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Tenant Talk: What you should know about leases

Community Legal Services | University of Western Ontario | News | April 3rd, 2006



Many people are aware that in Ontario there is a law called the Tenant Protection Act (TPA), which gives landlords and tenants certain rights and obligations. Many tenants assume that the TPA only applies to those who have signed a lease. This assumption is incorrect.

The TPA is applicable to most tenancy agreements. A tenancy agreement is an agreement between yourself and your landlord for the occupancy of an apartment or rental unit. A tenancy agreement can be written, oral or implied. A written tenancy agreement is a lease. It can be simple or complicated but it generally covers the time period of the lease, the amount of rent to be paid (with or without utilities) and the address of the rental unit.

An oral tenancy agreement is an agreement that is not written but established through verbal communication. The parties agree to the basics but they never commit the agreement to writing.

Implied leases focus on the behaviour of the landlord and tenant. For instance, the landlord may verbally agree to rent a house to a tenant but never discuss the use of the detached garage. If the tenant uses the garage and the landlord knows they are using the garage, it is implied that the use of the garage is included in the rent. If the landlord tried to later say the garage was not part of the deal, the tenant could argue the landlord had full knowledge of the arrangement and never stopped the use of the garage.

Consequently, if you are currently renting, it is highly likely that you have a tenancy agreement and are subject to the TPA (there are some exceptions) regardless of whether or not you signed a written lease.

If you sign a written tenancy agreement (a lease) and return it to your landlord, your landlord has 21 days to provide you with a copy. If you are under an oral or implied tenancy agreement with your landlord, your landlord must inform you in writing, of his or her legal name and address within 21 days after your tenancy begins. If your landlord has not provided you with a copy of your lease within 21 days, or conversely has not informed you of their legal name and address within 21 days (if you are under an oral or implied agreement), you do not have to pay your rent. However, once your landlord delivers your lease, or provides you with their name and address you must start to pay your rent, paying any back rent that is owed.

Remember, the TPA not only confers rights, but also gives you certain obligations. This is an important point. Students often believe that since they have not signed a lease they do not have any legal responsibilities as a tenant. As this article has illustrated, almost everybody who rents is subject to the TPA and is thus subject to the rights and obligations that flow from this important law.

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 www.orht.gov.on.ca or you can call Community Legal Services, Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario at 1-519-661- 3352.

Fanshawe College students can book appointments at our weekly satellite office on their campus by calling Community Legal Services at the above number.
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