Housing, Waterloo

There’s No Place Like Home: Residential Tenancies Act

What is the Residential Tenancies Act?

Student rentals can be the worst. The fun combination of renters that don’t know their rights and predatory rental agencies make a recipe for disaster. I’m here to help you make sure that you don’t get scammed. If you think you won’t have these problems, you probably will so let’s figure this out together.

This will be a three-part series. First, let’s talk about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. I am going to read the Residential Tenancies Act for you and point to some of the more important things for you. Our final information piece will be all about maintenance and how to avoid maintenance charges. We’ll round off 2021 with a comprehensive report card for all the large rental companies in Waterloo. 

So, buckle up everyone. This is going to be an exciting journey. Let’s get those security deposits back. 

The Residential Tenancies Act is the Ontario legislation for all things rental. However, it does not include guidelines on the conduct of a hearing before the landlord and tenant board. I will also be only including information relevant to student housing in Waterloo. The full act can be found here. This article is meant for awareness and education and all legal claims should refer to the tenancies act. It also does not include information on evictions, what constitutes a legal rent increase, or legal disputes with the Tenancies Board.

Tenancy Agreements

A landlord may request income information, credit checks, references, rental history, or guarantors given that the requests adhere to the regulations of the Human Rights Code. 

Upon agreement of the tenancy, the landlord must give a written tenancy agreement or within 21 days, must give written notice of the legal name and address of the landlord. This is important for documents and notices. If the tenancy agreement is written, then the landlord must return a signed copy within 21 days. If the landlord fails to provide this required documentation, you may withhold up to one month’s rent. However, this rent must be paid if the landlord complies within 30 days of when the withheld rent is due even if the tenancy is terminated after the landlord complies. 

What does all of that mean?

  1. Tenancy agreements can be written or not. (Non-written tenancy agreements are risky and you should avoid them). 
    1. Tenancy agreements must be for occupancy of the same rental unit
    2. If the tenancy agreement is not written, the landlord must provide, in writing, the name, and address for tenancy documents
    3. If the tenancy agreement is written, the landlord must provide a signed tenancy document.
  2. After 21 days after the request, for specifications in 1,
    1. You may withhold up to one month’s rent
    2. Payments withheld must be payments that are due after the 21-day expiry
  3. You must pay back rent
    1. If the landlord complies within 30 days after the 21 days. 
    2. If the landlord complies within the 30 days after the 21 days and you leave the tenancy

Here are some other rules about the contents of the tenancy agreements. 

Your tenancy begins the day you are entitled to enter the unit, not the day you enter the unit. So, if you are entitled to enter the unit on January 3rd but enter on January 10th, the tenancy begins on January 3rd. However, this also means you are entitled to enter the unit on January 3rd. 

Pets can’t be prohibited in rental units. Any mention of this in a lease is void. 

Rent payments cannot be accelerated, required to be paid in advance of schedule if the tenant fails to pay rent due or carry out an obligation. You are not required to pay rent at a faster schedule than the regular rent payments for any period. Rent advances are not allowed to be required.  

As of March 1, 2021, there is a new standard lease that is required for a private landlord. This form can be accessed here.

Landlord Responsibilities

The landlord is responsible for maintenance to ensure good compliance with health, safety, housing, and maintenance standards, even if these standards weren’t met before the tenancy agreement. The landlord is responsible for maintenance to maintain the unit in a state fit for living. 

The landlord cannot withhold or prevent the supply of a vital service specified in the tenancy agreement even if the landlord is responsible for paying a third-party service to provide these services. These vital services are care, food, or other vital services that largely aren’t included in student tenancy agreements. 

The landlord cannot interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the unit. Reasonable enjoyment does not necessarily mean a hundred-person party but includes enjoyment of general habitation. 

The landlord cannot harass the tenants.

The landlord cannot change locks without notifying tenants and giving replacement keys or replacement codes. 

The landlord cannot restrict the entry of candidates running for any government elections if they are distributing election materials or canvassing. Basically, the landlord can’t prevent any party from canvassing your unit no matter how much they don’t like them. 

