Landlord Misunderstanding?


9 minute read

November 9, 2022

Do I run a public service?

Sometimes it feels like I do.

And to be fair, some of the regular readers have paid me compliments to this effect in the past, suggesting that this is an unparalleled free source for real estate insights.

But what many of you don’t know is that, really and truly, people call me all the time thinking that this is some sort of public service.  A helpline or a help desk.  An advice provider.

The Toronto Realty Blog logo used to say, “By David Fleming” underneath, but we removed that years ago.  I was out-voted 4-to-1.

So when people randomly Google questions like, “What’s the difference between a hard loft and a soft loft,” or, “How much notice does my landlord need to give me,” chances are high that one of my blogs from 2007 through 2022 will appear in the search results.

Last week, I was driving my daughter to school and my phone rang.

I answered, “David Fleming?”

And the voice on the other end of the line said, “Hello, is this the real estate?”

I didn’t know what this woman was asking, but it wasn’t grammatically correct either.  The real estate……….what?

“Who are you looking for?” I asked her.

“Um, I’m looking for some real estate advice,” she said.  “Are you… you……are you real estate?”

Call me a terrible father, but I looked at my daughter in the rear view mirror and she seemed content to clutch her Teddy and look out the window, so I told the person on the other end of the line, “Yes, absolutely.  I am real estate.”

The woman proceeded to tell me how she is leasing a condo downtown for $2,200 per month and her landlord recently told her he’s increasing her rent to $2,800 per month, and if she can’t afford it, she needs to leave.”

I explained the relevant sections of the Residential Tenancies Act, explained her rights, and then told her to be very, very careful, and not to underestimate what a landlord like this can do.

We spoke for about ten minutes as she ran through various scenarios and I told her what her rights were, and then she thanked me for my time, and that was that.

You can’t imagine how many of these calls I get in a month.  And emails too; they’re even more frequent!

Over the last year, the most common theme in these random interactions is landlords behaving badly, and I hesitate to write the following post since it just gives more ammunition to the people who hate on landlords like it’s an occupation.  But there are two sides to all of this.

On the one hand, the laws are so grossly in favour of tenants that it allows a steady stream of stories like this:

“Man Sleeping In His Car Says Tenants Owe More than $31,0000, Won’t Leave His Rental Property”

On the other hand, there are so many lying, cheating landlords out there that take advantage of people who don’t know their rights.

It’s a bit of a chicken-versus-egg conundrum.

Are deadbeat landlords acting badly because they’re mad at how brutal the legislation is?  Or are tenants taking advantage because of how shady landlords are?

There are two sides to this, and it’s not just case-specific.

The comments in that CBC article are insane.

People out there really believe that tenants should screw landlords of out $31,000 because “landlords shouldn’t be using housing as an investment.”

That’s such an existential debate and it goes so far beyond these individual stories, but opinions like those are gaining huge momentum as time goes on and life gets harder and more expensive.

In any event, every successive experience I have with a random emailer asking about their rights has led me to conclude the following:

Many first-time landlords simply don’t understand the laws.  Their actions may not be malicious, but may actually be borne of ignorance.

That’s not an excuse for these people, as many do know the rules and are looking to take advantage.

But let me lay out the most common landlord misunderstandings as I have learned them over the past year or so.  I run into the same issues, over and over, as tenants complain that their landlords are trying to do something outside the law, and many times it’s because the landlords themselves don’t know!

For many of the regular TRB readers, these will be painful to read.  But keep in mind, many of you are experienced, knowledgeable, or both!

Sad as they are, here are the most common landlord misunderstandings when it comes to the Residential Tenancies Act…


Landlord Misunderstanding #1: When a one-year lease ends, the tenant isn’t expected to leave.

Many landlords don’t know the most basic aspect of the lease agreement, and that’s the fact that a twelve-month lease isn’t just a twelve-month lease!

Somebody emailed me in the summer and said, “My landlord told me I need to leave at the end of the month because my lease is up.  He said the lease is only for a year and that it’s printed in the contract, ‘clear as day.'”

I suppose if you knew absolutely nothing about lease agreements, this might be a reasonable assumption.

You sign a one-year lease.  The lease is for one-year.  Voila!

But you and I know that after one year, the tenant automatically goes month-to-month.  There’s no way around this.  It’s law.

I’ve heard from tenants who say, “The landlord wants me to agree that after the first year, I leave the condo.”  That’s a shrewd landlord knowing and planning in advance.

