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What should be in my rental agreement?

Many of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant are set by Ontario law and not by what your rental agreement says.

The law makes certain things part of every rental agreement, even if you and your landlord don't include them. For example, your landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance even if your rental agreement doesn't say that.

The law also says certain things cannot be part of a rental agreement. Even if they are written in the agreement, you do not have to follow them. One example is a no-pets rule.

But there are some things the law leaves up to you and your landlord to decide on when you make a rental agreement. This can include things like:

  • how much rent you will pay
  • what services and facilities are included in your rent
  • the date you can move in
  • the date your lease expires, if you have a fixed-term tenancy

Most of the time, a rental agreement does not have to be in writing. But if you are moving into a care home, the landlord must provide a written agreement.

Even when the law doesn't require it, it is a good idea to have the agreement in writing. Putting it in writing can help you and your landlord think of all the points that should be included.

Having a written agreement can also be helpful if you and your landlord have a disagreement later. And if you need to go to the Landlord and Tenant Board because your landlord is not doing what they said they would, a written agreement can make it easier to prove your case.

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1. Learn about rental agreements

Before you sign a rental agreement, make sure you understand what they can and cannot include.

Terms that cannot be included

The following terms should not be included in your rental agreement:

  • no-pets clauses, except for rules set out in condominium bylaws
  • penalties for paying your rent late or for breaking the landlord's rules
  • extra fees if you have children, pets, or visitors
  • requirement for post-dated cheques or a damage deposit
  • making you responsible for repairs or maintenance

If any of these terms are in your rental agreement, the landlord cannot make you follow them even if you sign it.

Terms that are always included

The following terms are part of every rental agreement even if the agreement doesn't say them:

  • You have the right to live in your place as long as you want, unless your landlord has a legal reason to evict you.
  • You have the right to treat your place as your home, which includes the right to privacy.
  • If your building or complex has more than one rental unit, you also have the right to use the common areas. Common areas include things like hallways, elevators, driveways, lobbies, and grounds.
  • Your landlord is responsible for maintenance and repairs, and must follow all the laws about housing standards.
  • Your landlord must follow the legal rules about raising your rent.
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2. Put all the terms in writing

When you are applying to rent a place, you may have conversations with the landlord about the property. This can include repairs to be made, upgrades, or agreements about certain costs. You should make sure these things are written in your rental agreement.

Make sure your agreement covers enough details so there won't be any disagreements later. This can include things like:

  • who pays for utilities
  • if parking is included
  • the length of your lease
  • the amount of rent you will pay and if there are any discounts or penalties
  • the date you can move in
  • what other facilities are included, such as a gym or a storage locker
  • if your landlord provides any services such as cleaning your unit

If your agreement is not in writing, make notes about what you and your landlord talked about and agreed on.

Care Homes

If you are renting in a care home, the landlord must give you a Care Home Information Package (CHIP) before you sign the tenancy agreement. The CHIP includes information about the home and the cost of meals and services.

The tenancy agreement must say you have the right to cancel the agreement within 5 days after you sign it.

If you are renting a care home unit and the landlord didn't give you a written tenancy agreement that lists what services and meals you are getting and the charges for them, you can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Board can order the landlord to give back some of your rent.

If the landlord has not given you the Care Home Information Package, they are not allowed to raise your rent or the charges for meals or care services until they give you the CHIP.

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3. Get a copy of the agreement

Sometimes you might sign an application or a rental agreement before the landlord does. The landlord might have to send it to another person or office to have it signed. The law says the landlord must give you a copy of the signed agreement within 21 days after you sign it.

The agreement must show the landlord's legal name and address. If your rental agreement is not in writing, the landlord must give you this information in writing within 21 days after the start of your tenancy.

If your landlord won’t give you a copy of your tenancy agreement or their legal name and address within 21 days, you can refuse to pay your rent until you receive it. But once they have given you the agreement or the information, you must immediately pay all the rent you owe. If you do not pay, the landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict you.

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August, 2016

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