Knowing your rights as a renter in Canada is essential. When you arrive in Canada, renting suitable housing will be a top priority. And knowing your rights as a renter will ensure that you can enjoy your home free from hassles.
Newcomers to Canada often rent homes for a while before they buy a home. As a newcomer, it’s essential to know:
- questions to ask when rental housing in Canada
- your rights as a renter and your responsibilities
- the rights and responsibilities of the landlord, and
- what’s included in your rental lease and rent increases.
Renting a home in Canada can be a daunting task. When searching for a rental home, you’ll find that some listings are detailed while others can be ambiguous.
Important Questions to Ask the Landlord
It’s good practice to ask landlords questions about the property before you rent it. This can clarify any doubt and prevent misunderstandings in the future. Here are some important questions to ask before you rent the property:
- How much is the rent and safety deposit (if applicable)?
- How long is the lease?
- Can the lease be renewed?
- Is the rental furnished or unfurnished?
- Are utilties such as hydro, water, cable, and internet included in the rent? If not, how much do the utilities typically cost?
- Is parking included in the rent?
- Is additional storage like a bike rack or a locker included in the rent?
- Are there laundry facilities like a washer-dryer in the unit, or are there common laundry facilities?
- What amenities are included in the rent?
Moving homes can be expensive. So it’s important to ask the right questions to help you decide if you can afford the property and want to rent it.
Know Your Rights as a Renter
Each province and territory has Landlord and Tenant legislation and the rules and regulations vary by province. For example, in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, the legislation is called the Residential Tenancies Act. This legislation is in place to protect renters.
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The Landlord and Tenant Board in Ontario provides information about the Residential Tenancies Act in Ontario and aims to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. In this way, the tenant has a say and can be heard. And this is an important benefit to renters. The site provides free and accurate information for renters.
Of particular help is a list of various forms that landlords and tenants can use for things such as:
- rent rebates
- maintenance issues
- subletting or assigning, or
- giving a landlord notice that you, as the tenant, will end your tenancy and vacate.
There are specific guidelines when it comes to giving notice. For example, a tenant has to give their landlord a formal written notice using Form N9. This form indicates that you plan to end your tenancy and vacate the property. In Ontario, you must give a minimum notice of 60 days that you intend to leave.
It might seem confusing, so it’s helpful to become familiar with the laws in the province where you live related to your rights as a renter. When you know your rights as a renter, this will protect you from landlords taking advantage of you.
To start, look up the rental laws for the province you wish to locate and visit their web site.
Landlord Tenant Boards in Canada:
Alberta: Residential Tenancies Act
British Columbia: Residential Tenancies
Manitoba: Residential Tenancies Branch
New Brunswick: Residential Tenancies Tribunal
Newfoundland: Landlord & Tenant
Nova Scotia: Residential Tenancies Program
Ontario: Landlord and Tenant Board
Prince Edward Island: Landlord and Tenant Act
Quebec: Régie du Logement
Saskatchewan: Landlords and Tenants
Responsibilities and Rights as a Renter or Landlord
It’s helpful to become familiar with your responsibilities and rights as a renter and those of the landlord. The landlord is the owner of the house or building that you live in. If you rent in a large building such as a condo or apartment complex, there may be a property manager or superintendent to collect rent and manage the building.
Landlord and tenant responsibilities can vary in different provinces and territories. So it’s important to review the requirements for the province or territory where you plan to rent a home.
Here are some of the key tenant responsibilities:
- Pay rent in full, on time, and inform the landlord in case of financial difficulties and inability to pay rent
- Keep the property clean and in good repair
- Notify the landlord of any damage or leaks so that the landlord can fix it
- Allow the landlord permission to enter the property to fix repairs or show the property to prospective tenants
- Provide notice to the landlord to terminate the lease
- Vacate the property when the lease ends
- Hand over the keys to the landlord when moving out.
Tenants are not allowed to:
- Withhold rent in case of negligent repairs as non-payment can lead to eviction
- Renovate the property without the landlord’s permission
- Change the locks of the house without the landlord’s permission
- Sublet or assign the lease to someone else without the landlord’s permission.
Here are some of the key landlord responsibilities:
- Collect rent
- Provide a copy of the lease and rent receipts
- Ensure the property complies with all health and safety guidelines
- Keep the property in good condition
- Ensure the supply of hot and cold water, hydro, and other utilities unless agreed that the tenant would pay
- Allow peaceful enjoyment of the property
- Provide kitchen appliances and electrical fixtures or other additions and utilities mentioned in the lease
- Maintain common areas like hallways and yards and remove snow from driveways and walkways
- Get rid of household pests like silverfish, mice, cockroaches, etc
- Follow legal procedure to evict a tenant in case of non-payment of rent
- Rent the rental deposit (if applicable) after the tenant moves out.
Landlords are not allowed to enter the property without providing notice and receiving the tenant’s permission.
Signing a Lease
Once you find your new home, the next step is to sign a lease with your landlord. The lease allows you to live in a home for which you pay rent.
A lease is a written rental agreement outlining the terms you and your landlord agree to. A lease is a legal document, so it’s important that you read and understand it. You can ask someone to go over it with you, such as a relative, friend, staff member at an immigrant-serving organization, or even a lawyer.
When you sign a lease, you share personal information with the landlord. Signing a lease gives the landlord consent to collect personal information and use it for renting purposes only. Landlords must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). PIPEDA is Canada’s federal private sector privacy law.
Most leases include:
- Names and contact information for you and your landlord.
- Rental address
- Monthly rent you have agreed to pay, with or without utilities, parking, cable television or other services
- Date the rent is due, i.e., the first day of each month, and the amount of any future rental increases
- Rental period, i.e., one year or month-to-month
- Conditions for ending the lease or subletting the property
- List of the repairs or upkeep that you are responsible for
- Any restrictions such as smoking
- Details on when and how the landlord can enter your home
- Process for changing the lease and resolving disagreements.
What Landlords Can Ask You:
Landlords can legally ask:
- About your income and where you work to ensure you can afford the rent
- How many people will live at the property
- If you have any pets or anyone on the property smokes.
- Permission to run a credit check
- For references from your employer or previous landlords.
Landlords cannot ask you:
- About your ethnic background, religion, food habits, and sexual preferences
- For your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
- About your marital status
- Whether you plan to have more children
- If you have family visiting.
Rent Increases and Rights as a Renter
When you renew your lease, your landlord may increase the rent to offset rising maintenance costs. The landlord can increase the rent at the time of renewa. However, it must be within the province’s rental increase guidelines. To learn more about the provincial rent increase guidelines, click on the links provided in the section: Landlord Tenant Boards in Canada.
One of your rights as a renter is that the landlord must provide you with written notice 90 days before the increase takes effect.
Rents tend to remain the same during the term of the lease. However, a landlord can submit an application to the Board for rent increases during the lease term if the taxes, utilities, and operating costs have increased significantly.
When you know more about renting a home in Canada, you can select housing that best meets your needs. And, knowing your rights as a renter will allow you to live peacefully and with few hassles. Because moving can be expensive it’s important to select the right rental property to save additional moving expenses.
For more information about settling in Canada, check out our upcoming webinars!
Anjali has worked in journalism and corporate communications in the UK and in India. Working across geographies in an international environment has taught her to find unique opportunities to create content for a diverse range of audiences. Pushing herself out of her comfort zone to move to the UK and Canada helped her adapt and thrive in new environments.