Know your rights

Two groups of students sitting at tables studying inside the QNC with a view of the winter scenery outside.

It's important to know your rights as a tenant. A tenant is someone who pays rent to a landlord to live in a rental unit and has signed a lease. 

University of Waterloo students can access free legal support through Student Legal Protection Service. Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) and Waterloo’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) have partnered with Studentcare to provide legal advice on any subject and representation on issues relating to academic rights, co-op and employment, or housing and tenancy and other matters including fraud.

In most cases, tenants are protected under the Ontario Tenant Protection Act. It is best to address your problem right away to ensure that you are happy and safe in your home. If a problem does arise with your landlord, accommodation, or roommate(s), there are people and places where you can go for help.  

View the most commonly asked questions from tenants below.

Tenant rights

How much rent deposit can a landlord legally ask for?

A landlord may require a tenant to pay first and last month’s rent prior to moving in. The last month’s rent will serve as a deposit on the unit. In Ontario, a landlord may not ask for a damage deposit. 

First month’s rent is not required until move-in. The student can provide a post-dated cheque for the landlord, but they are only required to pay last month’s rent before move-in.   

My roommate has visitors over all the time and I can't get any studying done. What are my rights?

In this case, your roommate has the right to have visitors over if they wish. Your best option would be to negotiate with your roommate to come up with an agreement about when visitors can be in the unit. 

My maintenance concern still has not been fixed, what can I do?

According to the Residential Tenancies Act, “a landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining a residential complex, including the rental units in it, in a good state of repair and fit for habitation and for complying with health, safety, housing and maintenance standards.” 

In this case, the best option is to send a written letter /email to your landlord with a reasonable date of when the maintenance issue should be fixed by. You can also review this video to understand how the work order process works.  If it is not fixed by the date agreed upon, then you could consider contacting the Landlord and Tenant Board.  

My landlord consistently enters my unit without consent, how can I stop this?

It is a violation of the Residential Tenancies Act for the landlord to enter your unit without 24 hours’ notice, except for the circumstances set out in provision 26 of the Residential Tenancies Act

According to the Residential Tenancies Act, a landlord may only enter into a rental unit at any time without written notice if: 

  1. It is a case of an emergency. 

  1. The tenant consents to the entry at the time of entry. 

If neither of these apply, the landlord must give the tenant 24 hours’ notice before they are allowed to enter the unit. And in this case, there must be at least one of the following options: 

  1. To carry out a repair or replacement or do work in the rental unit 

  1. To allow a potential mortgagee or insurer of the residential complex to view the rental unit 

  1. To allow a person who holds a certificate of authorization to make a physical inspection of the rental unit. 

  1. For any other reasonable reason for entry specified in the tenancy agreement. 

It is advised that you ask the landlord to give you notice, and if the problem continues, you should inform the landlord of the Act. 

What personal information am I required to give to a landlord?

Your landlord can ask for references, first and last name, and contact information. They can also ask to see identification. Please note, there is no legal reason why a landlord would need copies/photos of your drivers license, student ID, passport, social insurance number etc. Never give out any personal information you are not comfortable disclosing. 

Leasing

Should I sign a lease before seeing it in person?

No. You should never sign a lease, enter a contract, provide personal information, or make any payments if you have not seen a unit in person.  Always use caution and your discretion when finding off-campus housing online.

If you live too far away to view the unit in person, we recommend asking someone you trust to view it for you or requesting a live video tour. When viewing the place and before you sign a lease ensure that appliances work, there are locks on the doors, showers, taps and heat work and ask questions about what the rent includes and doesn't include. We recommend you photo document any concerns in advance so previous damage cannot be attributed to you in the future.

I have signed a lease on a new building but it's not ready for my move-in date. What should I do and what are my rights?

Unfortunately, as you have already signed a lease, your options may be limited.

Try speaking to your landlord about setting up options for accommodations such as a hotel, or a different rental unit. If these accommodations are similar to the original unit, you might want to consider taking that option. If a tenant does not feel that these alternative arrangements are reasonable, the tenant can inform their landlord that they are in breach of the contract and will request termination of their lease by a specified date. If that date is not met, consider filing an application through the Landlord and Tenant Board

The final option is to find a different rental unit yourself, but that would still require you to pay both landlords even if you are not living on the premises. 

How long after signing a lease can I change my mind and back out?

Once you have signed a lease, you are locked into that lease. You are responsible for carrying out your lease until the end of the term stated on your lease. If you are unhappy with your living situation, look at ways to improve or change them-looking for another place to live is not the answer once you have signed a lease.

Can you break a lease whenever you want to?

No. Once you sign a lease, you are responsible for it until the end of the term signed for. If you need to get out of your lease, you have the option to either sublet your unit or assign your lease to another lessee. 

My roommate and I are on the same lease. If they leave, do I have to cover their half of the rent?

Yes. If your roommate leaves, you are responsible and liable for their debts to the landlord. You can seek restitution through mediation or legal options, such as small claims court.