And yet there are a lot of inexperienced, first-time landlords that simply believe a one-year lease is for one-year, and so as the lease term nears its ending, they start eyeing the market and seeing how rent prices have increased.  Much to their dismay, they eventually find out that the tenant is there for as long as that tenant wishes, unless the landlord or a member of the landlord’s immediate family is going to move into the condo for a period of 12+ months.

Landlord Misunderstanding #2: When a one-year lease ends, the tenant isn’t required to sign a new lease.

This is extremely common!

And as with the above, I believe that half the landlords out there who demand that the tenant “re-up” for another year are doing this in spite of the laws, and the others just have no clue what they’re doing.

It’s one thing to believe that the lease term ends and the tenant has to leave.

It’s another thing to be aware of the above, but, believe that the tenant has to sign for another year.

I received a phone call from a tenant who said, “My landlord told me that he’s only keeping me on as a tenant if I sign for another year.  He said he doesn’t do this month-to-month stuff.”

Oh, really?  Oh, he’s “only keeping you on” if certain conditions are met?

That’s so rich!

L – O – L

This landlord seems to think he has power.  Leverage.  Hand.

He’s got none of the above, and in actual fact, he’d better learn to be submissive in this market or tenants are going to start using their “right” to not pay rent and get away with it.

Landlords who make demands like this might get away with it, but they also might make enemies.  It’s just not worth it, in my opinion, but many don’t know or don’t care.

Whether or not it’s actually in the landlord’s best interest to secure a tenant for a further twelve-months, or not, is debatable, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s not something they can insist upon, under current legislation.

Time and time again, tenants are forced to sign new leases when they’re not legally required to.

Landlord Misunderstanding #3: The landlord cannot demand an increased rent depending on whether you’re on month-to-month versus a one-year lease.

Rent controls exist in some places and not others.

The Ontario government enacted legislation four years ago that applied rent control to all units occupied before November 15th, 2018.  Any buildings completed and occupied after this date are not subject to rent control.

However, many landlords seem to believe that there’s a difference depending on whether you’re month-to-month or whether you’re on a one-year lease.

In an email I received earlier this year, a tenant asked, “Is it fair for the landlord to increase my rent from $2,100 to $2,400 if I want to stay month-to-month instead of only increasing it 1.2% if I sign a new one-year lease?”

Total nonsense.

This landlord seems to want a new one-year lease, and he or she is trying to leverage the tenant into signing one.

As discussed above, some landlords prefer tenants on month-to-month and some prefer the one-year lease.  It really depends on their experiences with tenants in the past, how they plan to use the condo, and what their medium-term objectives are.  But despite the preference, and despite what’s agreed upon or negotiated between landlord and tenant, it has absolutely no bearing on the legally-allowable rental increase.

Landlords will continue to invent ways to illegally increase rents.

This was an interesting one!

Landlord Misunderstanding #4: Tenants do not need to give notice to remain in place.

This is an all-timer.

Another email from my archives:

“My lease started August 15th of last year and ran to August 14th of this year.  My landlord says that I have to leave because I didn’t give 60 days’ notice that I’m staying, so my lease is officially ending.”

This is another level of bullshit.

You don’t need to give notice to stay.

I absolutely hate how much the rules favour tenants in Ontario, but when I see crap like what’s written above, I really do waver.  I just hate these landlords.  They have no shame.  They will try anything and it’s so creative at times, it’s almost impressive.

Should a tenant be communicating with his or her landlord?  Absolutely!

Does a lease end, and is the tenant evicted, if the tenant doesn’t give 60 days’ notice to stay on after the one-year lease is up?  Not a chance!

You just can’t make this stuff up, folks!  I could wrack my brain trying to come up with nonsense like this, and I’d never be as creative because I don’t think like these landlords.  They really do pull out all the stops.

Landlord Misunderstanding #5: Tenants do not need to provide 12 post-dated cheques upon extending their lease.

If you’re a tenant and you’ve signed a one-year lease, you’ve likely provided “first and last month’s rent” to the landlord, and you might have provided ten post-dated cheques to the landlord as well.

But you might have also told the landlord you’ll pay by e-transfer every month.

You might pay in rolls of pennies.  It’s up to you.

And if your one-year lease is up, whether you extend for another year or remain month-to-month, you don’t have to provide 12 post-dated cheques.

A lot of landlords are demanding post-dated cheques, and some are making it a condition of a new lease.

Just as we saw in the cases above, landlords will be very inventive to get the security they want!

Landlord Misunderstanding #6: Key deposits are not legal, let alone a condition of moving in.

I know I said this above already, but, this one is an all-timer…

An agent in my office told me that she had leased a condo to a client for the first of the month.

By the third of the month, the landlord still had not provided the keys.


