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Why you may not need an apartment lease

By Robert Hof

More about landlords and tenants from Mark Weisleder. Robert.

Reproduced from Moneyville

Ontario landlords and tenants may not need a lease since the law is clear and comprehensive

By Mark Weisleder |

Last week’s article about how illegal clauses creep into apartment leases generated a lot of emails about landlord and tenant rights. One of the questions is whether Ontario landlords and tenants need a lease since the law is clear and comprehensive.

It’s a good question. For landlords, it is far more important to properly qualify your tenant. If your tenant subsequently defaults or breaks the lease early, you won’t collect anything anyway. In addition, a landlord has a legal obligation to try and reduce damages by re-renting their unit, so it is unlikely you will be able to sue the tenant for anything more than the months the unit remained empty.

For tenants, unless it is a house or condominium, you should also consider monthly tenancies. In a larger apartment building, it is unlikely a landlord will be able to terminate your lease for family reasons. Therefore, as long as you pay your rent on time and behave yourself, you can stay as long as you want. If you ever want to leave, you will only have to give 60 days’ notice.

It answers the question of one reader this week who is nearing the end of a one year lease. He said the landlord is demanding that he sign a new one. The tenant wants to remain as a monthly tenant.

The law says the landlord can’t force him to sign another document. When the lease is over the tenancy will automatically continue as month-to-month. The landlord can only evict the tenant if he doesn’t pay the rent on time or behaves badly as mentioned, or the landlord wants the unit for his family or any buyer’s family. Another reason is that the landlord has permission to demolish, change the use or substantially renovate the property.

Here’s what else the law says:

  • If tenants pay by the month, it is automatically a monthly tenancy;
  • The most tenants can be charged before you move in is first and last month’s rent;
  • Landlords have to properly maintain the unit;
  • If a landlord harasses tenants, takes mail, removes the washing machine or dryer from the building, tenants can apply to reduce the rent;
  • A landlord can only evict tenants for the reasons noted above;
  • Tenants can bring a pet into the unit, unless a condo declaration says no;
  • Tenants can vacate any time by giving the landlord 60 days’ notice.
  • Tenants are responsible for any damage caused by themselves or their invited guests;
  • Tenants need a landlord’s permission before subletting;
  • Tenants can be charged $20 for any NSF cheque plus actual bank charges;
  • Landlords can charge a tenant for keys or condo entry cards, as long as they are refunded when the tenant moves out;

Landlords and tenants like the security of a one-year lease, but in many cases it really isn’t necessary. These leases used to be the standard for residential landlords and tenants. The best way to go is to understand your rights before you sign any residential lease and you will benefit in the long term.

Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at mark@markweisleder.com

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