What you need to know about Ontario’s rent control changes: Reasonable Doubt

It used to be that anything built since 1991 was exempt from the province's rent control guidelines. Now, that has changed

Recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act expand rent control to most private rental units in Ontario. As of May 30, 2017, landlords in Ontario cannot increase the rent for most private rental units each year (with a few exceptions) by more than the amount set by the Government of Ontario’s Rent Increase Guideline. The guideline is published by August 31 every year and sets the maximum percentage that rent can be increased in the following calendar year. In 2017, the maximum amount that rent can be increased is 1.5% of the current rent. For 2018: the rent increase guideline is 1.8 % for increases between January 1 and December 31, 2018.

Why is this important?

Before the recent expansion of rent control, tenants who lived in private apartments, condo units and houses that were built or first rented out on or after November 1, 1991 were exempt from rent control protections. These tenants faced unpredictable, arbitrary and sometimes massive rent increases each year, with many finding themselves forced out of their homes.

How much can my landlord increase my rent in 2017 under the new rent control rules?

It’s important to note that the new rules for previously exempt rental units only apply to Notices of Rent Increase given on or after April 20, 2017.

If you live in a private rental unit that was previously exempt from rent control (i.e. built or first occupied on or after November 1, 1991) and you receive a valid Notice of Rent Increase from your landlord on or after April 20, 2017 the rent increase cannot be more than the amount allowed by the Rent Increase Guideline (1.5% in 2017). If the rent increase is for an amount greater than allowed by the guideline, your landlord must refund any amount you have paid in excess of the guideline amount.

However, if you live in a rental unit that was previously exempt from rent control and you received a valid Notice of Rent increase before April 20, 2017, your rent can be increased by whatever amount your landlord chose. Your rental unit remains exempt from rent control for the purpose of a rent increase in 2017. Your rental unit will benefit from the new rules if/when your landlord increases rent in 2018.

There are certain rules that landlords must follow, whether you live in a newly rent controlled unit or a unit that has always been rent controlled, before they can raise your rent. Here are some of the most important ones:

How often can my landlord increase my rent?

Your landlord can increase your rent after twelve (12) months have passed since either:

The day your tenancy began or

The day your rent was last increased (if there was a previous rent increase).

Does my landlord have to give me advance notice of a rent increase?

Yes. Your landlord must give you at least ninety (90) days written notice before they can increase rent. The written notice given to you must be in a format approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board and the notice must clearly state the amount of the new rent and the date the rent increase starts.

To ensure compliance with the rules, landlords should use the Notice of Rent Increase form provided by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

If your landlord gives you a Notice of Rent Increase in the wrong format and/or gives you less than ninety (90) days written notice, the rent increase does not apply and a new written notice must be given.

Are there other ways my landlord can increase my rent?

Yes. Your landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an “Above Guideline Rent Increase” if certain repairs, renovations, and/or replacements are made by the landlord. For more information about “Above Guideline Rent Increases,” see here.

Also, you and your landlord can agree, in writing, to increase your rent above the amount in the Rent Increase Guideline if your landlord promises to provide your rental unit with certain improvements and/or a service listed here. The increase in rent for such an agreement cannot be more than the Rent Increase Guideline plus three (3) per cent.

If you agree to an increase in rent for this, your landlord does not have to give you ninety (90) days written notice, and – if you change your mind – you can cancel the agreement by providing your landlord with written notice within five (5) days after signing the agreement.

I think I have been charged illegal rent. What should I do?

If you think you have been overcharged and you have paid an illegal rent amount, you should write your landlord a letter and request the illegal rent money back. If your landlord does not agree and/or refuses to pay back the illegal rent, you can file a T1 Tenant Application for a Rebate of Money the Landlord Owes at the Landlord and Tenant Board and request the Board to order your landlord to repay you.

Jonathan Robart is a tenants rights lawyer at Neighborhood Legal Services. Find him on Twitter: @jonathanrobart.

A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer. 

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