The landlord may only enter the unit under the following conditions:

  • Without written notice if
    • Emergencies
    • Tenants consent at the time of entry (you invite the landlord in)
    • For cleaning, if specified in the tenancy agreement (most student leases will not include this)
      • If specified time in the tenancy agreement, only at specified times OR
      • If times are unspecified, only between 8 am and 8 pm
    • Tour of a rental unit to prospective units if
      • Notice of termination has been given (you have told your landlord you will not be returning to the lease)
      • It is between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm
      • The landlord has made a reasonable attempt to contact tenants
  • With 24 hours written notice with specified time between 8 am and 8 pm if
    • The purpose is for maintenance
    • The purpose is for mortgagee, insurer, or relator broker, or realtor salesperson to view unit
    • Qualified individual to physically inspect the unit to comply with Condominium Act 
    • Reasonably ground to inspect the unit for determining compliance with health and safety standards 
    • What is specified in the tenancy agreement

Tenant Responsibilities

Ontario is known to have tenant-favoring legislation for rentals so there are not that many official tenant responsibilities. 

The tenant must keep the unit clean and undamaged and is responsible for repair if the damage is “caused by the willful or negligent conduct of the tenant” (Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, c. 17, s. 34). This is where landlord and tenant disputes tend to happen. If you punch a hole in your wall, I think we can both agree that that is your negligence and your responsibility to repair. I don’t know if the couch fabric peeling after sitting is due to negligence but I’ve definitely had a landlord who strongly thought so. This is why we have the Tenancy Board. I’d like to add that any damage as a result of guests invited by the tenant counts as damage by the tenant. So your friend punching a hole in the wall isn’t going to make you not liable. 

Also, tenants can’t change the locks without the landlord’s consent or harass the landlords.

In summary, avoid mess, damage, changing the locks, and harassment. 

Termination of Tenancy Agreement

The agreement is terminated if notice is given and must be terminated on the day of the notice. Termination notices and agreements made immediately upon entering tenancy are considered void unless the rental unit is owned or operated by post-secondary institutions (i.e. residence) or rental-unit is non-profit cooperative housing for students. 

The landlord cannot seize any property until the tenant has vacated the unit or by order of the Tenancy Board even if rent is not paid. If after abandonment but before 30 days after the landlord obtains an order terminating tenancy the tenant can still remove their property from the unit. 

When do you have to notify tenancy termination?

For a monthly and yearly tenancy, you need at least 60 days’ notice before the termination date which must be on the last day of the rental period. This is the last day of the month most likely for monthly periods and the last day of the rental year, typically the end of August or the end of May depending on the lease. 

What if I want to terminate my lease earlier?

This is possible if the tenant has requested a demand for a tenancy agreement that adheres to the rules summarized in the Tenancy Agreement section of this summary article or subsection 12.1(5) and 21 days have elapsed or the tenant refuses a new tenancy agreement. This is also permitted in cases of abuse. 

There are various conditions in which a landlord cannot terminate the lease early but this is generally uncommon for students and if readers are experiencing this issue, they should consult the Tenancy Regulations directly. 


Subletting of a rental unit is permitted with the consent of the landlord. This is usually done with a sublet form. If the landlord refuses consent of the sublet to any assignee or the landlord does not respond after 7 days, the tenant may terminate the lease after 30 days. Sublet charges may only consist of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred for consenting a potential assignee. 

However, the leaseholder is still liable to the landlord for any breaches to the tenancy. 


The only permitted deposit is a rent deposit. Key deposits and damage deposits, even refundable deposits, are not permitted. The only exception is that key deposits are allowed if it does not exceed the expected replacement costs. Rent deposits must not exceed one month’s rent and must be applied for the last period of the tenancy. Moreover, the landlord must pay interest on the rent deposit.

The only other permitted fees are tenant-liable damages and rent.

The landlord is required to provide receipt of payment upon request.


The above is a summary of the Residential Tenancies Act and should not act as legal advice. Please consult the Residential Tenancy Act or legal services for legal advice. 





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