Starting April 30, landlords and tenants signing a new residential lease in Ontario are required to use the standard lease template. This requirement applies to new leases for most private market rentals, including, but not limited to, apartments, condos, basement apartments and houses.
A standard lease is not required for tenancies exempt or partially exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act including, but not limited to, those in social housing, care homes, mobile home parks, supportive housing, housing co-ops and where tenants share a kitchen or bathroom with their landlord.
The creation of a standard lease in Ontario has the potential to crack down on the use of illegal terms by landlords and strengthen awareness of the rights of tenants. Below is some important information tenants need to know about the new standard lease.
Can a landlord remove or alter sections from the standard lease template?
No, the standard lease template contains 14 mandatory sections that outline the basic terms of a lease between a landlord and a tenant. These 14 mandatory sections must be completed in full and cannot be removed or altered.
The standard lease template and its appendix includes helpful information about the tenants rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act on topics ranging from security deposits to subletting, illegal charges, tenant insurance and pets. Information within the standard lease and its appendix also cannot be removed or altered from a standard lease. Tenants should ensure their landlord provides a copy of the standard lease templates appendix.
Can a landlord include additional terms to the standard lease template?
Yes, but only with a tenants consent. The standard lease template includes a section where landlords and tenants can include additional terms to a lease. Additional terms that are inconsistent with the mandatory sections of the standard lease and/or that conflict with the Residential Tenancies Act are not legal, and so they are void and unenforceable. Some common terms that landlords may attempt to add to a lease, but which are void and unenforceable, include:
Once a lease is signed, it can only be changed if the landlord and tenant(s) agree to these changes in writing.
What can I do if I sign a lease after April 30 but my landlord does not use the new standard lease template?
If a landlord does not use the standard lease template for a lease signed on or after April 30, the tenant(s) should request in writing a signed and completed copy of the standard lease. If a landlord fails to provide a signed standard lease 21 days after a tenant makes this written request, the tenant is allowed to withhold rent payments that become due after this 21-day period. The maximum total amount of rent a tenant can withhold is an amount equal to one months rent.
A tenant must stop withholding rent as soon as their landlord provides a signed copy of the standard lease. A landlord can require the tenant to repay withheld rent money if they a provide a standard lease to the tenant within 30 days after the tenant began withholding rent. A tenant is not required to repay withheld rent if their landlord fails to provide them with a standard lease 30 days after they began withholding rent.
If a landlord does not provide the standard lease within 21 days after a tenant has made a written request, a tenant may give their landlord 60 days’ notice to terminate a yearly or fixed-term tenancy early.
What can I do if my landlord gives me a copy of the standard lease after I request it, but it contains new or additional terms that I do not agree to?
If a landlord provides a tenant with a standard lease after the written request and it contains new or additional terms that a tenant does not agree to, the tenant may give their landlord 60 days’ notice to terminate a yearly or fixed-term tenancy early.
If I signed a lease with my landlord before April 30, does my landlord have to replace my current lease with a new standard lease?
No. A landlord does not have to replace a current lease with a new standard lease for any residential tenancy that began before April 30, 2018. If a tenant wishes to have a new standard lease replace a lease signed before April 30, 2018, the tenant can negotiate this with their landlord. However, a tenant should be aware that replacing a current lease with a standard lease may mean that they are entering into a new lease agreement (not just continuing their old lease) and, consequently, the landlord can set the new rent at any amount they want (they do not need to maintain the current rent amount).
A tenant who signed a lease with their landlord before April 30, 2018 does not have to replace their current lease with the new standard lease. A landlord is not allowed to force a tenant who signed a lease before April 30, 2018 to replace their old lease with a new standard lease to continue their tenancy.
Jonathan Robart is a tenants rights lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services. Follow 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.