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Tenant's Guide to Renting

As a tenant, you can protect yourself by knowing your rights and obligations. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about renting and the documents you may need for an enjoyable tenancy.

Essential documents for tenants

These are our top documents that tenants use every day to sublease spaces and interact with landlords.

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Step 1

Commercial Sublease Agreement

A Commercial Sublease Agreement is used when the original tenant wishes to transfer the remaining lease obligations under a commercial tenancy to a su...

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Step 2

Residential Sublease Agreement

A Residential Sublease Agreement is used when the tenant transfers property rights over to a third party, known as a subtenant, for the remainder of t...

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Step 3

Tenant Notices

Tenant Notices are given to a landlord by a tenant, and include Notice of Intent to Vacate, Notice of Termination, and Notice to Repair.

Last updated May 10, 2023

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Whether you're moving into your first place, setting up a business in a leased space, or getting ready to move out of a long-term rental, knowing how to protect yourself as a tenant is essential.

As a tenant, you often have to defend and advocate for your own interests. As such, it's crucial to know your rights and use the proper documents when communicating with your landlord.

The focus of this guide is on residential tenancies, but we'll provide useful information for commercial tenants as well. We explain renter's rights, tenant notices, landlord disputes, evictions, subletting, and ending your lease. 

Your rights as a tenant

What’s the biggest risk when renting out a property? Not knowing your rights. Without a basic understanding of your rights as a tenant, you could find yourself in an unfortunate situation.

All levels of government in Canada address tenant rights in some shape or form. In fact, the type of property you rent and the length of your lease can affect what laws apply to you. For example, some provinces have legislation specifically for tenants renting space in commercial buildings, condominiums, manufactured home parks, or who have a life-long lease.

While these situations may differ, tenants typically retain the same basic rights to protect them from harassment, discrimination, and unfair treatment by landlords.

Most tenant rights are covered by provincial and territorial legislation. If your jurisdiction doesn’t legislate commercial tenancies, the terms of your lease agreement are subject to property and contract laws. Human rights laws also apply to any tenancy. To review rental laws in-depth, take a look at these rules and regulations:

Jurisdiction     Residential Tenancy Commercial Tenancy
Alberta Residential Tenancy Act and Housing and Public Health Regulations Alberta has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
British Columbia Residential Tenancy Act and Regulations Commercial Tenancy Act
Manitoba Residential Tenancies Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act Manitoba has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
New Brunswick Residential Tenancies Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act New Brunswick has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
Newfoundland Residential Tenancies Act and the 2020 amendment Leaseholds in St. John’s Act
Northwest Territories Residential Tenancies Act Commercial Tenancies Act
Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act and Policy Summaries Nova Scotia has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
Nunavut Residential Tenancies Act (adapted from the NWT and amended) Commercial Tenancies Act (adapted from the NWT and amended)
Ontario Residential Tenancies Act Commercial Tenancies Act
Prince Edward Island Rental of a Residential Property Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act PEI has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
Quebec Rights and Obligations of the Lessee under their Civil Code Quebec has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
Saskatchewan Residential Tenancies Act and Regulations Saskatchewan has no laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies.
Yukon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act Commercial Landlord and Tenant Act

While it’s important to know which laws protect you as a tenant, parsing through legislation can be time-consuming. Don’t worry, that’s where we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about tenant rights in Canada.

1. The right to habitability

You should never have to put up with uninhabitable living conditions. As a paying tenant, you have a right to safe and livable building conditions.

Of course, repairs and maintenance are unavoidable. However, landlords have a responsibility to fix any major issues as they come up. This is because landlords must comply with provincial building codes and municipal housing standards.

For example, a landlord in Brampton, Ontario must ensure the building meets all requirements in the Ontario Building Code Act before allowing a person to occupy the space. They must also actively respect Brampton’s property standards, such as cleaning up any unsightly graffiti or repairing a broken fence.

By and large, a safe and livable property typically means:

  • The walls, roof, ceilings, foundation, stairs, and floors are structurally sound and safe.
  • The electrical, heating, plumbing, drainage, and ventilation systems are operating properly.
  • There are functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers within the rental unit.
  • Appliances and other fixtures are installed correctly.
  • All spaces are sanitary and free of any pest infestations.
  • Entry doors and windows are lockable.
  • Water is safe for consumption.

