Housing

Tenant Information

COVID-19: Tenants and Property Owners

The information below outlines some of the changes, options and supports available to you during these challenging times.   

If you cannot pay your rent because of layoffs or mandatory self-isolation caused by COVID-19, pay what you can and speak with your landlord to work out a payment plan. Your landlord will expect some documentation of your inability to pay. You will have to pay this rent when your income improves, or when the COVID-19 crisis is over. Apply for any financial support programs you may qualify for. See the Financial Supports for Individuals section, as well as Financial Assistance for Tenants (Housing Help Centre).

Before you agree to a repayment plan, you should consider getting legal advice. You should not agree to a repayment plan that you cannot afford. Tenants can contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for free legal advice.

Landlords should discuss individual situations with tenants, including programs offered by other levels of government, and whenever possible be flexible in making specific arrangements for payment of rent during this challenging time. Landlords who have trouble paying their expenses because of reduced rental revenues or COVID-19 related costs may qualify for relief programs to support businesses and property owners.

A reminder that rent strikes are illegal and put tenants at risk of eviction. It is important that everyone work together during this time of crisis.

Helpful Links:

The Ontario government suspension of new evictions through the COVID-19 crisis has ended as of August 1. Refer to the Landlord and Tenant Board website for details. It is critical that tenants and landlords have a written rent repayment agreement in place with payments that the tenant is able to make in their current financial situation. Tenants should not agree to repayment amounts they are not able to pay. Tenants should speak to their landlord about a repayment agreement even if they have received an eviction notice. Learn more about the financial supports that may be available.

Eviction orders issued before the mid-March Emergency Order are now being enforced. Eviction hearings are now being scheduled. Where landlords have given tenants eviction notices (N notices) during the eviction suspension, landlords must follow the processes in the Residential Tenancies Act to evict a tenant. These eviction processes were recently revised and the changes are retroactive to the March Emergency Order. Landlords and tenants can learn more about these changes to rental and eviction law from the Government of Ontario.

CERB applications are now being reviewed. Individuals who received CERB payments but were ineligible will be required to repay the amounts received. The CRA is asking individuals to repay those amounts by December 31, 2020. If a person repays the CERB before this time, the government says that they won't be fined or get any type of penalty. Review the CERB repayment details. For questions about your individual circumstance, please contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.

Tenant questions should be directed to Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. Landlord questions should be directed to Tribunals Ontario. Check this site regularly for additional updates and helpful links. 

Helpful Links:

The Residential Tenancy Act, 2006 (RTA) establishes a framework for the regulation of residential rents and balances the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. It provides protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and unlawful evictions, and includes processes to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. 

Learn more about landlord rights and responsibilities

Helpful Links:

There are many types of financial support available to help individuals and families experiencing challenges due to COVID-19. A COVID-19 Virtual Assistant is available online to help you find more information on what financial supports are there for you from the Government of Canada.

Learn more about federal and provincial financial supports for individuals

Helpful Links:

The Property Tax Assistance program outlines several financial measures to Hamilton property taxpayers and ratepayers dealing with the possible financial hardship caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

Learn more about Support for Property Tax Payers 


Helpful Links:

Landlords are urged to adopt enhanced health and safety measures to protect residents from COVID-19. Residential buildings with a high number of units should adopt new practices and a rigorous cleaning routine to prevent viral spread.

Property owners/tenants are encouraged to check in on vulnerable residents/neighbours, connecting them to appropriate local agencies and supports if necessary.

Helpful Links:

To date, the City of Hamilton has allocated over $700,000 toward supporting vulnerable residents during this difficult time by assisting with food and basic needs, keeping shelters open and working with agencies to provide access to washrooms/showers. Isolation Centres have also been set up to provide food and shelter to any individuals in the shelter system that test positive for COVID-19.

A temporary emergency shelter based out of FirstOntario Centre will offer additional support to individuals who are at-risk and/or experiencing homeless, accommodating overflow from the shelter system to help ensure physical distancing.

Staff are also exploring ways to provide online supports for older adults, offering property owners some form of tax relief and setting up a network to deliver essentials like food and medication to those who are self-isolating but have little support.

List of emergency shelters for men, women, youth and families

 

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

Once you have rented a place to live, you become a tenant. You have rights and responsibilities and so does your landlord. These rights are explained in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). You must follow the laws in this act and the terms in your lease.

For a full list of tenant rights and responsibilities, please visit Settlement.Org to learn more about your rights as a tenant and your responsibilities as a tenant

The law says that a landlord may only ask for up to one (1) month’s rent in advance before you move in. Once you move in, any money you have paid the landlord in advance is usually applied to your last month’s rent. As part of the Residential Tenancies Act, (RTA) there are rules for tenant protection.


How much can my rent be raised each year?

