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Rental Myths and Truths

Posted April 3rd, 2018 under myths and truths.

Last month I wrote about selling a property when it is rented out, a situation where many people are not familiar with the rules. This month I’m going to cover some other myths and truths about rental properties that often come up in my work.

Deposits

There are strict rules around what types of deposits a landlord can ask for. In fact, there are only two legal types of deposit.

First, the landlord can ask for a general deposit for a maximum of one rental period. In other words, a maximum of one month deposit if you’re on a month-to-month rental; a maximum of one week if you’re on a week-to-week rental; and so on.

Secondly, the landlord can ask for a separate key or fob deposit to cover the cost of changing the locks if the key is lost.

No other deposits are legal. The landlord cannot ask for several months of rent in advance, nor can they demand post-dated cheques. The landlord cannot demand a deposit to cover potential damages. And finally, the landlord cannot charge more than $20 for a bounced cheque.

Pets

Tenants cannot be prevented from having pets, except if the property is a condominium and the bylaws specify restrictions on pets. If a tenant of any other property has a pet or obtains one after moving in, the landlord cannot evict or penalize them in any way, even if there was a verbal understanding that the tenant would not bring a pet.

However, the tenant remains responsible for any and all damage caused by pets. Furthermore, if the pet becomes a nuisance or a danger to people, the landlord can apply to have it removed.

Proper Notice

Regardless of whether there is a written lease agreement or not, all notices by the landlord must be given in writing, using the proper forms. Notices must also be delivered using one of the methods listed in the Landlord and Tenant Act (mail, fax, or by hand).

If notice is not given in the proper way, it will not be enforceable.

For the tenant, using the forms is not absolutely required. As long as the intent of the notice is clear, it is considered valid by the Landlord and Tenant Board. However, using the forms is a smart idea for tenants as well because it helps increase clarity.

The above points apply to notices of rent increase, notices to vacate, notices to enter the premises, or any other notice between the landlord and tenant.

New Lease Agreements

As of April 30th, 2018, the government of Ontario has introduced new rules around lease agreements.

A new standard form must be used for all written lease agreements, whether they are for multiple-unit buildings, residential homes (with or without an auxiliary unit), or condo apartments/townhouses.

(The purpose of this standard form is similar to the standard form used for giving notice, which is to remove confusion and miscommunication from the lease process.)

Of course, it is still possible to have a verbal lease agreement instead of a written one. However, when using a verbal agreement, it becomes more difficult to enforce any terms which cannot be proven.

The new lease agreement form can be downloaded or picked up in person at the Rental board.

Remember that, regardless of whether your agreement is written or verbal, the Residential Tenancy Act applies at all times.

Want to know more about the rules governing landlords and tenants? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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