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My landlord isn't respecting my rights. Should I stop paying the rent?

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My landlord isn't respecting my rights. Should I stop paying the rent?

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Reviewed: 
August, 2015
Answer

Sometimes it might seem fair to stop paying some or all of your rent if your landlord isn't giving you what you are paying for. For example, your landlord may be harassing you, invading your privacy, or refusing to do repairs.

But it can be very risky to stop paying your rent in order to resolve problems with your landlord.

If you do not pay your full rent, your landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to try to have you evicted.

If your landlord applies to the Board, you can ask the Board to consider the problems you are having with your landlord. But you could still be evicted if the Board doesn't believe you, or doesn't think the problems are serious enough.

If you want to move

Even if you plan to move out because of the problems, it can still be risky to stop paying the rent. While you are still living there, your landlord can apply to the Board to order you to pay. Or after you move, your landlord can sue you in court.

It might be hard to convince a Board member or a judge that you shouldn't have to pay the rent. You will need strong evidence that the problem was very serious.

If the Board or a court orders you to pay, it can affect your credit record. This can make it harder for you to rent another place or borrow money.

And if you didn't give proper notice to move, you might owe even more rent.

A safer way

If you can't get your landlord to respect your rights, it is safer to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board instead of holding back rent.

There are several kinds of remedies the Board can order when landlords don't do repairs, don't respect your privacy, and in many other situations.

1. Tell your landlord about the problem

Make sure your landlord knows about your complaint. Tell your landlord what is wrong and ask them to correct it. Keep notes for yourself about when you talked to your landlord and what each of you said.

If the problem continues, put your complaint in writing. Write exactly what you want the landlord to do to correct the problem. Give a copy to your landlord and make sure to keep a copy for yourself.

If your landlord has a special form for repair requests, fill one out and keep a copy for yourself.

It is sometimes helpful to take photos of the problem. Put the date on the photos.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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2. Talk to your neighbours

Find out if other tenants in your building have similar problems. You might be able to get more done if you work together.

If there are issues in your building or neighbourhood that affect many tenants, you might want to think about forming a tenants' association.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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3. Call a government office

If your landlord is not following the law or respecting your rights, you can call the Investigation and Enforcement Unit (IEU) at 1-888-772-9277.

For repair and maintenance problems, you can call your local property standards or bylaw department, or your town or city hall, municipal office, or local councillor. Many cities, towns, and other municipalities have inspectors who can order your landlord to make repairs or to clean up your building.

If there are no local property standards bylaws where you live, you can call the IEU for help with repair problems.

Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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4. Apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board

If your landlord does not correct the problem, you can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Board is like a special court that settles disagreements between tenants and landlords.

When you apply, the Board will set a date for a hearing where you and the landlord can each explain the situation to a member of the Board.

It is your responsibility to convince the Board member about the problem. It is very important to bring evidence to your hearing, for example:

  • witnesses
  • photos, audio or video recordings
  • inspectors' reports and work orders
  • letters and notes
  • anything else that can help you prove your case to the Board member
Reviewed: 
October, 2016
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Learn more about this topic
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations

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