2. The right to quiet enjoyment

No matter how friendly your landlord is, they have to respect your boundaries. The bottom line: tenants have a right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises. This privacy right gives you some control over who enters your home and when they can enter.

Of course, landlords do have valid reasons for entering rental properties from time to time. They may have to conduct a routine inspection, repair something, or show the property to prospective tenants if you're moving out. Furthermore, they may have to hire a repair person or inspector for an issue in your unit.

Still, there must be a balance between both of your interests. When your landlord wants to enter the property, they must have a valid reason and give you reasonable notice.

Your right to privacy prevents your landlord from:

  • Entering your rental unit, or allowing someone else to enter, without providing you with adequate notice and obtaining your permission (excluding emergency situations)
  • Visiting or inspecting the rental property without a valid reason

In addition, this right to privacy prohibits your landlord from harassing you or misusing your personal information. The federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) protects your right to control access to your personal information. Some provinces (Alberta, BC, and Quebec) have their own private-sector privacy laws that may apply instead of PIPEDA.

Any information that your landlord collects from you should be kept confidential or shared only under appropriate circumstances. This means that without permission a landlord typically cannot share personal information collected in your rental application, lease agreement, or during an inspection with unauthorized parties.

3. The right to non-discrimination

Discrimination is never okay. As an applicant and tenant, you have a right to be treated fairly, without discrimination. In Canada, the provinces and territories typically outline protections for tenants in their Human Rights Codes, which vary by jurisdiction. These laws typically prohibit landlords and other housing providers from discriminating on the basis of:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Familial status

Keep in mind that a landlord can still refuse you as a tenant without discrimination. For instance, a landlord can legally deny your rental application if you have poor credit or won't be able to pay rent.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against while renting or applying to rent, you can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission in your jurisdiction.

4. The right to the return of a deposit

Landlords often require tenants to pay a deposit before they move into a rental unit.  However, this money doesn’t automatically belong to your landlord. If you fulfill your obligations as a tenant, you have the right to the return of your security deposit.

In other words, if you pay your dues and leave the rental property in the same condition it was in at the beginning of your tenancy (excluding normal wear and tear), your landlord should return your money. In some jurisdictions, you may also be entitled to your deposit plus interest.

It’s important to note that some jurisdictions require landlords to perform a property inspection (both at the beginning and end of the tenancy) to justify any deductions from a tenant’s deposit. If the requirements aren’t met, the landlord forfeits their claim. Likewise, a tenant may forfeit their right to the return of their deposit if they (or their representative) do not attend the required inspection.

Provincial and territorial governments in Canada have policies regarding what type of deposit a landlord can collect, how much they can charge, and when they must repay the tenant.

5. The right to transparency

Tenants deserve a clear understanding of a rental property before signing any contracts. As such, landlords should be transparent about the physical condition of a property and the terms and conditions of their Lease Agreement. Generally, this means that your landlord must tell you if:

  • They have surveillance cameras set up on or around the premises
  • The rental property is at risk of foreclosure (i.e., the property is being used as collateral to secure a loan)
  • There were bed bugs in the unit within the past year
  • There were (or are) any mould or asbestos issues
  • They charge fees that are non-refundable 

How to use tenant notices

Regardless of how seamless your tenancy is, you'll eventually need to notify your landlord of something. When doing so, you should use an official tenant notice to give written notice to your landlord on matters such as breaches of lease terms or your intention to end your lease.

It's crucial to document certain issues and create a record when you provide notice. If you have to pursue legal action against your landlord (or if your landlord takes legal action against you), you can use this documentation as evidence to support your argument.

Notice to Repair

Whether it's a leaking dishwasher or a burst pipe, something in your rental will probably need fixing eventually. When something in your rental unit requires repair or maintenance, tell your landlord about the issue with a Notice to Repair. Ideally, they’ll prioritize the repair and either fix it themselves or hire a contractor.

Notice of Intent to Vacate

If you want to end your lease before the end of your lease term, give your landlord a written Notice of Intent to Vacate within an appropriate time frame. Refer to your Lease Agreement to see if the landlord specified how much notice you must give to end your lease early. Landlords can require anywhere from 30 to 90 days' notice.