Because he was demanding a $350 “key deposit” and he wouldn’t give her the keys without them.

Incredibly, both the agent and the tenant knew this, and refused to back down, since the landlord was demanding this three days before the commencement of the lease date.  They were going to call his bluff, but on the first of the month, he simply told the tenant, “You’ll get the keys when you provide the deposit.”

Oh – and he demanded cash.

In the end, she caved.  She was essentially homeless and her rationale was, “I’m paying $2,250 per month for a year, so what’s $350?”

She had no leverage or at least none that she could employ immediately.

She also knew she’d never get that money back.  She saw it as a sunk cost.

Landlord Misunderstanding #7: It’s not “your condo” once you rent it out, thus you can’t go by any time the mood strikes.

This is exceptionally common and it can lead to some major issues.  At times, police can be involved.

A landlord can not access the property without written notice, and if the landlord wants to be safe, he or she should obtain confirmation.

Legally speaking, 24 hours written notice must be provided, but a landlord in today’s climate would be insane to simply email a tenant, receive zero confirmation, and then show up and use his key in the door.

Unauthorized access is serious, and these aren’t cops on television shows joking, “Do you hear a cry for help?” before they break down the door and tell their unimpressed lieutenant, “We had probable cause.”

But landlords are doing this frequently and at times it’s out of control.

I heard from a colleague that one of her clients came home to find her den full of her landlord’s “crap.”  She called the landlord and he said, “You’re not using that space, it’s been empty for a year.  I have to store some things in there for a month but that’s it.”

She didn’t care about the furniture.  I mean, she did, but it was nothing compared to the intrusion!  The landlord came into her home when she was at work, unannounced, and without notice.

That can’t happen.  It just can’t happen.

So those are the experiences that I’ve had personally over the last year, via emails, calls, and the last two coming to mind after conversations with a colleague.

A quick poll of my office revealed:

“One landlord told my client she had to pay him $250 to book the moving elevator for her.”

And I’m sure there are other stories.

As I said at the onset, this cuts both ways.

There are “professional tenants” out there who know how to game the system, and the Landlord & Tenant Board is so backed up that if your tenant stops paying rent tomorrow, it could be a year or more before you get in front of a tribunal.  Even then, there’s no guarantee that you get the tenant out.

But I’m not going to act like there aren’t bad actors on both sides.

Today’s conversation is about the landlords, as I’ve seen a lot of this in the past year.

But feel free to comment about those landlords’ rights, tenants’ rights, or both.  Fair is far, right?  That is, until it’s not…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Francesca

    at 7:54 am

    The people across the hallway had rented the unit for four years and were quiet nice tenants. Last Christmas Eve day the landlord asked to speak to them to announce that they needed to leave the apartment cause the landlord needed it for family ( legal reason I believe). However what ended up happening instead is the unit when on MLS for $400 more a month ( Housesigma gave me this information)! It rented out to an expat family from Japan and the previous tenants probably had no idea that they were evicted illegally or that they could fight it in court. What makes it even sadder is that they had a daughter with disability and were given only a month to find a new place to live. My superintendent told me this landlord is very shady and may have pulled something like this before off with the excuse he isn’t originally from Canada and doesn’t know our landlord tenant act. It’s unbelievable how people will behave just to make extra money off of others.

  2. Graham

    at 8:23 am

    Interesting times. Back in the day when I rented on handsome Redpath Avenue—in a very different rental market—after my one-year lease expired the landlord offered to not increase the rent by the minimum legislated amount, only if I resigned for another one-year lease. So, no rent increase, stick around the neighbourhood for another year, and party at Shark City. What. What.

    1. David Fleming

      at 7:26 pm

      @ Graham

      Did somebody say SHARK CITY?

      I was a bartender at Shark City 1999-2000.

      Greatest time of my life!

      I started as a bar-back; a naive kid who had never been to a bar before. But I was a business student in university, and I picked up what was happening pretty quickly.

      I was a bartender within four months.

      It was the life. Half my life ago now, but man, it shaped me – both in good ways and bad, but it was so much a part of me that my mom even mentioned it in her speech at my wedding!

  3. TLM

    at 9:04 am

    Most of this is good info, but #6 is wrong. You can ask for a key deposit as long as it’s refundable and not more than the expected cost of replacing the keys. For quite a few condo corps with fobs, etc., $350 might actually be what they charge. You were probably looking at s. 134(1)(a) of the RTA, but OReg 515/06 s. 17.3 supersedes that.

    1. David Fleming

      at 9:39 am

      @ TLM

      It’s not illegal to require a key deposit and include this in the lease.

