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Leases, Tenant's Insurance, and Your Rights

Your last step in securing a place to live is to sign your lease! Also known as tenancy agreements or rental agreements, your lease is the document that outlines the exchange of funds and agreed upon responsibilities.

It is important to note that many of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant are set by Ontario law and not by what your rental agreement says.

As of April 30, 2018 - Landlords in Ontario are now required to use the standard lease agreement form. 


Understanding the law and lease agreements

What is the law?

As a tenant, you are most likely protected under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

The RTA sets the rules and regulations for landlords and tenants, including rent increases, evictions, repairs, and many other issues that affect tenants.

The law guarantees certain parts of every rental agreement even if it is not written in your lease (e.g., your landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance even if that isn’t written in your lease).

The law also enforces that certain things cannot be part of a rental agreement, so even if they are written in the lease, you are not legally bound to them (e.g., a “no pets” rule).

What should be in your lease?

As of April 30, 2018, a standardized lease form is in effect in Ontario. 

This means landlords of both individual units and property management companies must use this standard template when you sign a lease with them. This new form takes great steps towards protecting your tenant rights and responsibilities, and reducing illegal terms and misunderstandings. 

Find out more information about this standard lease.

What should be included

  • Legal names of the landlord and tenant

  • Address of the rental property

  • Term of rental period (e.g., May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018)

  • Agreed upon rent amount and due date (e.g., $1,200 due on the 1st of every month)

  • The amount and terms of the first and last month’s rent

  • What date you can move in

  • What services and facilities are included in your rent (e.g., hydro, water, access to a gym, parking spot, basement storage locker, etc.)

Terms that might not be listed but are always included in every rental agreement:

  • You have the right to live in your place as long as you want, unless your landlord has a legal reason to evict you.

  • You have the right to treat your place as your home, which includes the right to privacy.

  • If your building or complex has more than one rental unit, you also have the right to use the common areas. Common areas include things like hallways, elevators, driveways, lobbies, and grounds.

  • Your landlord is responsible for maintenance and repairs, and must follow all the laws about housing standards.

  • Your landlord must follow the legal rules about raising your rent.

Terms that cannot be included:

The following terms should not be included in your rental agreement:

  • No-pets clauses, except for rules set out in condominium bylaws

  • Penalties for paying your rent late or for breaking the landlord's rules

  • Extra fees if you have children, pets, or visitors

  • Requirement for post-dated cheques (although you may choose to pay this way)

  • Payment of a security/damage deposit (landlords cannot legally ask for this in Ontario)

  • Making you responsible for repairs or maintenance

We also strongly advise that you get:

  • Emergency contact information for landlord and tenant (phone + email)

  • Receipts for any money paid (first and last months’ rent; refundable key deposit, and a monthly rent receipt thereafter)

  • A written confirmation of any renovations or repairs that will be done prior to your move-in

Written leases

In Ontario, the law allows for written or verbal leases but we strongly encourage you to get your lease in writing. This will make obligations clear and easy to refer to in case of future disagreements, particularly if an issue is serious enough to be taken to the Landlord and Tenant Board.

When does the RTA not apply?
  • If you share a kitchen or bathroom with your landlord

  • If you are staying in a hotel, motel, bed & breakfast, cottage or cabin for less than six consecutive months

  • If a mobile home site is rented

  • If the landlord is an educational institution and the tenant is a student (in this case, if you are a resident of one of Ryerson’s residences). Note however that off-campus student housing buildings are RTA-compliant, so you can and should resolve issues in the same manner that you would a regular landlord. .  

  • If you live in a nursing home or seniors’ lodge.

If you are not covered under the RTA, this does not mean that you don’t have rights! You and your landlord both have rights, but issues will be a civil court matter rather than being addressed by the Landlord and Tenant Board.


Know your legal obligations

Prior to moving in…


  • Be prepared to be committed: Once you sign a lease (or a pay a deposit, no matter how small), you are bound to that apartment. Application forms can even be binding, so make sure that you want to live in that apartment before you sign anything or hand over any money.

  • Pay your key deposit: the total amount must be no more than the cost of replacing the key). Make sure to get a receipt for this. This amount should be refunded to you upon move out.

  • Pay your first and last month’s rent: a landlord may ask for this amount upfront and you are required to pay it before move in. A landlord may not ask for a security or damage deposit.

    • Ask for a rent receipt for each payment. It should state the amount of rent you paid, the period of time and the specific unit/address it applies to (e.g., Bruce Wayne paid $1,200 for Unit 4A at 555 Wayne Manor for September 2017.)

  • Take photos of the unit prior to move-in: be sure to document any pre-existing damages or maintenance issues. Email these to yourself and your landlord as a record on your first day. Best case scenario is to take a walk through the unit with your landlord and complete a pre-inspection together.

  • Book the elevator for move-out and move-in: make sure you have agreed on a move-in date with your landlord and the current tenants. If you are moving into a building with an elevator, you will likely need to reserve the elevator for a specific window of time. Booking windows will fill up fast around September 1st so try to do this as far in advance as possible.

  • Prepare your proof of utilities and insurance. Your landlord may request that you arrange a transfer of accounts to your name for Toronto Hydro (most common) and to provide proof of tenant’s insurance.

Set up an account with Toronto Hydro (if hydro is not included in rent)



What is tenant’s insurance?

We strongly encourage all Ryerson students living off-campus to ensure they have tenant’s insurance.

Tenant’s insurance exists to help renters:

  • Protect their personal property by helping to replace the contents of their apartment in the event of loss, theft or damage;

  • Cover personal liability including accidental damage to others’ property or if someone hurts themselves in your home;

  • It may also include living expenses should loss or damage force you to live elsewhere.

Parents’/guardians’ home insurance may extend to cover full-time post-secondary students—call their insurance service provider to find out.

If you require your own independent tenant’s insurance, call around to various insurance firms to get quotes for rates on insurance.  

Ryerson students get a discount on tenant’s insurance with TD Meloche Monnex.



Minimize stress later and take an inventory now! Create a list and take photos of what you own (as well as bills, receipts, warranties and instruction manuals which can serve as proof of ownership) and upload them to a secure cloud like Google Drive to have a record of your possessions.

Image presenting the three types of tenant insurance; Contents Insurance, Personal Liability Coverage, and Additional Liability Expense Coverage