This article is the final piece of a 6 part series covering the most frequent issues brought up in our discussion with tenants. It also focuses on the rights of tenants in a long-term residential lease where rent is paid monthly. There are other arrangements such as community housing and where a tenant is the roommate of the landlord. These are not covered here. For more comprehensive information, please refer to the Resources section at the end of this article.
These articles are not meant to construe legal advice but are an attempt to clarify common situations and ensure tenants are aware that they do have rights. The appropriate documents are discussed for reference. Where a dispute or concern arises, it is always best to consult with a legal professional.
- Terminating a lease
- A final word on non-official sites
Terminating a lease
Terminating a lease is an important topic that is often mishandled by both landlords and tenants causing a lot of stress for the affected party.
The proper way for a tenant to terminate a lease unilaterally is to use the LTB’s form “Tenant’s Notice to End the Tenancy” (N9). It also clearly outlines the conditions under which a tenant may terminate a lease. Normally notice must be at least 60 days before the end of the rental period that the tenant wishes to move out. For example, if a tenant rental period ends on say March 31st and it is the day, they want to leave then notice must be given no later than January 31st. In addition, it cannot occur before the end of any fixed lease period. For example, it a tenant has a lease that ends on March 31st, 2022 then the last day of the tenancy cannot be before that date.
The reason this much notice is required, and the specificity for it being the end of a rental period, is to give the landlord a reasonable chance at re-renting the apartment without financial loss. Given most prospective tenants will also have this requirement with their existing landlord it is often difficult to fill a vacant unit faster than two months.
If a tenant wishes to move out earlier, then the tenant and landlord can come to another arrangement and use the form “Agreement to End the Tenancy” (N11). Unlike the N9, this is a mutual agreement to end the tenancy. Further, a tenant and landlord may stay with the original N9 notice period but if the landlord finds a tenant sooner then the tenant and landlord can use the N11 to terminate the lease earlier and the tenant is to receive any remaining rent already paid beyond the agreed new termination date. In other words, the landlord cannot double dip with the new tenant and previous tenant.
A landlord can also initiate a discussion about a mutual termination and if the tenant agrees then an N11 can be used. Note that a tenant does not have to agree to a mutual termination.
A landlord can unilaterally terminate a lease only under very specific situations. Namely:
- Not paying the rent in full
- Persistently paying the rent late
- Causing damage to the rental property
- Affecting the safety of others
- Disturbing the enjoyment of other tenants or the landlord
- Note this can include breaches of certain lease terms such as a requirement to acquire tenant liability insurance.
- Allowing too many people to live in the rental unit (“overcrowding”)
- Illegal acts
- Causing serious problems in the rental unit or residential complex
- The unit was a condition of a tenant’s employment by the landlord and the employment has ended (e.g. a superintendent).
- The landlord, a purchaser or a family member requires the rental unit (a.k.a. personal use) (only certain classes of buildings, such as houses)
- The Landlord wants to demolish the rental unit, repair it, or convert it to another use
Certain scenarios (not paying the rent in full and interfering with reasonable enjoyment) do offer a time period, where the tenant can resolve the matter and retain tenancy. However persistent recurrence of the issues can put a tenancy at risk.
The last two terminating a lease scenarios are worth examining in more detail.
Where a landlord requires the apartment for personal use, the form used is an N12. There are very strict rules on what constitutes personal use, and it involves the landlord, a family member or a purchaser moving in. Because this mechanism has been abused, there are severe penalties for a landlord who delivers an N12 in bad faith. If a tenant truly feels that a landlord is not acting in good faith, they may object to the N12 and have the case heard by the LTB. They can also pursue action within two years of moving out if it can later be demonstrated that the landlord acted in bad faith. An example of bad faith would be if the landlord did not in fact move in but instead rented it out to another tenant.
The last scenario is where the landlord plans to do one of the following: (1) demolish the unit; (2) renovate the unit; or (3) change the use of the unit. In this case they will use form N13. Again, if a tenant truly believes an N13 is being issued in bad faith then they can have the matter heard by the LTB. An example of bad faith in this case would be where a landlord evicts with an N13 for renovation but then does not renovate the unit but instead rents it out to someone else immediately. It is also important to note that for reason (2) renovation, a tenant can elect to return to the unit at the same rent after the renovations are complete. That election must be made before the tenant moves out.
A Final word on non-legal advice sites
In this internet era and the world of social media, it is important to recognize that not all advice is good advice. There are tenant rights groups and landlord rights groups which are meant to help support others who have questions. Often these questions arise when there is some form of dispute and thus emotions can be elevated. In our experience, much of the advice given is questionable and may lead someone to either do the wrong thing or create an even more elevated dispute.
It is important that tenants and landlords both know their rights and responsibilities for terminating a lease. Civil discussion between the parties on how to resolve a dispute is almost always preferable to testing it at a tribunal. The reality is that unless the facts are clear cut (e.g. a truly bad faith eviction or non-payment of rent) a decision by a tribunal can be unpredictable.
- Lease termination is strictly governed
- Tenants must use an N9 to notify of termination> it must by at least 60 days before the end of the lease period (usually end of the month) and it cannot be before the end a fixed lease term.
- A tenant and landlord may agree to a mutual termination (N11) and this is recommended even if an N9 is given especially if the tenant and landlord agree to a move out date earlier than the official required notice.
- A landlord cannot arbitrarily evict a tenant in Ontario. It must be done according to specific procedures. A landlord can face significant penalties for an illegal or bad faith eviction.
- Non-legal support sites (such as on Facebook) can be a source of comfort where tenants can seek guidance from other tenants. However, keep in mind that it is no substitute for a civil discussion between parties and obtaining proper legal advice.
Residential Tenancies Act: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/06r17
Ottawa’s property standard by-law proposal: https://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents/files/RAS_FinalLTR_Sept23_En.pdf