In most cases, a landlord can increase the rent once a year according to a guideline set by the Ontario Government. The rent increase guideline is based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is calculated monthly by Statistics Canada.

A landlord must give a tenant at least 90 days’ notice in writing of any rent increase. The 2020 rent increase guideline is 2.2%, the most a landlord can raise your rent that year and applies to most rental accommodations covered by the RTA with the exception of:

  • rental units first occupied for residential purposes after November 15, 2018.
  • vacant residential units
  • social housing units
  • commercial units
  • nursing homes

There is no limit to how much a landlord can increase the rent each year for these units.

Landlords may apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to raise rents above the Rent Increase Guideline if:

  • The complex`s costs for municipal taxes or utilities have increased by an extraordinary amount;
  • The landlord incurred eligible significant capital expenditures (renovations, repairs, replacements or additions); and,
  • The landlord incurred additional operating costs related to security services or initiated security features.

Tenants may dispute an Above Guideline Increase (AGI) application they believe does not meet the RTA requirements.

For legal advice on these matters, please contact Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

For questions about the RTA and to resolve disputes between most residential landlords and tenants, please contact the Landlord and Tenant Board. To learn more about your legal rights, visit Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO).


My landlord applied to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an increase above the rent guideline increase set by the government.  What do I do?
 
  • Contact Hamilton Community Legal Clinic to determine if this increase may be eligible, according to the guideline set by the Ontario Government.
  • Keep a copy of the proof of your landlord’s application and attend your hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
My landlord has advised me that renovations are taking place and that it is in my best interest to move because of the inconvenience they will cause. What do I do?
 
  • You do not have to move. Your landlord must follow the legal process at the Landlord and Tenant Board by giving you a notice of termination form. Note: you do not have to move by the termination date. Instead, wait for a hearing and contact the Legal Clinic for advice.
  • Your landlord must not harass or intimidate you.
  • Think about the costs of moving and the rent for a new unit, which could be much more than your current unit.  

My landlord has offered me a “buy out” if I will move out. What do I do?
 

You should do the math before accepting a buyout. Will you be able to find another apartment at the same rent as you are paying now? It is very unlikely that you will be able to find a similar unit for the same rent that you are paying now. You should find another apartment before accepting a buy out or signing anything.

A fast, increasing rental market has reduced Hamilton’s supply of affordable rental housing. More renters are competing for fewer affordable units. Since 2012, city-wide rents have increased an average of 4.1% per year, twice the rate of inflation.

Get legal advice before agreeing and signing anything. Contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for assistance.


What if my landlord discontinues or shuts down a service such as heat, an elevator, etc and is not actively repairing it?  What do I do?
 

The requirement to maintain services in a building may fall under the City’s Property Standards By-Law.  To find out if the issue can be addressed by Municipal Law Enforcement or to register a municipal by-law complaint you may:

Call 905-546-2782 during business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) or 905-546-2489 after regular business hours if your complaint is urgent.

Submit an online Municipal By-Law Complaint Form Send an email to [email protected] and include:

  • Your contact information including name and phone number (this information is kept confidential and is important to collect in case staff need additional information from you).
  • Address of the complaint.
  • Details about the complaint including dates and times.
  • Nature of the complaint.

You can also contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for advice. Although you can file a T1 application against your landlord at the Landlord and Tenant Board within 1 year of the discontinuation, there are other non-legal strategies to help your situation as you may need immediate assistance.

The Residential Tenancies Act allows a landlord to evict you for a number of reasons. However, there are certain steps the landlord must follow to issue an eviction notice.

If you receive an eviction notice, you do not have to move out. Contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic immediately. .


My landlord has asked me to sign an N11 form to terminate my tenancy. What do I do?
 
  • An N11: “Agreement to End the Tenancy” is a form stating that the landlord and tenant both want to end a lease and has to be signed by both parties. If you want to stay in your unit, you can refuse to sign the N11. If you do agree to end your lease, you and your landlord together must agree on a termination date, when you must move out. If you do not move out by this date, the landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict you.
  • Some landlords will negotiate a compensation scheme (offer to give you money or something else) in exchange for signing the N11. If you want to do this, make sure the agreement is in writing and attach it to the N11. You should get legal advice before you sign anything.

My landlord gave me a Notice of Termination form with the number (N5, N6, N7). What do I do?
 
  • Although these notices have a termination date on them, you do not have to move by this date or pay any money claimed in the form. You not moving by this date means your landlord must file an application for eviction to the Landlord and Tenant Board based on the notice. This prompts a hearing. If there is a hearing, you will receive the application and a Notice of Hearing that will allow you to defend the claims made against you in an effort to maintain your tenancy.
  • Contact the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic for help if you receive a notice of termination. The only authority that can issue an eviction order is the Landlord and Tenant Board and the only authority that can enforce the eviction order by changing the locks on your door is the Sheriff. Both must give you written notice in advance.

