Neighbourhood Legal Services offers information, advice and representation to low income tenants with their housing issues. If you are having a problem with your rental unit or your landlord, we can help explain your rights and obligations under the law. We can also advise you when to get help from another service and how to take legal action to deal with your issue. In some cases we will represent you.
We offer free summary advice for tenants as part of our Tenant Duty Counsel program. This service is generally available on Wednesday mornings from 9am-12pm, and all day Thursdays and Fridays.
Tenant Duty Counsel is a walk-in service that assists tenants on a first come, first served basis. There is no guarantee that Tenant Duty Counsel will be available to speak with you. If you have to make special arrangements in order to attend our office, please call us the morning of to see if Tenant Duty Counsel is available that day. We can be reached at 519-438-2890.
Recent Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
No more rent control for new apartments
The provincial government is allowing landlords of new apartments to raise the rent by any amount.
Most rented homes in Ontario are covered by 3 rules about rent increases:
- The landlord must wait at least one year between increases.
- The landlord must give the tenant at least 90 days’ written notice of any increase.
- The increase can’t be more than the provincial rent guideline for that year, unless the landlord gets approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board. For 2019, the guideline is 1.8%.
It’s the last rule that’s now been taken off most new rental units. This means that those units are exempt from the rent guideline.
Which rental units are no longer covered by the rent guideline?
The new exemption applies to many units created or first rented after November 15, 2018. That was the date the government announced this change.
The new law says that the following types of units are exempt from the rent guideline:
- units in newly occupied buildings
- units in newly occupied additions
- new units in houses
Newly occupied buildings
If a building had no one living in it on or before November 15, 2018, all the units in it are exempt.
For example, this would apply if a building had only commercial tenants, such as a store or factory, before November 15, 2018. As long as the first people to live there moved in after November 15, all of the units people live in are exempt from the rent guideline.
Newly occupied additions
These are units in a new section that’s added on to a building, if this addition had no one living in it on or before November 15, 2018.
For example, this could be a rental building built in 1974, with a new addition built in 2018. As long as the first people to live in the addition moved in after November 15, 2018, all of the units in the addition are exempt from the rent guideline.
But units in the original part of building continue to be covered by guideline.
New units in houses
These are self-contained apartments created in a house after November 15, 2018.
It must be a house that didn’t contain more than 2 living units on or before that date. The house can be detached or semi-detached, or a townhouse or row house.
It must also meet certain other conditions.
For example, this could be a house that was built as a single-family home and was later divided into a main floor unit and an upstairs unit. The owner lives upstairs and rents out the main floor.
In March 2019, the owner gets the basement finished and creates an apartment there, with a kitchen, bathroom, and separate entrance. The new basement apartment is exempt from the rent guideline. But the main floor unit is still covered.
What does it mean if a unit is exempt?
Tenants who rent these units no longer have any legal protection against large rent increases.
At the end of their first year, and every year after that, their landlord can raise the rent as much as they want, as long as they give 90 days’ written notice.
It’s important that tenants renting new units know about this. A year after they move in, the rent could go up so much that they can’t afford it. Then their only option may be to move out.
Less protection from unfair evictions
Being exempt from the rent guideline creates another danger for tenants.
A landlord might want to get rid of a tenant for reasons the law does not allow, for example because the tenant is asking for repairs to the apartment.
The landlord can’t use this reason to give the tenant an eviction notice or to ask the Landlord and Tenant Board for an eviction order.
But now the landlord can try to force the tenant to move by raising the rent to a level that they know the tenant can’t afford.
There was one situation in the past when the Board decided that a landlord could not do something like this. But the Board might make a different decision in future cases.
A tenant in this situation might want to get legal advice.
What to do if you have a problem as a tenant
There are various laws that impact your rights as a tenant:
- The Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (“RTA”) deals with most landlord and tenant disputes.
- The Housing Services Act, 2011 (“HSA”) also applies to you if you live in subsidized or social housing.
- If you live in a non -profit co-op, the Co-operative Corporations Act applies along with the RTA and HSA.
Not paying your rent on time is the most common legal problem tenants have to deal with. Causing damage or a disturbance at your rental complex is also a common legal problem for tenants. In these types of situations, the landlord may try to evict you at the Landlord and Tenant Board (“LTB”).
The LTB also helps tenants enforce their rights, e.g. when the landlord refuses to do necessary repairs.
A tenant or a landlord can go to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) if they have a dispute. The LTB is like a court and involves filling an application which may cost money.
Members of our staff are at the LTB to give advice and information on the day of your hearing. This is called “duty counsel.” Ask to talk with us – it’s free.
A tenant and landlord can try to settle a case using a mediator at the LTB if an application has been started. If the issue doesn’t settle, you will have the opportunity to speak with an adjudicator who will listen to both sides and make a decision at a hearing.
It is possible to appeal an LTB decision to court if there is a serious error in it, but legal advice is necessary to take that step.
Social housing tenants deal with rent subsidy disputes directly with their landlord. The process is called a “review”. The tenant asks for the review and explains why the decision is wrong. This should be done before you get to the LTB if possible. There is no appeal to the court if an unfavourable review decision is made. Tenants should get legal advice from our office right away when faced with a subsidy problem.
Landlords cannot take action against you unless they have given you the proper paperwork. Usually you will get a letter or a notice that tells you what the problems is and what the landlord is going to do. Often you can do something to stop any further action. If the landlord wants to evict you, they must first file an application to the LTB, then the LTB will send you a notice in the mail telling you when to show up for a hearing. Call us for information and advice if you get any paperwork from your landlord.
If you need to get repairs done, first ask the landlord to fix the problem. If nothing is done, write a letter and ask the landlord to do the repair by a certain date. Keep a copy of the letter. If nothing is done, call the City and ask them to send a property standards inspector to your unit. The property standards office may be able to get the landlord to make the repair. If there is a health concern about your repair issue, contact the health unit. If your problem still isn’t fixed, you will have to take the landlord to the LTB. Call us if you are having repairs problems.
What if you’re a landlord?
If you are a landlord seeking information about your legal rights and obligations, check out the Landlord’s Self-Help Centre. The Landlord’s Self-Help Centre is a specialized legal clinic that provides information, summary advice and referrals exclusively to small-scale landlords.
Get to Know
The Landlord and Tenant Board resolves disputes between residential landlords and tenants and eviction applications filed by non-profit housing co-operatives.
The LTB also provides information about its practices and procedures and the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act.
The Property Standards By-laws address different scenarios, both in rental and owner occupied properties.
If you’re a tenant, they might be able to help you with maintenance and repair problems like safety and structural problems in your building, pests such as cockroaches, issues with vital services (e.g. lack of heat/hydro/water) and interior/exterior property maintenance.
The health unit watches out for, identifies and addresses public health issues that can affect you, your family and your neighbours. They can provide information and assistance with health issues affecting your unit such as beg bugs and mould.
The Housing Stability Bank offers financial assistance to low income Londoners to obtain and retain their housing and offers financial assistance to those at risk of homelessness to remain housed.
They can provide rental assistance, emergency utility assistance, help completing the application to Ontario Electricity Support Program, and provide connections and referrals to community resources.
Rent Increase Guideline
The rent increase guideline is 2.2% for increases between January 1 and December 31, 2020.
Last updated January 7, 2019