant assigns or sublets their unit without their landlord’s consent, it is an unauthorized assignment or sublet. A landlord can file an application with the Board to evict both the tenant and the unauthorized occupant. However, if the landlord does not file the application within 60 days of discovering the unauthorized occupant, the unauthorized occupant will become a tenant.
Laws are in place for enforcement of both renter and landlord rights, however most times landlord and tenants can work things out smoothly by just understanding each others position and working in unison to figure it out 🙂
The RentSeeker Team