Beginning April 30th all landlords in Ontario will be using one standard lease form for most residential agreements.
It will be mandatory for new tenancies in single and semi-detached houses, apartment buildings, rented condos, and secondary units like basement apartments.
However it won’t be mandatory for “most social and supportive housing, retirement and nursing homes, mobile home parks and land lease communities, or commercial properties.
This follows years of hapless tenants being forced to agree to illegal terms that should never be in any lease agreement.
Currently landlords simply draft their own lease agreements with the help of lawyers stating what they want or don’t want in it or they just download an online draft.
This has caused many illegal terms to show up on many leases which have been coming to the attention of authorities over the months.
Clauses that don’t allow pets, require post-dated cheques, or stipulate the landlord can give a tenant notice that they have to leave at any time are all void.
It is quite obvious that no longer will a landlord be able to specify they want vegetarians or tenants that belong to a particular religion.
The province’s new lease, designed to be “simple” and “easy-to-understand,” will collect basic information about rent, deposits, and utilities, according to a news release from the province.
The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) is concerned about one section lurking near the bottom of the form, called “additional terms.”
“Even if a tenant is savvy enough to spot an illegal clause, the lack of affordable housing and low vacancy rates leave tenants with little bargaining power to negotiate with the landlord,” she continued.
Leases already in place that don’t use the new template will still valid and enforceable as long as it is consistent with the Residential Tenancies Act.
But if you want your old lease replaced the new standard form, ask for it in writing, he explained.
Tenants whose landlords fail to provide a new standard lease following a written request are allowed to withhold rent.
If you ask your landlord for the lease, they have 21 days to provide it. After that, you can withhold up to one month’s rent — giving your landlord another 30 days to provide the lease. If they still don’t, you don’t have to pay the rent back.
Many landlords who’ve been routinely inserting all kinds of illegal clauses in their rental agreements are probably in a quandary. Potentially a tenant with a pet could sign the agreement and deny having a pet but enter on day one with his or her pet and the landlord would not be able to have the tenant removed because of it. It is clear that despite the standardized forms, there will still be complaints of harassment from tenants, especially those living in basement apartments.
But having a standard draft will in time ensure fairness for all.