My landlord gave me a Notice of Termination form for failure to pay rent (N4). What do I do?
 
  • If you agree that you owe rent and can pay it, it is best to pay the rent to your landlord by the deadline in the notice. This will void the notice, meaning that your landlord cannot apply for your eviction at the Landlord and Tenant Board. If you cannot pay the rent by the deadline or do not agree with the amount claimed by your landlord, you do not have to move out and your landlord must file an application for eviction at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
  •  
  • Your landlord’s application for eviction with prompt a hearing where you can defend your tenancy. The only authority that can issue an eviction order is the Landlord and Tenant Board and the only authority that can enforce the eviction order by changing the locks on your door is the Sheriff. They both must give you written notice in advance.

My landlord gave me a Notice of Termination for the landlord’s own use, or a purchaser’s own use (N12). What do I do?


You do not have to move by the termination date if you want to challenge the truthfulness of the claim and/or require more time to move. Your landlord must file an application for eviction at the Landlord and Tenant Board. You can oppose it and defend your tenancy. If your landlord claims that they or a family member intend to move in, you are entitled to 1 month of rent in compensation. 

The termination date set out in the notice must be 60 days from issuance and the termination date must be the last date of the rental period (i.e. last day of the month).

If your landlord is selling the rental unit and they claim that the purchaser intends to move in, you are also entitled to one (1) month of rent in compensation.


My landlord gave me a Notice of Termination of tenancy because the landlord wants to demolish the rental unit, repair it or convert it to another use (N13).  What do I do?
 

You do not have to move by the termination date if you want to challenge the truthfulness of the claim and/or require more time to move. The termination date set out in the notice must be 120 days from issuance and the termination date must be the last date of the rental period (i.e. last day of the month).

If the landlord is giving you this notice for demolition or to convert your unit to another use, the landlord must pay you an amount equal to 3 months' rent or offer you another rental unit that is acceptable to you. If the landlord is giving you this notice for extensive repairs requiring the unit to be vacant, if you do not plan to move back in once the repairs or renovations are done, the landlord must pay you an amount equal to 3 months' rent or offer you another rental unit that is acceptable to you. You may be entitled to compensation or another unit.

If you plan to move back in once the repairs or renovations are done, the landlord must pay you an amount equal to 3 months' rent, or the rent for the period of time the rental unit is being repaired or renovated - whichever is less. If your landlord gives you this notice because they were ordered to demolish or repair the rental unit under any law, your landlord does not have to pay you compensation for moving out.

Discrimination can be difficult to prove. If you feel your rental application was denied for a discriminatory reason, call Hamilton Community Legal Clinic or the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA). CERA is an organization dedicated to ending discrimination and promoting human rights in housing.

When you rent a place to live, you make a legal agreement with the landlord. The Ontario standard lease agreement is a written contract you and the landlord sign. This standard lease is required for most private residential tenancies for new agreements signed on or after April 30, 2018.

  • Before you sign a lease make sure you understand everything it says.
  • Bring someone to help you read it, or call the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
  • Request a copy of the lease.
  • The landlord must give you his/her address and full name. Ask the landlord for his/her contact information.

Deposits are money given to a landlord to hold a rental unit.

  • Do not give the landlord money unless you are sure you want to take the unit.
  • Make sure you get a receipt from the landlord for the deposit.

Getting a deposit back can be very difficult and you should seek legal advice through the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic if this becomes a problem.

  • Landlords are responsible for keeping units in good repair and for meeting all Hamilton and local municipal health, safety and property standards (as applicable). Tenants also have responsibilities within Hamilton’s Property Standards Bylaws. Know your rights and what you and your landlord are responsible for.

You should make sure the landlord has installed a fully operational smoke detector in your rental unit. This is a requirement of provincial law. Do not disconnect the smoke detector or remove the battery.

As a tenant, you are responsible for keeping the unit clean. Any damage done to the unit by you or someone you allow into the building is also your responsibility.


My landlord has not addressed my maintenance requests. What do I do?
  1. Make your maintenance requests in writing and keep a copy.
  2. Contact the Legal Clinic for help drafting forms to file against your landlord or file a T6 and T2 application against your landlord at the Landlord and Tenant Board, 119 King St. W., Floor 6. Also report the problems to Property Standards with the City of Hamilton at 905-546-2782.
  3. Your landlord must maintain your unit by law in compliance with health and safety standards and keep it in a good state of repair.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic is a community legal clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario to provide legal services to low income residents in Hamilton. The clinic provides free legal information and advice regarding the following:

  • Ontario Works
  • Human Rights
  • Tenants' Rights
  • Disability Benefits
  • Government Pensions
  • Employment Insurance and Employment Standards.

Resources