Protect yourself from troubles in renting:
Advice for working holiday makers and international students
Japanese Social Services
The most effective and reliable way to protect yourself from problems in renting is to know your legal rights as a tenant. Anyone who is a new comer or planning to come to Toronto may think “I’m not good at English so any legal terms or rights in English seem so hard to understand…” But it is not as difficult as you think.
■ FMTA (Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations) and LTB (Landlord and Tenant Board)
The Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) is an organization whose purpose is to advocate for better rights for tenants. It is recommended to check the FMTA website to learn tenants’ rights and responsibilities on the basis of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) regulated by Ontario. The website includes useful resources such as information a tenant must understand (Japanese available), or templates you can use when asking a landlord for repairs or when moving out, etc.
* On the FMTA website, select Japanese under “FIND OUR RESOURCES IN”. You can download the Japanese PDF files, “Tenant Survival Manual – Japanese” and “Guide to Tenant rights – Japanese”.
In addition, the FMTA provides a free telephone counseling service (tenant hotline: 416-921-9494) to offer advice to a tenant in order to make a practical settlement based on the RTA for problems that occurred with a landlord. When it is difficult to explain your situation in English, you can always ask for a Japanese interpreter by telling them that “I need a Japanese-English Interpreter”. Upon calling, a tenant hotline staff will give you advice to resolve an issue between a landlord and a tenant. When the issue is not resolved, you can appeal to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) which is a tribunal to resolve rent-related problems between a landlord and a tenant.
Once you appeal to the LTB, a mediator referred by the LTB encourages the landlord and the tenant to come to a settlement. If the issue is not resolved, the LTB will hold a hearing to settle the problem based on the RTA. A tenant hotline counselor or LTB staff will tell you how to file a complaint with the LTB. A fee between $45 to 55 may be required depending on the case while in some cases, there may be no charge. Also it could take more than a month to be contacted by the LTB after you have submitted an application.
■ Warning! There are cases when the RTA (Residential Tenancies Act) is not applicable.
The RTA can be a strong ally when you have problems with a landlord, but the RTA does not apply when a tenant is sharing a kitchen or a bathroom (toilet, bathtub and shower) or both with a landlord because it will be recognized as an agreement between individuals, which is not supported legally. Many working holiday makers and international students rent a bedroom in a shared house, or stay with a host family. In such cases, they tend to share the kitchen and bathroom with their landlord. Therefore, the RTA would not apply. It only applies if the tenant has their own kitchen and bathroom. Please see the following examples:
e.g.) In a two-storey house with a basement:
- Tenant A is renting the basement where a kitchen and a bathroom (toilet and shower) are attached. The landlord is not sharing any of those.
- Tenant B is renting a bedroom on the first floor sharing a kitchen and a bathroom with the landlord.
- There are two bedrooms on the second floor, and Tenant C and D are renting each room. There is a bathroom on the second floor, and only Tenant C and D use it. But they use a kitchen downstairs for cooking since there is none on the second floor.
In this case, the RTA is applicable to the rental agreement only between Tenant A and the landlord. In fact, only Tenant A has rights and responsibilities as a tenant based on the RTA. When sharing a kitchen and a bathroom with a landlord, the RTA does not apply; thus, the tenant cannot file a complaint with the LTB when a problem arises with the landlord. Instead, the tenant needs to go to Small Claims Court in order to resolve the problem. Unlike the LTB, Small Claims Court is an organization handling not only rent related issues but other issues as well. For this a tenant needs to prepare more paperwork, and it is common that they need to wait for months for a trial to be held because of the volume of other cases being addressed. When a short term visitor such as a working holiday maker or an international student files a complaint, there is a high possibility that they may have to return to their country before it is dealt with. Therefore, there are many cases where the tenant has no recourse to deal with their problems because the RTA does not apply. Of course, there are many honourable landlords who do not cause any problems for their tenants even when the RTA does not apply. However, it is important to keep it mind that if problems occur, there is the possibility that a tenant may suffer unexpected damages without the support of the RTA. Furthermore, there are unscrupulous landlords who, knowing that the RTA is not applicable, target short-term visitors from Japan carrying a certain amount of cash and who are unlikely to complain. There are also people pretending to be landlords in order to sublease rooms that they themselves are renting. Please be aware of such situations.
■ Matters to be considered when renting a place in Toronto
★ It is almost impossible to get money back once you have already paid! Never make unnecessary payments! (e.g., “security deposit”, “expensive key deposit”, “damage caused by natural wear and tear”, etc.) These payments are not legally required.
★ Ask for a receipt with the landlord’s signature and the issued date of what you paid for! There are many cases when a landlord does not issue a receipt. In order to reduce such risks, prepare a receipt with the date and the amount stated by yourself, and tell the landlord that you will pay the amount after the landlord has signed the receipt.
* You can download samples of receipts;
One-time payment (you need to fill out information such as payee and payer each time). Find the sample here.
Multiple payments (a payee and a payer must be the same every time). Find the sample here.
★ Starting April 30th, 2018, landlords and tenants are to use the standard lease template for a new lease. Please click here for details.
★ Make sure to obtain the landlord’s full name and address when you make an agreement, especially where the RTA does not apply! Ask for the landlord’s driver’s license to verify their identity! This basic information is necessary when you need to take any legal action.