At this time of year, many tenants are moving into new places. And while moving can be a fresh start, sometimes problems with a previous landlord can linger.
This month's On the Radar looks at what the law says about some of the most common of these scenarios.
Damage to the unit
Most landlords do inspections after tenants move out, and they often find various things wrong that they then want the tenant to pay for.
Tenants are responsible to pay for "undue" damage, which is more than ordinary wear and tear, if it was caused by themselves or their guests either on purpose or through carelessness.
So if a former landlord wants the tenant to pay for damage that is really ordinary wear and tear, or that was caused through no fault of the tenant or their guests, the tenant can simply refuse.
But if the landlord takes legal action, usually in Small Claims Court or at the Landlord and Tenant Board, the tenant must respond within the time limit, or the landlord may win their case by default.
In Ontario, landlords cannot ask for a damage deposit or use a tenant's last month rent deposit to cover damage. If the landlord does this, the tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an order that the deposit be returned.
Not giving proper notice
When a tenant decides to move out, they must give the landlord proper notice. If they don't, they could continue to be responsible for the rent even after they move.
Giving proper notice can be tricky. Here are the main requirements:
- It must be in writing, and dated and signed by the tenant. It is best to use the form that is on the Landlord and Tenant Board's website.
- In most cases, tenants must give at least 60 days' notice if they pay by the month and 28 days if they pay by the day or week.
- Usually, the tenant must choose a date to move out (the "termination date" on the form) that is the last day of a rental period. (This is the rule that trips up many tenants – and landlords.)
- If there is a lease, the termination date cannot be earlier than the last day of the lease.
Even if the tenant did not give proper notice, there are rules that limit how many extra rent payments they can be held responsible for. Also, the landlord must try to minimize the amount of rent they are losing before they can claim money from the outgoing tenant. For example, the landlord should rent the unit to a new tenant as quickly as possible.
As with damage claims, the tenant can simply refuse to pay if they think the landlord's claim is not justified. But they must respond to any legal action the landlord takes.