However, you may be able to give shorter notice if the landlord commits a substantial breach of the terms of your Lease Agreement. Refer to your Lease Agreement or local Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to see when a tenant has the right to break their lease and how soon they must notify their landlord.

You can also send a Notice of Intent to Vacate if your lease automatically renews at the end of its term and you want to exit the agreement.

Termination Notice

Use a Termination Notice when you want to end your lease early, but keep in mind that you must have a valid reason for doing so (unless it's a periodic tenancy, such as a month-to-month rental). The following reasons are generally permissible:

  • Your landlord failed to repair a problem related to health and safety standards
  • You’re in the military and have been called for duty
  • You’re moving to a seniors' home
  • Another tenant died and you can no longer meet financial obligations

Again, for residential tenancies, you can refer to your local RTA for valid reasons to terminate your lease immediately. For commercial tenancies, refer to your contract with the landlord.

What a landlord can and cannot do

Like tenants, landlords have various rights and obligations that govern how they can and cannot act during a tenant's application process and tenancy.

During the application process

Landlords cannot discriminate against you, but they still retain the right to select their own tenants. A landlord may reject your tenant application because of the following reasons:

  • You don't agree to the landlord's lease terms
  • Your previous landlord gave you a poor review
  • You won't consent to a background check
  • You have a criminal history
  • You lie in your Rental Application
  • You have a poor credit score
  • You’re bankrupt

During your tenancy

For residential tenancies, the RTA in your jurisdiction should outline landlords’ responsibilities and obligations. Typically, these laws ensure that landlords cannot:

  • Prevent you from entering the rental property
  • Evict you without giving adequate written notice
  • Retaliate against you when you complain about something
  • Refuse to make necessary repairs
  • Force you to complete repairs
  • Conceal certain conditions of the property
  • Ask invasive questions
  • Remove your personal belongings from the property

Although you have many protections as a tenant, landlords still retain the right to control their property and seek solutions when you breach your lease terms. For example, a landlord typically has the right to:

  • Require a security deposit at the beginning of a tenancy
  • Enter the property to conduct an inspection or make a repair (providing adequate notice first)
  • Restrict subleasing (exceptions may apply)
  • Evict tenants that don’t pay rent or break the lease terms
  • Increase rent (in accordance with local laws)
  • Collect rent on time

What to do if you're having problems with your landlord

Are you finding yourself at odds with your landlord?

If you’ve voiced your grievances and still can’t reach a solution, you essentially have two options: end your tenancy early or take legal action against the landlord. However, these options can be inconvenient and costly.

If you’re unsure of what to do, it’s best to consult a lawyer or your local Landlord and Tenant Board:

Otherwise, here are some possible solutions for common issues tenants face.

The landlord won't make property repairs

Waiting for an important repair, such as fixing the heating, can negatively impact your life or business. If your landlord doesn’t fix a problem after you bring it to their attention, this could qualify as a breach of contract and give you the right to terminate your lease. If the issue affects your health and safety, the landlord may be in violation of the law.

When your landlord fails to make property repairs, you can:

  • Repair the issue yourself and request reimbursement
  • Notify your landlord of your intent to terminate the Lease Agreement
  • Apply to your local Landlord & Tenant Board for dispute resolution
  • Contact your local Health Services Office to speak with an inspector

The landlord invades your privacy

Canada’s PIPEDA law provides some protection to tenants’ privacy. Your landlord should not invade your privacy or mishandle your personal information. For example, landlords cannot add your name to their personal “Bad Tenants List” and share that information with other landlords. 

If you can, be sure to document any privacy issues. You can also use a Cease and Desist Letter to demand your landlord stop their inappropriate behaviour or face legal action. In some cases, you may be able to make a formal complaint to the authority that oversees privacy legislation in your jurisdiction.

Alternatively, you could avoid a drawn-out confrontation by ending your tenancy and finding a new place to live or run your business.

The landlord won't refund a deposit

Depending on your jurisdiction, the landlord may need your written approval to deduct money from a deposit that you paid at the beginning of your tenancy. If you don’t approve of the deductions, you may be able to dispute the landlord’s claim through your local Landlord and Tenant Board.