      It’s illegal to decide after a lease has been signed that you want $350 for the keys, in cash, and then withhold the keys…

      1. TLM

        at 12:16 pm

        Ehhh I’m not sure I totally agree, I suppose it’s kind of a grey area – seems like the landlord was disorganized, but not necessarily in the wrong for asking for a key deposit, and the tenant tried to get out of what would be a normal obligation because it came later in the process. I guess I mostly just think the heading “key deposits are not legal” is kind of misleading.

  4. hugh

    at 10:03 am

    Do you have thoughts about some sort of certification for landlords? I’m a longtime tenant and have had to educate almost every landlord I’ve ever had, and it can add a lot of acrimony to the landlord/tenant relationship when they feel like I’m exploiting them when I’m simply exercising my rights (examples are 24 hour notice for entry, the requirement for a month’s reimbursement with an n12, or withholding last month’s rent as a ‘cleaning fee’).

    Acknowledged that there are plenty of bad tenants, but I think some kind of certification for landlords (or mgt companies) would flush a lot of bad landlords out and make it a lot better for everyone.

    1. David Fleming

      at 10:05 am

      @ Hugh

      I don’t like any idea that creates more public sector oversight, regulation, jobs, fees, forms, etc.

      I believe there are an equal number of bad tenants as there are bad landlords. But I don’t think asking the government to step in and regulate the entire rental world is the answer.

      1. hugh

        at 10:55 am

        I get that (and the idea that any regulation is only going to drive up costs). My best experiences as a tenant was when there was a professional property manager in the middle though, and I’d wager that the landlords also think it was worth whatever expense was included.

        Yes, everyone needs to know the rules and their rights, but the stakes are very different for a real estate investor vs. a tenant. A bad tenant costs a good landlord money. A bad landlord can leave a good tenant homeless. People choose to be landlords, they don’t choose to need a home.

        1. Alexander

          at 7:44 pm

          The bad tenant could cost the landlord tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds if they are really good at it. The bad landlord can cost tenants inconvenience and moving costs, which should be at most a few thousand dollars.

    2. Steve

      at 12:26 pm

      There will always be bad landlords (and tenants) even with such efforts around training, investment would be better off put into the LTB ensuring cases are heard in a timely manner. Most of the issues that arise and lack of realistic recourse are because the time to get a hearing on most of them is measured in at least months, if not longer.

      1. hugh

        at 12:47 pm

        I think that some sort of preventive measure would help that too. By the time things hit the LTB, it’s pretty likely they’re beyond repair. If we could find a way to make property owners more aware of where their responsibilities lie, it might ease the burden on the LTB.

        From personal experience, every time I’ve been to the LTB, the rep for the landlord heard my side of the issue and the landlord settled immediately without issue, it was simply a matter of the landlord not knowing the law and misrepresenting the story to their representative.

        One landlord’s rep told me this happens ALL THE TIME to him — naive landlords spending money on legal representation, only to find out that they’re in the wrong. Throwing good money after bad.

        (I’m not letting tenants off the hook but it’s virtually impossible to setup some kind of system for every renter).

  5. Ace Goodheart

    at 10:48 am

    I had a really interesting situation develop with a friend of mine, years ago, who purchased a semi in Toronto that he wanted to renovate and rent out.

    Seller promised vacant possession. So he takes possession, and when he shows up to his new property, the tenants are all still there (three sets of them, on three levels of an old Toronto house that was cut up into three apartments).

    So he tries to go through the lawyer, no luck. Seller is not responding (probably took their money and ran). Tenants are uninterested in his offers to “purchase” their keys and have them leave (he offered them a few hunnies each, no luck, they are staying).

    So what does he do? He shows up with his construction crew (he was a contractor) and starts taking apart the building interior. Moves the tenants stuff out onto the back lawn. Bin shows up, and he puts the interior into the bin, careful to separate tenant belongings, which he carefully places on the back lawn.

    Tenants come home, their stuff is out back, the building is gutted to the beams, plumbing shut off, heating system removed, basically just wood and beams, no interior. Everything in the bin out back.

    So two of the tenants just take their stuff and leave. Third one starts camping on the back lawn, which my friend ignores. Apparently they got legal advice to not leave the property. Buddy continues with his constructions, just ignores them.

    So after about a week the guy camping out back also leaves.

    I talked to my friend and he says all three sets threatened to take him to the LLTB, he told them “go ahead”. He figured as he bought with vacant possession, he could just ignore the tenants. I don’t think he was right on that, but anyway….

