Note: The following information relates specifically to for-profit rental housing (renting from an individual or business corporation) in Ontario. This includes renting an apartment unit, a house, a rooming house, basement apartment, condo apartment, etc.
The rules for Social Housing (TCHC), Non-Profit housing, Co-operative housing, Student dormatories, shelters, jail/prison, care homes, renting from another renter (not a landlord), or renting a space where you share a kitchen or bathroom with the landlord can be different.
Sometimes the processes are the same, and sometimes they are completely different depending on the type of housing you live in. For questions related to these types of housing please call our tenant hotline or check this page for more info.
Tenancy agreements are the contracts agreed to between landlords and tenants in Ontario. Tenancy agreements can be written (lease or written agreement), oral (verbal agreement) or implied (you have been using a service for years and the landlord knew about it).
Month-to-Month agreements vs Fixed-Term Agreements (Leases)
Even if you don’t have a written agreement – if you can prove that there’s a contract between you and the landlord, you have rights and are covered under the law. Sometimes simply being able to prove that money was given in exchange for a key is enough to prove there is a contract/tenancy agreement.
The term “Lease” refers to a fixed-term tenancy agreement to stay in the unit for a specific period of time (normally one year). Tenancy agreements can also month-to-month agreements - agreements that roll forward on a 2 month basis every month. While all leases are tenancy agreements, not all tenancy agreements are leases!
Many tenants sign leases in Ontario, either due to choice or due to requirement by landlord when they move in.
Month-to-Month notice to leave
Tenants on month to month tenancies can leave at any point in their tenancy with 60 days notice. The notice period must line up with your rental payments and fall on the date before you normally pay rent.
For example, if you pay rent on the 1st, you’d give 60 days notice to leave on the last day of the month you wish to leave. If you pay rent on the 15th of the month you’d give 60 days notice to leave on the 14th of the month you wish to leave.
Lease Renewal Not Required
While landlords can require any new tenant to sign a lease, once that lease expires, all tenants are able to switch to a month-to-month tenancy agreement where all the previous terms and conditions would roll forward (except legal rent increases). Landlords are not allowed to require tenants in Ontario to sign a new lease and can’t evict you for not signing a lease renewal.
In order to become a month-to-month tenant you don’t have to do anything. Your contract AUTOMATICALLY becomes a month-to-month contract when your lease expires.
Many tenants in Ontario live in co-tenancy arrangements (when multiple people sign a lease together).
When multiple tenants sign a co-tenancy agreement, it’s common for some of the tenants to move away and be replaced by other tenants.
As long as one of the tenants on the original agreement remain in the unit, the tenancy will continue.
Tenants who wish to leave should notify the landlord of the date that they will no longer be a tenant in the unit, however they should not give “legal notice “to leave, unless they intend to end the tenancy for everyone in the unit. They can simply tell the landlord they are leaving and work out the details (deposits) with the tenants who remain.
The remaining tenants are allowed find replacements, however, unless the landlord agrees, none of those tenants will have rights under the law (they would be sub-leasors) and the landlord can request that all rent be paid by the remaining legal tenants.
The landlord cannot force you to sign a new lease if someone moves out. They also will have no say over who you you bring in as sub-leasors, however you’d be responsible for your sub-leasor’s actions.
Note: Many tenants mix up sub-letting (landlord consent required) with sub-leasing (landlord consent is not required). Call our hotline to get more information on which would apply to your current situation.
Getting Out of a Lease
Tenants often need or want to break their lease for various reasons under the law: sometimes the landlord is not following the law, sometimes work circumstances change and increasingly, often the rent is too high.
Tenants looking to get out of a lease can do so in the following ways.
- Ask for a Standard Lease.
Tenants who enter into a tenancy agreement with a landlord after April 30th, 2018 are able to require a landlord to use a Standard Lease. The link below will outline how you can turn your current fixed term agreement (lease), into a month to month tenancy.
- Negotiate with your landlord
Neither a landlord or tenant can unilaterally break a lease, however both of you can agree to end the lease. If both parties agree, the lease can be terminated with an N11 agreement.
- Take your Landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board
Tenants who want to terminate a lease are able to take a landlord to the Landlord and Tenant Board and ask the Board to terminate the tenancy.
While the most official way to terminate the lease, going to the Board can take time. Hearings might not be scheduled for months and the landlord may seek further adjournments.
Many tenants who go to the Board for an order to end their tenancy do so after fleeing their apartment in some kind of emergency like a flood or fire or safety issue. Tenants are able to apply to end their tenancies retroactively at the Board.
- Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence
Tenants who are experiencing sexual or domestic violence (including harassment, homophobia and transphobia) are able to give 28 days notice to leave their tenancy via an N15 and supplementary form.
- Assign your lease or 30 days notice
Tenants are able to request to assign their tenancy under the law. Assignment means signing your current contract over to another individual, however many tenants mix up assigning with co-tenancy issues (see above), subletting and termination.
Under the law, Subletting means finding someone to take over your apartment for a specified period (ex: 3 months) and then coming back to take over the unit. Assignment is different in that it means you will not return.
Tenants who wish to assign their tenancy can ask the landlord (in writing; keep a copy) for “CONSENT TO ASSIGN THE TENANCY”.
If the landlord says yes, the tenant can then try to find a tenant to take over their lease.
If the landlord says no to assigning or, more commonly, if the landlord doesn’t reply in 7 days, then the tenant can give 30 days notice to end the lease.
Some landlords will say “yes” but will try to require a new lease to be signed. This is not assignment and can be interpreted as the landlord saying no.
- Break the Lease
Sometimes landlords and tenants are not able to meet their agreements to each other. Buildings burn down; jobs move to different cities.
A tenant who is not able to honour their lease or use any of the above provisions to terminate the lease legally, will sometimes have to break their lease.
Tenants are able to give as much notice as possible and ask the landlord to “Minimize Losses” under section 16 of the Act. Landlords would be then required to try to fill the apartment, to ensure that you don’t owe money.
As of 2019, it’s a landlords market in Toronto, so it’s often easy for a landlord to find new tenants. If the landlord fails to try to find a new tenant and minimize loses, the courts could deem that you don’t owe them any money.
If however the landlord tries to fill the unit and can’t, you could be held responsible in court for any month you were under contact where the landlord didn’t get their money.