Landlord and tenant rights overview

Landlord and Tenant Rights are the fundamental building blocks for development of legal protections and/or standards in housing and housing accommodations in the private rental market. In Canada, these rights vary from province to province, differing in unique ways based on their historical and geographical context. To keep things simple, we are going to focus on landlord and tenant rights in Ontario.

Landlord and tenant rights in Ontario are governed by an overarching article of provincial legislation, the Ontario Residential Tenant Act (2006). The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), however, emerged only after 69 years of legal jurisprudence focusing more-so on rent controls than the regulations of landlord and tenant relations. The progressive evolution of Canadian housing policy leading to the development of the RTA speaks to the political, economic, and social challenges of regulating landlord and tenant relations. We hope to underline the importance of strong, supportive, and equitable approaches to housing rights policy.

This document will provide an overview of the history of landlord and tenant rights in relation to the development of housing policy and legislation, as well as a summary of the residential tenancy act as it relates to both landlords and tenants. The goal here is to help you understand some of the struggles in the development and enforcement of the landlord and tenant rights, exploring some of the imbalances in landlord-tenant relations, with the goal of providing a brief understanding of housing jurisprudence in Ontario. Finally, the overview of the RTA is there to clearly outline what rules and responsibilities govern landlord/tenants’ housing/living conditions and relationship.

It is important to recognize that this is not a legal document, nor is it legal advice, but rather a guide to understanding landlord and tenant relations leading up to and beyond the RTA, and to outline the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants. If you have any issues relating to your landlord and/or tenant, please contact a legal clinic and/or a lawyer for professional legal advice on how to address your specific situation.

There are plenty of free law/legal clinics in Toronto, and to help you in your search if/when you might need it, please see the list of legal clinic directories below:

  1. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) - Legal Clinics List:

  2. Community Legal Attention Ontario (CLEO) - Directory of Community Legal Clinics

  3. City of Toronto Website - Find Legal Help