In this post I will discuss residential leases in Ontario. What should be on your lease? What is the purpose of the lease? Should you even have a lease? These are a few of the questions I encounter on a regular basis.
First of all the first thing you need to know about residential leases in Ontario is that you cannot contract out of the Tenant Protection Act. The Act is very clear about pets (No pet clauses in leases are void) and maintenance (the landlord is always responsible for maintenance) and utilities payments (You have to go to Small Claims).
The Act does specify a few things, the tenant must get a copy of their lease within 21 days or they don’t have to pay rent. The lease must include an address for service of documents to the owner. Finally by law every lease must include a copy of this Tenant Information Package from the Landlord & Tenant Board.
There are certain items that should also be included that I consider to be vitally important.
Date rent is to be paid
Manner in which the rent is to be paid
Move in date
60 days notice required by law
24 hour notice for maintenance
Names & Phone numbers and email addresses for everyone if available
Appliances included in the rental, fridge,stove, dishwasher, lawnmower, etc.
Any expectation the landlord has such as put out the garbage, no pets, no smoking.
My lease is short and sweet and includes all the above information. I read it out loud at the lease signing so that everyone understands what is expected of them. Despite the fact that the Landlord & Tenant Board won’t enforce certain provisions in the lease I think it is vitally important that they be included. Most reasonable people will follow whatever lease they sign as long as it doesn’t include ridiculous expectations (which some of them do) and as long as they understand what is expected of them. There’s nothing I hate more than 5 page leases in 9 point font. Nobody reads this kind of lease and no one can follow the rules if they don’t know what they are. Then as a property manager, you have to tell people what they signed. “Hey on page 3 paragraph 97 your lease states that you must pay an extra $100 per month if you are using a window air conditioner.” It’s a lot easier and simpler to let people know ahead of time in simple language what they are expected to pay etc.
Another great idea is to include a Welcome Home Page to your lease. This will include a nice message to the tenant welcoming them to the building or apartment and let them know where to store their garbage, where the closest grocery store is, schools, parks and other information that is handy for them to know about the area. This really isn’t necessary, it’s just nice.
I highly recommend having a lease; if your lease is clear and precise it can be a resource for the tenant about what your expectations are. It can do a lot to smooth the transition from one area to another as well as provide helpful information. Simplicity and clarity are two often overlooked attributes in leases written by lawyers. So go back to basics and use simple common language. Your tenant shouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand their lease. Let’s use this written document to improve the relationship between landlord and tenant.