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Renting in Ottawa

The governing or regulatory body for renting in Ontario is the Landlord and Tenant Board (www.ltb.gov.on.ca).

All types of rental periods are allowed. But when terms in the lease do not comply with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), the RTA takes precedence.

Landlords can collect a rent deposit of up to one month’s rent, when rent is paid monthly, or one week, if rent is paid weekly. This deposit can be applied to the first month’s or week’s rent or held as a last month or week deposit. No other rent deposits, such as key, security or damage deposits, are allowed. Landlords are not allowed to require post-dated cheques as a condition of a lease, although many tenants find it is the most convenient way of paying rent. Receipts must be provided on request without a fee and, when paying in cash, this should be considered essential. A signed lease is not required. A signed move in/move out condition report is not required, but it is recommended.

Rent increases for existing tenancies are regulated and generally limited to a published guideline amount. No increase is allowed unless at least 12 months have passed since the previous increase and the landlord has provided 90-days written notice. Landlords may, however, apply for an increase of up to three percent above the guideline if municipal taxes or utilities have increased significantly, or if the landlord has performed renovations or major repairs of a capital nature. The application will be considered by the Landlord and Tenant Board and may be approved, reduced or refused.

Rent can be reduced if municipal taxes on the unit have been lowered, the landlord has not performed according to the lease or satisfied requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act, or if they have broken a promise made in an application to increase the rent above the guideline.

Where the tenant pays rent monthly and both parties do not negotiate a renewal agreement, the tenancy automatically becomes month-to-month once the fixed-term lease expires. If the tenant pays rent weekly, then the lease becomes a week-to-week arrangement. Even when the tenancy is month-to-month, the landlord cannot unilaterally end the tenancy, except in very limited circumstances. These include the tenant not paying the rent in full, paying rent persistently late, causing damage to the rental property, disturbing the safety or enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord, illegal activity or overcrowding. The landlord may also terminate a tenancy for the landlord’s own use or that of an immediate family member, if the unit is sold and the purchaser wants the unit for personal use, in the case of major renovations that require a building permit, or if the unit is being demolished.

A tenant can terminate daily or weekly tenancies with 28-days written notice. Otherwise, tenants must give 60-days notice prior to moving, provided that notice ends at, or after, the end of any lease term.

If there are serious outstanding maintenance issues, a tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to stop all rent increases and any above guideline increases. In severe cases, tenants would pay all or portions of their rent to the Board until maintenance and repair issues are resolved. This must first be approved by a Board Member, since a tenant may not withhold rent due under a rental agreement.

The circumstances under which a landlord may enter the premises may be written into the lease. Typically, landlords must give 24-hours written notice. The written notice must specify the reason for entry, the date of entry and a time of entry between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. A landlord may enter a unit without written notice if there is an emergency and the tenant consents to the entry, or if the tenant has given notice of termination of tenancy and the landlord is entering to show the unit to prospective tenants.

Landlords must approve or reject, in writing, a request by the tenant to sublet. However, the landlord may only refuse on reasonable grounds. The original tenant can dispute a landlord’s decision to reject a sublet and, in some cases, the assignment, by applying to the Landlord and Tenant Board using the appropriate form.

The RTA does not cover individuals before they become tenants.For example, if a landlord refused to rent on the basis of pets, a prospective tenant could not bring an application under the RTA for this reason. The RTA does not address smoking. In the case of discrimination, an application may be made to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. A landlord may not refuse to rent to a person based on their race, colour, ethnic background, religious beliefs or practices, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), family status, marital status (including those with a same-sex partner), disability or sexual orientation.