What Ontario’s new standard lease means for renters
A new standard lease is set to come into effect this April 30, as one of the 16 measures introduced as part of the broader housing market changes in the Ontario Fair Housing Plan, announced last year.
Concern over tenant protection mounted as Ontario rental vacancies for hot properties, such as Mississauga condos and Hamilton houses , plunged to the point of near invisibility over the last few years. The new lease lays out the rules in plain language, aiming to reduce illegal clauses and strengthen tenant rights.
“Renters told us that their leases were often confusing and contained illegal terms. Landlords, especially smaller ones, say a standard template makes it easier for them to do business. The new form we developed helps balance the interests and responsibilities of both parties,” says Peter Milczyn , Ontario’s Minister of Housing.
Few of the actual rules surrounding landlord and tenancy agreements have changed from the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 . Those amended clauses are detailed in the Rental Fairness Act, 2017 and include expanding rent control for properties built over 1991, a shorter notice period to end tenancy for those fleeing sexual and domestic violence and tighter provisions for evictions based on "landlord's own use".
Clarity will likely be the biggest upside to the standard lease.
It’s always been illegal, for example, to disallow pets. But that didn’t stop landlords from frequently including such a clause in their lease. A tenant always had the option of reporting a landlord for a clause, or ignoring it all together and keeping a pet anyway, but few wanted to antagonize a landlord in such a way. And many tenants didn’t know such a clause was illegal.
A new standard lease should help eliminate such issues, but there is still room in its 13 pages for disputes to arise.
The standard lease can easily be downloaded online from the Ontario government website. It has space for full contact information for both parties, a glossary and yes/no and tenant/landlord check boxes for the whole range of tenancy issues, including insurance, services and utilities. Legalese is notaably absent.
Landlords, however, petitioned for the right to add in a page of additional clauses, although it’s hard to see what’s missing from such a comprehensive agreement.
Therefore, tenants still should still be vigilant for any illegal terms, like those that required them to shovel snow or pay damage deposits.
All old leases remain valid, while any illegal clauses within them remain, as always, void.
The province recommends contacting the Landlord and Tenant Board for disputes that cannot be solved after discussion.