Eviction basics: Part 1

Since the 1970s, Ontario has had laws that give tenants some protection against being evicted from their homes. This month and next month, On the Radar outlines some key points about the current law.

Who is covered?

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the provincial law that sets the rules for evictions, and other things such as rent increases and maintenance. It applies to most rented living space, including houses, apartments, retirement homes, rooms in rooming or boarding houses, and mobile home parks.

The RTA does not apply to tenants who share a kitchen or bathroom with the owner or a close family member of the owner, or who live in some types of temporary or seasonal housing. And it doesn't apply to commercial rentals, such as stores, offices, farms, workshops, or factories. People in these settings may have other rights, and should try to get legal advice if they have a problem.

In most other situations, someone paying rent for their living space is probably covered by RTA and has "security of tenure". This means that they have the right to keep living there unless the landlord proves that there is a legal reason to evict them.

What if a landlord wants a tenant to move out?

The most important thing to know is that in Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act makes it illegal for landlords to evict tenants themselves, for example by changing the locks, or forcing them out in any other way. If a landlord wants to try to evict someone, they must follow certain steps. The first step is to give the tenant proper notice.

What is proper notice?

To start an eviction process, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice, usually called a Notice of Termination, that has certain information. Apart from obvious things like the names and addresses of the tenant and landlord, the most important pieces of information the notice must have are:
  • the date by which the landlord wants the tenant to move out, and
  • the landlord's reason.
The landlord must give this notice at least a certain number of days before the date they want the tenant to move. The number of days required depends on what reason the landlord gives.

If the tenant is not given a proper written notice, they don't have to move out.

What if the tenant does get proper notice?

Even if the tenant gets proper notice, they may not agree with the reason, or they may have other arguments why they shouldn't be forced to move.

In that case, the landlord has to apply for a hearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board. The Board is an independent tribunal – something like a court, but less formal.

The landlord then has to give the tenant written notice of the application and the hearing date.

At the hearing, the Board listens to the evidence and legal arguments from both sides before deciding whether the tenant must move out.

For what reasons can a tenant be evicted?

Tenants can be evicted only for the reasons listed in the RTA.

Some of these are based on the tenant being at fault, for example, by not paying the rent, causing damage, or disturbing other tenants. Other reasons are based on the landlord's plans and do not involve any fault on the part of the tenant. For example, the landlord may want to live in the unit, or use it for something other than living space.

In next month's On the Radar, we'll talk in more detail about some of the common reasons for eviction.

Getting legal help

Community legal clinics
For legal help or advice, tenants can contact their local community legal clinic. There is information about how to find the nearest community legal clinic on the Legal Aid Ontario website.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
December 2013
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.

Related CLEO resource:

Fighting an eviction


Other resources:

How a landlord can evict a tenant (Landlord and Tenant Board)
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