know your rights as a tenant in Ontario
By Ted Whitehead
Renting an apartment in Ontario comes with numerous privileges and responsibilities, for both landlords and tenants.
At the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), we often find that consumers do not understand the parameters of the landlord-rental relationship, especially when it comes rent and when, and how, it can be increased.
Tenants should know what they are entitled to under the Residential Tenancies Act, because it protects renters’ safety and privacy, and outlines their responsibilities.
The rules governing rent amounts are stipulated in great detail in this Act. Landlords may only increase rent in accordance with this document, and in an amount that is no greater than permitted under the Act’s appropriate sections.
For example, there is a 12-month rule, which states that a landlord – who is entitled by law to increase rental rates – can only do so after one year has elapsed. The time frame runs for one year from the date the unit was rented to that tenant or for one year after that specific renter’s last rate increase for their current rental unit.
In addition, the guideline for each calendar year is under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. The guidelines are determined by the percentage change from year-to-year in the Consumer Price Index for Ontario for the prices of goods and services, as reported monthly by Statistics Canada. Prices are averaged over the 12-month period that ends at the end of May of the previous calendar year, rounded to the first decimal point. Determined in May 2012, the accepted 2013 increase was 2.5 per cent, effective January 1, 2013. According to the new provincial guidelines, the allowable increase for 2014 is 0.8 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
There are two caveats to the above information. Firstly, landlords can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for permission to raise rents over the established guideline if they are engaging in costly repairs or renovations. If the landlord makes such an application, tenants must receive access to a copy of this form, and notice of the hearing date. Secondly, the rent guideline does not apply to vacant residential units or residential units first occupied on or after Nov. 1, 1991. Note: all other rules such as 90 days notice, the “12-month rule” apply.
As a tenant, you must receive at least 90 days notice in writing of a rent increase, with the amount of increase mentioned. If you don’t receive this notice, you do not have to pay the increase, but are still responsible for the rent.
This gives you some idea of the level of detail covered in the Residential Tenancies Act, and there are many more points to consider. There are some exceptions to all of these guidelines, so it is important to check the Act if you are in doubt about your landlord’s responsibilities, or your own. The responsibility is yours to understand where you fit into the picture.
Keep in mind that Property Managers and Property Owners who are members of the Certified Rental Building Program (CRBP) pay strict adherence to these rental-increase regulations. Tenants living in CRBP-approved buildings can expect a consistent and straightforward approach with regard to any increases in their rent – no unlawful surprises.
The Certified Rental Building Program (CRBP) was created by FRPO to ensure a high quality of life for tenants in certified buildings. The apartments that qualify under this program comply with the conditions stipulated in the Residential Tenancies Act. This is a useful tool to help you locate buildings that are safe and professionally run.
To learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, you can find the Residential Tenancies Act online at www.ontariotenants.ca/law/act.phtml.
Ted Whitehead is Director of Certification, Certified Rental-housing Program, Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario.