Are you managing a difficult situation with a landlord?
As a tenant, you have certain rights and responsibilities. If you're doing your part and there are still things going wrong, it might be time to figure out how to get your landlord in trouble with the law.
Landlords can be tricky. While there are many wonderful landlords and property managers, others try to get the most money with the least amount of effort. This ends up hurting tenants who get trapped in leases under unacceptable conditions.
We want to help you navigate this situation. We'll discuss what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant, what your landlord should be held responsible for, and how to file a complaint against a landlord in Ontario.
What your landlord is doing may be illegal, and apartment tenant rights in Ontario could protect you. Keep reading to learn more.
It's important that you don't go making accusations or trying to get someone in trouble without a reasonable cause. It's possible that you and your landlord are having a disagreement based on poor communication, or that there's something going on behind the scenes.
Your first step should always be communication.
Most landlords are open to conversation. You can do this via phone or email. If you're struggling with something going unfixed or poor treatment from the landlord or other tenants, reach out.
If problems persist, it may be time to take action. There are landlord legal responsibilities, and if they're not fulfilling them after they're brought to their attention, you have the right to get help.
When it comes to landlord responsibilities, you need to know what they're responsible for and what you're responsible for.
Many of your landlord's responsibilities should be detailed in your lease. Before asking any questions, make sure that you read over the lease to see if you've missed something.
Landlords are responsible for maintaining a habitable space. In most situations, they're responsible for property maintenance. They're also responsible for anything that could damage someone's ability to live safely, like electrical outages, heating, running water, and general safety (like getting rid of or fixing hazards).
These things are true regardless of what the lease says.
Landlords are responsible for fixing:
Your landlord should clean and paint between tenants if the paint is damaged or outdated. If there are signs of excess dirt, you are free to contact them to fix the problem.
While normal dirt and grime are your responsibility, there are exceptions. For example: when it comes to cockroaches in your apartment, the law in Ontario says that landlords need to take steps to fix the problem.
If you're nervous about asking a landlord to fix something, don't be. Most of the time, landlords will respond to repair requests as soon as possible so they can maintain their reputation and keep their property in good condition.
With that in mind, you may need to take extra steps.
First, make sure that you put your request in writing. You can send a letter, send a note through a rental portal if they have one, or send an email. This establishes a paper trail.
If your landlord isn't responding, you can try to withhold rent. Make sure that you're in the right when you do this or you could end up on the wrong side of a legal complaint. It's best to report violations first if you're unsure.
Tenants also have responsibilities. Three primary responsibilities that are consistent regardless of what your lease says include:
Most tenant responsibilities are reasonable.
Tenants are responsible for certain duties as well. While the landlord needs to do the bulk of the work, you still need to maintain your home.
First, tenants should keep their homes clean. They don't have to be spotless, but tenants are responsible for making sure that their homes don't look as though they have a hoarding situation.
They also need to make sure that their messes stay within the confines of their unit and don't extend to other tenants or common areas.
Tenants are also responsible for fixing any damage that they cause. If there are holes in the walls, for example, a tenant should fix them (or pay to have them fixed).
If you're worried that this has progressed from a common misunderstanding to a serious harassment issue, you may be able to pursue action. But what does landlord harassment mean?
There are several things that landlords aren't allowed to do.
First, your landlord needs to abide by the terms of your lease. This means that they're required to make all necessary repairs and provide all amenities that were promised to you when you signed your paperwork. They may also try to cut the lease by refusing rent payments.
If a landlord cuts off your utilities or starts construction projects that don't have a purpose aside from trying to drive out the tenant, this is also harassment.
Landlords aren't allowed to enter your apartment without prior notice. There are certain situations in which a landlord can enter, but they are considered emergencies.
Anything that would be called harassment outside of the context of renting is also landlord harassment. Sexual harassment, physical harassment, and verbal harassment can all get your landlord in trouble.
Having disagreements with your landlord, or deciding that you don't like what they're doing, doesn't mean that they're harassing you.
As we mentioned, there are emergency situations in which a landlord can enter your apartment. If your landlord enters during an emergency, it's not harassment.
Landlords are allowed to evict you if you're not paying rent or if you're otherwise breaking the terms of the lease. This is not harassment. Most good landlords will discuss the situation with you first.
While raising rent without notice may go against the terms of your lease, if a landlord gives you appropriate notice, this isn't harassment.
So at what point is it appropriate to start taking legal action?
We mentioned before that your first step should always be communication. After that, filing a report is a good call. Learn how to file a complaint against a landlord in Ontario and start the process. These steps are often enough to fix any landlord-tenant disputes.
After this, though, you may run out of options.
You want to find a good tenant and landlord lawyer who knows all about tenants' rights and protections. Once you've determined that your landlord isn't holding up their end of the lease and you've exhausted all other options, pursue legal action.
There are risks involved with this course of action.
If the judge determines that the harassment doesn't warrant legal action, your landlord may retaliate until they're able to remove you from the property. If you're in this situation, though, it's likely that you'll want to move elsewhere.
You also risk having a bad reputation as a tenant, even if you're in the right. Remember, many rentals call previous landlords as references.
The benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to pursuing legal action. If you're sure that your landlord is in the wrong, they will be required to amend the problem if the court orders it.
You may also be entitled to compensation if you've had to live outside of the home or apartment due to bad conditions, if they've been withholding amenities, or if they've been manipulating the lease.
If you're already trying to figure out how to get your landlord in trouble, you probably suspect that something that they're doing is inappropriate. Your suspicions may be correct.
If your landlord isn't abiding by the terms of your lease, you're allowed to bring it up.
Discuss your concerns with your landlord or property manager first to make sure that there wasn't a misunderstanding. When all else fails, pursue legal action.
Remember, even if you move out, you're leaving room for this landlord to do the same things to someone else.
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