    Turns out none of the tenants managed to do anything to him. They gave up. Legal fees and wait times were too long. They would have had a protracted fight to try to get back into their units. Decided it was not worth their time, rented elsewhere. Someone broke a big plate glass window on the front of his building, which he said he was “expecting” and that was it.

    Weird but very true. I guess he just turned the tables on them. They had to litigate to get back into the building, which they all decided was too much trouble.

    1. Condodweller

      at 2:14 pm

      Your friend just needed to book a final viewing the day prior to closing and not close if there are people still living there. I’m not clear how the law views these people but I would think that they became squatters when the new owner took possession. But what if the seller didn’t deal with the tenants leaving? Is there an overhang to the new owner? This could be an interesting topic for David to cover.

  6. Libertarian

    at 1:12 pm

    These stories are why I made the comment the other day on here about how David complains about “should” in our society and how that also applies to landlords.

    Hugh and David discuss licensing for landlords. I agree with David that we don’t need another gov’t office. I know the Residential Tenancies Act is online, but it is legalese. There is government website that explains how renting works, so I’m surprised David gets so many requests. But there must be something that can be done to make it easier for landlords and tenants to resolve issues.

    1. Marina

      at 2:44 pm

      Part of the issue is that many landlords don’t particularly care about rights and responsibilities. Their uncle made money as a landlord and real estates never goes down and and it’s free money, so they go ahead and buy a second property and off they go.
      And then they learn they have to actually fix stuff, even small stuff, and they have limitations, and can’t just increase the rent and so on, and they are shocked. Shocked!
      And then complain and expect sympathy.
      Even if the info was online, in plain language, someone would actually need to do the legwork and so many people just don’t care!

      1. Hugh

        at 5:03 pm

        Bingo, Marina. Several landlords I know have been told that it’s as straightforward as buying ETF shares and treat their properties as commodities and tenants as nuisances.

        Libertarian, I agree that there should be an easier process, hence my suggestion of a license. I’d certainly welcome other ideas, but trusting the owner to learn the ropes clearly isn’t working.

        Willful ignorance (by tenants as well as landlords) is also a problem, but that’s a different story.

  7. A Grant

    at 3:26 pm

    “Misunderstanding” is the polite term. In most cases (including several of the scenarios highlighted by David), I would wager that the landlord is aware of the law, but is banking that the tenant does not.

  8. Adrian

    at 8:27 pm

    In my experience, even people with certifications and licenses don’t necessarily care about the law!

    My spouse and I were renting a downtown condo a couple years ago. The landlord sold it to another investor, whose real estate agent called me to inform me they were increasing the rent $50.

    He told me that the seller’s agent informed him that we could “afford it”. Of course, I told the agent that they had no right to increase our rent (for a variety of reasons). The agent told me that I didn’t want to “get into legal stuff”, which could obviously be easily avoided by not doing illegal things. They backed down after it became clear that I wasn’t going to get on board.

    After that, I downloaded a recording app in case the realtor made any more vague threats over the phone. It wasn’t a great start to our landlord-tenant relationship, and we were model tenants!

  9. Gwen

    at 9:41 am

    The other thing that is seldom done is, in Ontario, landlords must pay the tenant interest on their rent deposit every 12 months, if collected. I think the amount of interest is based on the rent increase percent.

    1. Different David

      at 8:57 am

      Gwen, most of the time the interest will equal the annual increase in rent. So instead of the landlord paying $30 in interest, then asking the tenant for $30 to increase the size of the last month deposit, it is easier to just keep the last month rent deposit as equivalent.

      Now if a landlord decides not to increase the rent by the maximum annual increase, then yes, interest would be owing.

  10. Tarn Coleman

    at 3:52 pm

    I was wondering if you could give me a call my name is Tarn and my num is 647 708 8276 my whole building is being bullied and frightened by the landlord we have a 96 year old and an 87 year old who have lived here 25 plus years and he turns the heat on and off every day and tells them if they call 311 he will evict them there are tons more threats to all the tennants yesterday my mum who passed on dec 10 they went into her unit and changed the locks lm in unit one but have resided in both one and two for years they tried to lock me out of unit 2 because they have an N12 pending against me for unit 1 if they had won that l would have moved permanently over to unit two we don’t have the judgement yet but they wanted to lock me out so l would be homeless lm disabled and if l end up homeless my only option is the maid program it’s not just me it’s all over the city l would like to know if you could help our building there are six units tell our story as the public doesn’t know what’s going on l know at least five other people that are being bullied out of their homes please forgive my deliverance of this email as it is my first one if u can’t help could you please put me in the right direction respectfully yours and with many thanks Tarn 647 708 8276

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