Starting a Tenancy

Do landlords and tenants have to have a written lease or tenancy agreement?

A tenancy agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant in which the tenant agrees to pay rent for the right to live in a rental unit provided by the landlord.  In it, the landlord and tenant may also promise to do certain things for each other and to follow certain rules.  Sometimes tenancy agreements are called “leases”.

The Residential Tenancies Act does not require all landlords and tenants to have a written tenancy agreement or lease.   A tenancy agreement can be an oral or written arrangement.  However, it is generally better to have a written agreement.  A written agreement creates a record of the things agreed to by the landlord and tenant.  If there is a dispute later, a written record of the agreement may help to settle the dispute.

Exception:  The Act does require a written rental agreement in a care home rental arrangement. For information about what information must be included in a care home agreement contact the Board.

What information should be included in a tenancy agreement?

If the tenancy agreement is in writing, it must set out the legal name and address of the landlord so that the tenant knows where to send any notices or documents that are required under the Act. 

A tenancy agreement may also contain information about:

  • the date the tenant will move into the rental unit,
  • the rent amount,
  • the date rent is to be paid,
  • what services are included in the rent (such as electricity or parking) and any separate charges, and
  • the rules that the landlord requires all tenants to follow.

The tenancy agreement should not contain any rules or conditions that are not allowed by the Residential Tenancies Act.  If there are any such rules or conditions in the agreement, they will not be enforced by the Board if there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant.

The Board cannot tell you what information should be included or how to draft a tenancy agreement.  The parties to the tenancy agreement must make this decision.  You may wish to seek legal advice before signing or drafting an agreement.

Landlords may be able to get some information or advice about preparing and using a rental application form or lease from one of the landlord organizations listed in the Other Help section of our web site.

Tenants may be able to get information or advice from one of the tenant organizations listed in Other Help.

Can I get a lease or a rental application from the Landlord and Tenant Board?

No, the Board does not provide rental application forms or leases. (see previous question). 

What information does a landlord have to give to a new tenant?

A landlord must give all new tenants information about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, the role of the Board and how to contact the Board.  The Board has a brochure called Information for New Tenants that landlords must use.  The Information for New Tenants brochure must be given to the tenant on or before the day the tenancy begins.  Note:  The tenancy begins on the date the tenant is entitled to move into the unit, even if the tenant does not move in on that date.

In addition, if the tenancy agreement is in writing, information about the landlord’s legal name and address must be included in the lease.  After the tenant has signed the lease and returned it to the landlord, the landlord then has 21 days to give the tenant a copy that has the signatures of both the tenant and the landlord.

Where there is no written tenancy agreement, a landlord must inform the tenant, in writing, of the landlord’s legal name and address within 21 days after the tenancy begins. 

If the landlord does not give the tenant a copy of the signed lease within 21 days or, if there is no written agreement and the landlord fails to inform the tenant of its legal name and address within 21 days, the tenant does not have to pay rent.  However, once the landlord provides the tenant with the required document(s), the tenant must pay back any rent that they withheld.  If the tenant refuses, the landlord could seek to evict the tenant for arrears of rent.

Can a landlord charge a person a deposit or a fee for allowing them to rent a unit?

Yes, a landlord can collect a rent deposit if it is requested on or before the day that the landlord and tenant enter into the tenancy agreement. The rent deposit cannot be more than one month's rent or the rent for one rental period, whichever is less.   For example, if rent payments are made weekly, the deposit cannot be more than one week’s rent; if rent payments are made monthly or bi-monthly, the deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent. 

The rent deposit must be used for the rent for the last month before the tenancy ends.  It cannot be used for anything else, such as to pay for damages.

For more information about rent deposits and rent rules, see the Rent section in the Frequently Asked Questions.
        
Can a landlord ask a person applying for a rental unit to provide information about their Income, credit references and rental history?

Yes, when choosing a new tenant, a landlord can ask the person applying for the rental unit to provide information such as: current residence, rental history, employment history, personal references and income information (if credit references and rental history information are also requested).  However, the Ontario Human Rights Code has special rules about asking for information about the income of a prospective tenant.  Landlords must follow these rules. 

The Code is enforced by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. If you have questions about the rules for requesting income information, you may contact the Commission by phone at 416-326-9511 or toll-free 1-800-387-9080.