From time to time I will get a call from a tenant who is at his/her wits end. They are having some kind of problem with their landlord and they feel that they don't have any recourse because the landlord never gave them a copy of their lease or they never actually signed one. Invariably, the landlord has made the tenant feel that they could be forced to leave in short Order if the landlord chose to demand it--all because the tenant does not have proof of the lease or because a lease was never signed.
The fact is, in Ontario, a tenant has all of the protection of the Residential Tenancies Act even if there is no written lease. At law, a residential lease between a landlord and tenant may be written, oral, or implied. Each form of lease is just as valid, just as legal, and provides just as much protection as any of the other forms of lease. There are a few differences of course, but most relate to the difficulty associated with proving the terms of the lease. A written lease will speak for itself from the paper it is written on. An Oral lease requires an adjudicator to listen to what the Landlord and Tenant say were the terms of the lease and choose what the parties agreed to. In an implied lease, a lease is created by the conduct of the parties or arises from the circumstances surrounding the occupation of the premises. Often, the terms of Oral leases are ascertained by the conduct of the parties (i.e. amount of rent is determined by the amount of rent paid on a monthly basis).
The point here is that tenants do not need to worry that they have no rights just because there is no written lease. In fact, it is fairly common for there to be oral lease agreements and all of these tenants and landlords have the same rights as parties who do have written leases.
In Ontario residential tenancies law it is important to remember that landlords and tenants are NOT free to negotiate the terms of their own deal. The Residential Tenancies Act imposes certain minimum standards, rights, and responsibilities on both landlords and tenants regardless of how the tenancy agreement is formed. In fact, if the parties agree to terms that are contrary to the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act those terms are deemed to be void by the law--see section 4 Residential Tenancies Act.
As you should gather from this article, Ontario Residential Tenancies law provides significant protection to tenants regardless of how they became tenants. The law gives all tenants certain basic rights that can not be negotiated away and can not be over-ridden by contract. Any landlord who tries to impose terms that are contrary to the Residential Tenancies Act can be charged under the Provincial Offences Act and be subject to fines ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 (see section 238 Residential Tenancies Act).
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