The Rental Agreement
When you rent a place, the landlord will usually ask you to sign a rental agreement, commonly known as a "lease". While the term "lease" is commonly used, a lease is just one form of rental agreement. In this section, you will learn about the "rental agreement," which may be a written lease or a verbal rental agreement.
How Rental Agreements are Governed
Rental agreements are governed by landlord and tenant law specific to the province or territory where a tenant is renting an accommodation. While many similarities exist from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, each province and territory has its own legislation.
The following information provides general information on rental agreements in Canada. Check the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for specifics on the topics in the following list. The specifics will vary depending on the province or territory where the accommodation is rented.
The following rental conditions tend to be unique to the legislation for a specific province or territory:
- collecting and returning deposits.
- requiring post-dated cheques.
- changing locks.
- permitting landlord entry to the premises.
- managing sublets and assignments.
- renewing and terminating leases.
- rent increases.
- withholding rent for repairs.
- giving notice.
- handling disputes, such as late rent payments and eviction.
- allowing pets and/or smoking.
TipCopy of the Law
To ensure that the tenant understands rental conditions and is aware of his or her rights, some provinces require the landlord to provide the tenant with a copy of the legislation governing landlord and tenant relationships upon entering into a rental agreement.
Agreement in Writing
Both tenants and landlords have rights and obligations, whether they have signed a written lease or not. Nonetheless, a written rental agreement or lease that clearly specifies what a landlord and a tenant agree to when renting a property is still a good idea.
A rental agreement should stipulate the obligations of both the landlord and tenant(s). This will include when rent is due, who is responsible for utilities and other costs and who is responsible for maintenance of the premises and the property. Some agreements also stipulate whether parking is provided, if pets and/or smoking are allowed and who is responsible for specific maintenance activities, such as shoveling snow and cutting grass. If a particular appliance, feature, etc. is important to you, have it included in the lease to ensure everyone is aware of what has been agreed to.
A tenant or landlord can obtain a standard form lease or rental agreement from most provincial authorities in charge of housing.
The Rental Agreement: What to Expect
When you are ready to rent with a landlord, you will agree on the specific terms of your tenancy and these terms will make up your "rental agreement,” whether you have an oral or written agreement. In most cases, the landlord will likely have a written agreement for both parties to sign. This written agreement is often a lease form provided by the province.
You still have rights under the tenancy legislation for your province or territory, and you retain the rights set out under the Human Rights regulations for your province.
Keeping this in mind, you should expect a rental agreement to stipulate the following terms:
- the names of the landlord and tenant(s);
- the address of the rental property;
- the agreed upon monthly rent, with or without utilities, parking, cable;
- when the rent is due, for example, on the first day of each month;
- the amount and terms of the deposit, if applicable;
- which repairs are your responsibility and your obligation to do repairs at the request of the landlord;
- the term of the rental period, typically one-year (but may be month-to-month or week-to-week);
- the notice period that the tenant is required to give when terminating a tenancy, such as, 60 days notice to terminate;
- the amount of the (security or damage deposits), if applicable;
- subletting rules;
- allowable rent increases;
- specific restrictions, such as no boarders, pets, smoking, waterbeds;
- when and how a landlord can enter the residential premises;
- conditions for termination of a lease;
- terms for dispute resolution: late payment, damage and repairs, eviction;
- emergency contact information for tenant and landlord (include phone, fax and email)
Check the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for specifics.
You are not responsible for normal wear and tear on the premises during your tenancy. The landlord is responsible for general upkeep, which includes wear and tear. Be sure to fill out the Inspection Worksheet when you move in, and have the landlord sign it. Then file it in a safe place; when you move out, it helps determine the move-in condition of your residence. Consider taking photographs of damaged areas, or bring a video camera if you have one and tape the inspection.
Rules About Pets and Smoking
Restricting pets and/or smoking are two common areas of conflict between landlords and tenants. While the exact rules depend on the legislation of each province and territory (see the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for full details), there are some commonalities.
In most provinces and territories the landlord can refuse to rent a unit to tenants that have pets. In Nunavut only private landlords can refuse to rent on this basis; public housing landlords cannot refuse to rent a unit because the tenant has a pet.
Whether or not a landlord can evict a tenant who violates a "no pets" clause in their lease varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Generally speaking, with the exception of Ontario, landlords can evict tenants for these breaches of the lease.
Within each province and territory, breaches of a lease due to pet ownership may be treated differently than breaches due to smoking. For example, in Manitoba, after the tenant has first been given the chance to get rid of a pet, the landlord can give the tenant an eviction notice. However, the same is not necessarily true if a tenant breaches a "no smoking" clause in his/her lease; enforcing smoking restrictions in individual units in Manitoba is problematic. In Ontario the landlord cannot evict a tenant who violates a "no pets" clause in their lease, but violations of a "no smoking" clause in the lease are not addressed by provincial legislation.
To evict a tenant, a landlord must follow the legal procedure set by the province. Many rental authorities deal with the eviction on a case by case basis. To evict a tenant for violating the lease, the landlord is normally required to give the tenant written notice.
See the Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets for further details for each province and territory.
When there is a Problem
Rental agreements, whether oral or written, define the legal rights and responsibilities for both the landlord and the tenant. This is important when conflicts develop between the landlord and tenant.
When a problem occurs, both the landlord and the tenant must follow the proper steps to resolve the issue.
For example, a landlord cannot lock a tenant out of a unit for non-payment of rent due to a rent dispute, but must follow the proper eviction procedures in his or her jurisdiction. Similarly, a tenant cannot simply withhold a rent payment due to a dispute. In this situation, the tenant must contact the appropriate rental authority and follow the steps that are outlined for the jurisdiction.