Once you rent out your property to a tenant, it becomes their home in almost every sense of the word. In other words, you have limited control over it. Many new landlords find it hard to get used to their limits and rights during the period of a lease. While the lease agreement primarily states out what a landlord can or cannot do, there are some fundamental rules that apply to all landlords.
- You cannot ask for illegal rent increases.
Rent for a property cannot be increased monthly. It can only be increased after 12 months, in line with the region’s stipulated rent increase guidelines. A landlord cannot demand a higher rent increase than that unless there are other factors that justify the increase. For eg., improvements to the property like exterior redesign, an extra tenant, a new pet, etc.
- You cannot enter without prior notice.
It is considered trespassing if a landlord enters a property without giving proper notice. Even if a landlord needs to enter for any reason (repairs, inspections, showings, etc), they need to give written notice at least 24 hours before the visit, specifying the reason. If a tenant believes a landlord has violated these rules, they can file a trespassing claim or sue for breach of contract.
- You cannot change the locks.
A landlord cannot change the locks of the rental unit unless the landlord gives the new keys to the tenant. This cannot happen before a tenancy ends or granted by law, even if a tenant is late with rent or breaks other rules.
- You cannot cut utilities.
By law, a landlord cannot cut any essential services like electricity, water, or heating in order to force a tenant out before the end of their lease. Interrupting these services is not allowed even if a tenant does not pay rent or is disruptive.
- You cannot evict tenants unless you comply with laws.
A tenant can be evicted for various reasons, but the landlord must follow the correct legal procedure and serve notice well in advance. If you do not follow legal protocol and lock the tenant out of the property, you may face civil penalties.
- Your rental unit is not your storage space.
Once the lease agreement is finalized, a landlord cannot use the rented space for any personal use. Unless specifically mentioned in the lease, the landlord cannot use a part of the tenant’s storage space or garage to store anything.
- A landlord cannot decide how many people can live in a unit.
A landlord has no say. They cannot include number of people allowed in the lease agreement. Eviction can be initiated only if there is overcrowding based on municipal property standards occupancy laws. Condo owners need to be extra careful and conduct regular inspections as overcrowding can be a serious fire safety hazard.
- You cannot discriminate against tenants based on certain factors.
Landlords are required by law to offer fair housing. It is illegal to reject tenant applications (or charge a higher rent) based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion, physical or mental disabilities. Pregnant tenants or tenants with children cannot be turned away for those reasons either. Valid reasons to reject tenants are:
Poor credit score/low income
History of evictions
- You cannot refuse to make necessary repairs.
The landlord is obligated to maintain their properties, and consider the health and safety of tenants as their highest priority. Conditions that affect tenants must be dealt with immediately, and ensured to be in good working order. This includes pest control, faulty wiring, faulty alarms, glitchy appliances, and normal wear and tear.
- You cannot ask a tenant to move out while selling a property.
If it’s time to sell, you aren’t allowed to force a tenant out in order to stage the unit for showings. A tenancy survives a sale. Tenants must be assumed by the purchaser unless the landlord manages to make a deal, or if the purchaser intends to move in and the proper forms are served by the landlord.
To conclude, while landlords have possession of their rental unit, they lose their rights once it becomes someone else’s home. Tenants are entitled to several protections against eviction, discrimination, intimidation, etc. Before signing a lease, it’s wise to be well-versed in local landlord-tenant laws so that you don’t end up making a mistake that could result in severe legal repercussions. For more information, take a look at Harry Fine's popular list of landlord myths and rookie mistakes.