On and after April 30, 2018, residential landlords must use the standard lease prescribed by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). It can be found online including through the Ministry of Housing (http://www.mah.gov.on.ca).
A joke I previously made with landlord clients requesting a form of written lease was to suggest simply printing the RTA, which governs landlord and tenant relationships for most private residences. While it never elicited much laughter, the point was that many of the essential terms and conditions one might want to address in a written lease were dictated by the RTA. So, it’s an unsurprising development for Ontario residential tenancy law that there is now a mandated form of lease.
There’s not much new in the standard lease. It’s more about form rather than content. Rights and responsibilities remain as set out in the RTA but now everyone will be working from a common document. The standard lease is largely “fill-in-the-blanks” and “check-the-boxes”. There’s space for provisions that are unique to a tenancy but those additions must still comply with the RTA.
The aim is clarity, plain language and reducing the hodge podge of clauses used by landlords in their own form of leases, many of which were often illegal under the RTA. Some residential landlords had a real DIY attitude to leases and, like any DIY job, that can lead to problems if you don’t fully understand the mechanics of what you are doing (ask my bathroom).
The standard lease also includes a general information appendix, which provides a concise summary of various rights and responsibilities (including entry by landlords, termination and subletting) with reference to the relevant sections of the RTA.
Tenants can request a copy of the standard lease from their landlord in writing. If the landlord fails to provide a copy with 21 days of that request, the tenant may withhold one month’s rent and may be entitled to early termination. If the landlord fails to produce a copy of the standard lease 30 days after the tenant began withhold rent, that one months’ rent may be forfeit.
The standard lease is not required for leases signed prior to April 30. Those prior leases continue in the ordinary course, in accordance with their terms (provided they are consistent with the RTA). Landlords and tenants with existing leases might negotiate new terms and conditions and, in that case, the standard lease is required for the new negotiated tenancy.
If you are renting in Ontario, get familiar with the standard lease – it’s no joke.
Adam Kowalsky is an associate at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. For more articles, visit the library page at www.cobbjones.ca