It’s the clause that has no claws, yet many landlords still use it, and many prospective tenants still fear it.
The infamous “no pets allowed” line is frequently inserted into lease agreements, sending many animal-owning apartment seekers scattering.
However, what some do not know is that the clause is void in Ontario. And it’s not the only one.
Does your lease say you can’t have overnight guests? Void. Obligated to pay a damage deposit? Void.
Due to a general lack of awareness on the parts of both landlords and tenants on how to bring a lease in line with Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, with all its rules that govern living arrangements, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) has come up with what it believes to be a solution.
This fall, the FMTA will roll out its version of a standardized lease agreement, an 11-page document they want all landlords in Ontario to use. Similar templates exist in other jurisdictions, including parts of Australia.
The standardized lease would lay out the rights and responsibilities of each party as stipulated by the tenancies act, as well as room for negotiating charges and services provided, such as electricity bills or parking fees. In other words, “clauses that are not void,” said Anita Agrawal, the FMTA’s vice-chair.
“Our first priority is to propose it and have it legislated, and then to give tenants the ability to better negotiate with their landlord,” she said.
The FMTA’s board is currently working on a promotional campaign for their “fair lease” concept and approaching MPPs.
But on the government end, it seems there is little interest in the idea.
“Considering the unique nature of each tenancy agreement in Ontario, we believe landlords and tenants should have the flexibility to decide how best to determine the lease agreement,” said Richard Stromberg, a spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
The concept of a standardized lease partly stems from the numerous phone calls fielded by the FMTA’s hotline from tenants questioning certain sections of their lease.
“When one of (the void) clauses appears, we tell tenants they don’t even have to debate it. They can tell the landlord or can go straight to the Landlord and Tenant Board,” said Geordie Dent, the FMTA’s executive director.
While Stromberg pointed out that landlords are obligated to give new renters a government-produced “Information for New Tenants” brochure, the document only touches on one of the five void clauses mentioned by the FMTA: the clause regarding damage deposits.
Daryl Chong, president of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, which represents owners of multi-unit residences, said the tenancies act “already acts as a kind of standardized lease” as landlords must follow it.
At the Ontario Landlords Association, which acts on behalf of small residential landlords, spokesperson Liz Dong said the association does its best to educate its members on how to properly draft leases.
Should there be a greater push for a standardized lease in the near future, Dong said “it will require all stakeholders to create it,” mentioning tenant groups, “huge corporate landlords,” and landlords of small- and medium-sized buildings.
Top 5 most commonly reported void clauses in leases
• No pets allowed
• Requiring a tenant to pay a damage deposit
• No overnight guests
• Requiring a tenant to get contents insurance
• No subletting
Limits Set On Guideline Rent Increases
On Wednesday June 13, 2012 the government of Ontario passed legislation that amended the Residential Tenancies Actas it relates to guideline rent increases. Previous to this amendment the guideline increase was set by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and would go as high as the index allowed. Now the guideline increase is still set by the CPI but it is capped at 2.5 percent. This means that if the CPI exceeds 2.5 percent you will only receive an increase of 2.5 percent. Now the guideline is limited between 0-2.5 percent, no more, no less.
Tenant’s Rights – see brochure