However, legal actions can be lengthy and expensive. To avoid this situation, it’s best to be present for Property Condition Reports at the beginning and end of your tenancy. This way, you can prove what damage you may or may not be responsible for.

How eviction works

Tenancy laws outline the process that landlords must follow when ending a tenancy and reclaiming possession of their property.

There are many reasons for a landlord to terminate a tenancy agreement. However, if the tenant is at fault, they should typically give the tenant the opportunity to remedy the situation first. In any case, landlords should always provide adequate Notice to Terminate.

How can a landlord evict a tenant?

Luckily, landlords can't impulsively evict you whenever they feel like it. But that doesn't mean you’re immune from eviction if you break your lease terms. Generally, your landlord should take the following steps to evict you:

  1. If your lease expires, your landlord gives you proper notice that they won't renew the lease. If you violate your lease terms, your landlord gives you written notice to remedy the violation or move out.
  2. If you don't remedy the violation or move out, your landlord pursues an eviction action with the court.
  3. The court rules on the case and authorizes a court-ordered eviction.
  4. Authorities forcibly remove you from the rental unit if you don't move out.

Notice periods vary by jurisdiction. The type of lease you have and the landlord’s reason also affect how much notice they must give before terminating a tenancy. Usually, landlords serve a notice by delivering it to any adult tenant of the property.

It’s important to know which rules apply to your situation. Contact your local Landlord/Tenant Advisory Board or a lawyer if you’re unsure of your rights and obligations.

What if I'm unfairly evicted?

If your landlord doesn’t follow the legal process for eviction, you may be able to pursue a wrongful or “bad-faith” eviction lawsuit against your landlord. Refer to your local RTA  or contact a lawyer for the eviction laws that apply to you. 

You may also file a lawsuit if your personal belongings are illegally removed from your home. Depending on the circumstances of your eviction, you’ll have a period of time to reclaim your belongings before vacating the premises. 

How to sublease your rental

Sometimes, life happens, and you need to move out before your lease ends. In these kinds of situations, subletting can be the perfect solution. Subletting allows you to rent out your space to another tenant, which may interest you if you need to relocate temporarily or permanently.

As long as you have permission from the landlord, you can sublet any type of residential or commercial property. Check your lease's terms or talk with your landlord before entering into a Sublease Agreement. If your original Lease Agreement forbade subleasing, your landlord may agree to amend the contract and give you permission to sublease.

In most jurisdictions, your landlord cannot deny your request without reasonable grounds. If they don’t respond to your request within a certain time frame, some laws state that a tenant can assume the landlord agrees to the sublease.

Sublease Agreements

Use a Sublease Agreement or Commercial Sublease Agreement to document the terms of your new rental contract. In this situation, you become the sublandlord and the other tenant is the subtenant.

Keep in mind that a sublease does not invalidate the terms of the original lease. For instance, the sublease cannot exceed the length of time that you agreed to rent the property, as indicated in your original lease with the property owner. You retain your obligations to the landlord, in addition to being liable for damages or lease violations by the subtenant.

Both you and the subtenant should sign the sublease and keep a copy for your records. Additionally, attach a copy of the master lease to the Sublease Agreement or deliver it directly to the subtenant.

Short-term and vacation rentals

Vacation rentals, such as Airbnb or, are a popular method of subletting. However, some municipalities have regulations for short-term or vacation rentals. For example, in Toronto, you must:

  • Register your short-term rental property
  • Pay an accommodation tax
  • Comply with local regulations (e.g., provide emergency exit plans and keep accounting records)

As such, it’s essential to review both your Residential Lease Agreement and your local laws before proceeding with a sublease.

If you do become a sublandlord, it’s also important to understand how rental income from your subtenant affects your taxes.

How to end your tenancy

Unfortunately, ending a fixed-term lease early is not as simple as it sounds. You cannot terminate a lease for any and all reasons. Typically, your Lease Agreement will include terms for early termination. Plus, your local RTA outlines the situations in which you can cancel your lease without legal repercussions.

For example, if you’re halfway through a fixed-term lease and decide that you want to move to a bigger place, you cannot simply give your landlord notice and move out. Once you sign a lease, you are financially liable for the rent that you've agreed to pay.

Research which laws and regulations may apply to your rental situation. In most cases, you can exit your lease if you give written notice within an appropriate time frame. 

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