Tenant rights

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The Human Rights Code provides protection against discrimination regarding housing. 

Landlords may not discriminate against a tenant because of any of the following: age, ancestry, colour, race, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, receipt of public assistance, sex or sexual orientation. 

For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant who is a senior, a newcomer to Canada, has children, receives Ontario Works income, or is LGBTQ2S. 

Tenants’ rights are set out in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), but not all types of housing qualify as rental units under the Act.

The RTA does not apply to people in emergency shelters, hospitals or nursing homes, student residences, seasonal or temporary housing, prisons, and where the kitchen or bathroom is shared with the owner.

The complex and often confusing RTA gives tenants important legal rights.

A Safe Home. The rental unit must be safe and in good repair. This is true even if tenants knew about repair problems before they agreed to rent the unit. 

Vital Services. Tenants must have access to heat, hot and cold water, electricity, and fuel (such as natural gas). A landlord may not shut off these services, even if the rent has not been paid. A landlord may shut off services for a short time to do repairs.

Heat. If heating costs are included in the rent, landlords must heat the rental units from September 1 to June 15. The RTA states that a landlord must ensure the heat is at 20°C or more. Municipalities may set a higher heat standard. In Chatham-Kent the minimum heat standard is 21°C.

Privacy. Tenants are entitled to privacy. Landlords may only enter a rental unit for certain reasons such as within 24 hours to make repairs, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. unless the tenant agrees to another time, to show the home to possible tenants, or in an emergency.

Controlled Rent Increases. A landlord may only raise the rent once in a 12-month period, with 90 days’ written notice, and by an annual legislated maximum percentage. In 2022, a landlord may raise the rent by 1.2%.

Children. Tenants have the right to have children living in the rental unit. The children and family have the right to make a “reasonable” amount of noise but may not disturb the enjoyment of the rental premises by other tenants. 

Harassment. Tenants have a right not to be harassed. Landlords may not coerce, threaten or interfere with a tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of the rental premises.

Documents. Tenants have a right to a written copy of the tenancy agreement and to the landlord’s legal name and address. Tenants also have a right to receive rent receipts if they ask for them.

Protection from Unlawful Eviction. Tenants may only be evicted for lawful reasons listed in the RTA.  These reasons will be discussed in our next column about “Tenant Responsibilities and Landlord Rights.”

If a landlord has breached your rights as a tenant, contact the Chatham-Kent Legal Clinic.

Walter Van de Kleut, CKLC Executive Director (www.cklc.ca, 519-351-6771)

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