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Tenant Talk: How much can my rent go up this year?

Community Legal Services | Interrobang | News | October 3rd, 2005

It seems every year student rents go up significantly. There are however strict rules landlords must follow to be in compliance with the law. Rents can be increased, but only by a small amount, to reflect the growing costs to the landlord.

A landlord can only increase rent after the tenant has paid for the unit for 12 months. The year begins on the first day the unit is rented to the tenant, or one year since the last increase for that tenant.

Notice of a rent increase must be given to the tenant in writing, stating the new rent, at least 90 days before the increase begins. If your landlord fails to give such notice, the increase will be void until the 90 days notice is provided.

Each year the Ontario government announces how much rents can be increased. The rent control index is based on inflation in the costs of operating a rental unit. This means the government reviews the raise in municipal property taxes, changes in heating and electrical costs, and maintenance. For 2005 the guideline is 1.5 per cent. This means landlords in Ontario can raise rent by 1.5 per cent.

Landlords can apply to the Ontario Housing Tribunal to increase above the rent control index. An increase over 1.5 per cent may be approved by the Tribunal if the landlord's costs for heat, hydro, water, municipal taxes, or building security costs have gone up more than the average cost to them. The Tribunal may also approve a greater increase if a major renovation or work has been done to the unit. A landlord may also increase rent if they begin to offer a new service to the tenant (for example they put in a dishwasher, provide a parking spot, or begin to pay the utilities).

If a landlord increases the rent without proper notice, or above the government guidelines a tenant may seek relief. A tenant has one years from the day the rent increase is effective to seek a refund. A tenant may apply to the Ontario Housing Tribunal for a review of their rent. If the Tribunal finds the rent increase was invalid they can order a rebate of the extra rent paid.

It can be difficult to calculate how much your landlord may increase the rent. Landlords may claim they did major repairs, when in reality only basic maintenance was done. If your landlord is raising your rent, read the notice they send carefully. If the increase is more than 1.5 per cent talk to your landlord to determine how they can justify an increase greater than the rent control index. Ask your landlord if they received approval from the Ontario Housing Tribunal for such a raise in rent. If your landlord will not provide you with such information you may apply for help from the Tribunal, or can come talk to us at Community Legal Services to see if your rent increase is unlawful.

This column provides legal information only. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4577.

If you have questions about the Tenant Protection Act, many answers can be found at the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal website at or you can call Community Legal Services, Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario at 1-519-661- 3352.
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