Own an investment property? Know the rules before you rent

It can be a great way to earn extra income, but if you’re considering purchasing an investment property in Ontario, it’s important to brush up on the provincial laws that you must follow before and after you sign that lease.

Over my more than three decades as a Realtor in Ottawa, I’ve helped many clients purchase investment properties. These clients also sometimes turn to my office for help if they don’t want to do the legwork involved in advertising their properties and finding tenants.

If you own a property, we at Nancy Benson & Associates can market your home or apartment and post photos on multiple websites, where we know we can reach the people who are likely to be your target market. In the case of our office, we deal most often with executive properties that appeal to professionals.

As part of our service, we go through the applications from prospective tenants. We arrange the credit, background and reference checks that provincial law allows a landlord to request. We then forward the most promising applications to the owner.

But being a new landlord can involve many basic questions. What are the rules about rent increases? What can you do if a tenant doesn’t pay the rent on time? Can you tell tenants they are not allowed to have pets?

Tenancy Act

To ensure you’re following the rules, it’s important to get to know Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act. It spells out the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, and in case of disputes, sets out a process for enforcing those rights through Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board.

You will find answers to many questions on the Board’s website, at http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb/. It offers information on a variety of issues affecting landlords and tenants. On the “Your Rights and Responsibilities” tab, there’s a list of frequently asked questions.

The “Brochures” tab includes brochures on several topics, including a summary guide to the Residential Tenancies Act, rules about maintenance and repairs of the units, a summary of rules dictating how a landlord can end a tenancy and a list of offences under the Residential Tenancies Act, to help know whether a landlord or tenant might have broken the law.

To give just one example, many new landlords are under the impression they can pick and choose tenants however they see fit and for any reason.

Provincial rules permit background credit checks on prospective tenants when carried out according to the laws. Landlords can request certain financial information about applicant tenants, with the tenant’s permission.

Human rights

However, landlords are not permitted to deny an applicant a rental because of factors that include race, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, sexual orientation or marital status. If you deny someone a rental opportunity because of a personal characteristic that is identified by the Ontario Human Rights Code, you could have a human rights claim filed against you.

When it comes to the lease, you also need to use the province’s standard form. For many years, landlords sometimes created their own leases, with rules they wanted to include but which were sometimes against Ontario law.

To help prevent this, Ontario introduced a new standard lease that has been mandatory for most new tenancies since April of 2018. You can get a copy of it on the Ministry of Housing website, at www.mah.gov.on.ca

To read an excellent, clearly written summary guide to the Residential Tenancies Act, visit the site of the Landlord and Tenant Board, at http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/documents/ltb/Brochures/Guide%20to%20RTA%20(English).html

You can download or print the compete Residential Tenancies Act, from the province of Ontario website, at https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/06r17

If you’re interested in buying or selling property in the Ottawa area, I’d love to hear from you. On my website, www.nancybenson.com, you can read about me and the expertise I offer, with more than 30 years of experience as a Realtor in Ottawa. You can also give me a call, at 613-747-4747.

Nancy Benson operates a full-service office at RE/MAX Hallmark Realty and specializes in unique homes in the most desirable neighbourhoods of Ottawa. Whether you're buying, selling, acquiring an investment or a secondary home, we have a system that will work for you.