Tenant rights and responsibilities - the rental agreement

If you are looking for a property to rent, whether it is a house or an apartment, you will need to be prepared to sign a rental agreement or "lease" as it is also called. A lease is only one form of a rental agreement and you will learn more about these types of agreements in this section.

Governing of Rental Agreements

Landlords govern rental agreements with tenants and as well as tenant law according to the particular province or territory where the rental property is located. Although many tenant laws are the same from area to area, there are still quite a few differences depending on the area.

You will find that the following section will provide you with some basic information on rental agreements in Canada. Refer to the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for specific information related to the topics that are covered in the list below. The specifics of these topics will vary from place to place across Canada, so it is important to keep that in mind.

The following rental conditions are typically unique to the respective province or territory:

  • Collecting and returning deposits
  • Changing locks
  • Allowing landlord access to the property/unit
  • Renewing and ending leases
  • Rent increases
  • Giving Notice
  • Refusing to pay rent until repairs are done
  • Resolving tenant/landlord disputes
  • Rules about pets and smoking
TIP: Written notice of rights

In order to ensure that the tenant fully understands his or her rights, landlords are sometimes required to provide their tenants with a copy of the local provincial or territorial laws pertaining to landlord-tenant relationships when the rental agreement is to be looked over and signed.

Rental terms and conditions in writing

Landlords as well as tenants have their own rights and responsibilities, whether or not an official lease has been signed or drafted. A written lease/rental agreement clearly lays out the specific terms and conditions which both tenant and landlord must legally abide by. A written lease is definitely a good idea because it leaves absolutely no room for confusion or ambiguity.

Any good rental agreement or lease should detail the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant(s). Some of the different things that a rental agreement typically states is when rent is due, which tenants are responsible for paying utilities as well as taking care of repairs and other maintenance issues. Sometimes rental agreements specify whether or not parking is included in the cost of rent as well as rules about smoking and pets. It is important to clearly establish who is responsible for maintenance work, including the cutting of grass, shoveling of snow, and other such things. Tenants and landlords can get a standard form lease or rental agreement from most provincial authorities in charge of housing.

What you can expect with rental agreement

When you are at the point where you are ready to rent with a landlord, you will sit down with them and agree on the specific terms of your tenancy, which will make up the rental agreement or lease as a whole. The landlord will most likely come up with a written lease for you to sign once you have discussed and agreed on all of the terms.

It is important to keep in mind that you always have your legal tenancy rights as provided to you by local legislation in the province or territory that you are renting in.

You should expect the following things to be included in the rental agreement which you must sign:

  • Full names of landlords and all tenants living in property
  • Address of the rental property
  • The monthly rent amount, which may or may not include utilities, cable, parking, etc.
  • The specific date of each month when rent is due
  • Amount and terms of deposit
  • Which types of repairs you must take care of and your responsibility to do repairs at the request of the landlord
  • The length of the rental period (usually one year)
  • The number of days for the notice period (length of time you have to give notice you are moving out)
  • The amount of the security deposit (if applicable)
  • Any and all restrictions (smoking, pets, etc)
  • When and for what reason a landlord can enter your property
  • Conditions of lease termination
  • Terms for resolving tenant-landlord disputes over damage and repairs, rent, late payments, etc.
  • Tenant’s emergency contact information (name, relationship to tenant, and phone number)
  • Maximum amount for rent increases

You can refer to the Provincial Territorial Fact Sheets for more specific information.

TIP: Tenant responsibilities

Tenants take on full responsibility for regular everyday wear and tear of the property they rent over the course of their tenancy. The landlord is fully responsible for this type of minor damage and therefore must upkeep the property on a regular basis. Make sure that you take the time to fill out the Inspection Worksheet when you move in, and get the landlord to sign it. Keep the document in a safe place and when you move out it will help you in determining the condition that the rental property was in when you first arrived. You may also want to document damaged areas of the property by taking photos or even recording video.

Rules Pertaining to Pets and Smoking

Smoking and pets are two common issues of contention between landlords and tenants. While it is true that the laws pertaining to these things differ depending on the province or territory (see the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets), there are some similarities to note.

In a vast majority of provinces and territories, landlords have every right to deny tenants who have pets. In Nunavut, only private landlords are legally allowed to turn away potential tenants that have pets, and public housing landlords can also not deny people interested in renting a unit for this reason.

Whether or not a landlord is legally allowed to evict a current tenant who violates the "no pet" policy in the lease they sign depends on the jurisdiction. Typically though, with Ontario being an exception, landlords have every right to evict tenants who break the no-pets clause, as they are violation of the lease.

The consequences for breaking a lease because of pet ownership may be different than violations related to smoking. In Manitoba, for example, a tenant who breaks the no pet policy can be evicted if they still have not gotten rid of the pet after they have been given the chance to do so.

When it comes to smoking though, Manitoba tenants may be evicted for their first infraction if they are is a no smoking clause in the lease. In Ontario, landlords can evict tenants who violate the no pet’s clause, but there is no legal precedent for violating a no smoking clause.

In order to evict a tenant, a landlord has to go through a specific legal procedure detailed by the province. A lot of rental authorities handle evictions on a case by case basis. Written notice must be given to the tenant in the first stage of the eviction process, should they violate the lease. In the Yukon, the no smoking/pets rule has to apply to everyone living in the building equally to justify an eviction notice.

Refer to the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for more details pertaining to each province and territory.

What to do when you encounter a problem

Whether a rental agreement is written or oral, it defines the legal rights and obligations of landlord and tenant. This agreement is very important when it comes to resolving conflicts between the two parties. It is important that both the landlord and tenant follow all of the necessary steps in order to fully resolve the issue.

For example, a landlord is not legally allowed to lock a tenant out of their own unit for not paying rent because of a rent dispute; they must follow the official eviction process step by step until it is complete. On the other hand, a tenant cannot refuse to pay rent to their landlord simply because of a dispute with them. In this particular situation, the tenant must get in contact with the proper rental authority and follow the steps that are listed for their particular jurisdiction.