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Illegal charges - Do I have to pay?

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.

Landlords often ask for all kinds of charges under the law in Ontario, however what they can charge for and how much is limited under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

Legal Charges

The RTA outlines the services that landlords are allowed and not allowed to charge under the law.

The landlord doesn’t have to charge for each of these services (what they do and do not charge would have to be negotiated before moving in), however monthly charges for these elements are legal under the law:

  • Parking space
  • Cable television
  • Satellite television
  • An air conditioner
  • Extra electricity for an air conditioner
  • Extra electricity for a washer or dryer in the rental unit
  • Blockheater plug-ins
  • Lockers or other storage space
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Water or sewage services, excluding capital work
  • Floor space

Landlords are also allowed to charge for some pay-per-use services including:

  • Laundry machines
  • Visitor Parking charges (in some parts of the City of Toronto)

Landlords are also able to require tenants to acquire liability insurance (not contents insurance).

Illegal Charges

Unfortunately, many landlords try to charge tenants for illegal elements in the City.  Tenants who are asked to pay for these charges can simply refuse.  The following is a list of common illegal charges that tenants often face:

  • Paying for garbage or garbage tags
  • Paying for basic maintenance or maintenance invoices
  • Seasonal air conditioning fees
  • Bills or invoices for services or work you have never agreed to pay for
  • Landlord taxes
  • Contents insurance
  • General Cleaning Fees

Damages

Landlords will sometimes ask tenants to pay for damages they consider to be willful or negligent.  There will also sometimes be disputes over what charges a tenant has agreed to pay for.

If there’s a dispute over who is responsible for the cost of damage or for services, landlords cannot unilaterally decide who owes what or force tenants to pay. 

If you disagree that you owe, you can force the landlord to get an order from either the Landlord and Tenant Board or Small Claims Court confirming you owe the money.  If they do not have a legal order confirming that you owe the money, you are under no obligation to pay.

If they do have an order against you, the landlord will be able to try to collect the money from you via garnishing your bank account, garnishing wages or by hiring a collection agency to bother you.

Link: How to deal with a collection agent - https://www.ontario.ca/page/stop-collection-agency-calls

Deposits

Many landlords ask for deposits under the law, however only two deposits are legal in Ontario:

  • A last months rent deposit

This is the only major deposit that a landlord can charge in Ontario.  It must be equal to or less than the equivalent of one months rent and can only be used for the last month that you are in the unit.

Note: interest is owed on your deposit.  Normally this interest is add to your deposit to keep it in line with your current rent, however some tenants do not receive rent increases and are owed a small interest payment annually.

  • A key deposit

Landlords can ask you to provide a key deposit for any keys you are given and can charge you for replacement keys. The cost must be approximate to the cost of the actual key (ie. You can’t charge a $200 deposit for a $1 key).

The following are common illegal deposits that landlords try to charge.  These are illegal and you do not have to pay.  If you do pay, you can take the money back after you move in:

  • Prepaid rent or deposits worth multiple months of rent
  • Security deposits
  • Damage deposits
  • Smoking deposits
  • Children deposits
  • Pet deposits
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