Starting April 30, 2018, most all landlords will have to use the new Standard Form Lease (“SFL”), provided by the Government of Ontario. The new SFL provides a step-by-step leasing guide “for dummies”, written in plain language, so anyone can understand and fill it out properly. To top it off, the Ontario Government will have it available in 23 languages.
If a non-standard lease is signed before April 30th, it is not “illegal”; indeed, landlords are under no obligation to change current leases to the standard form as long as they were signed before April 30. Nevertheless, they can if they want or choose to. However, all leases signed on or after April 30, 2018 must be in the standard Form. If a non-standard lease is signed after April 30, the tenant can ask the landlord, in writing, to replace the lease with the Standard Form. As long as this request is done in writing, the landlord has 21 days to respond with the standard form lease. If the landlord does not comply, the tenant can withhold a maximum of one month’s rent or give notice to terminate the tenancy in the case of a fixed or 1-year term tenancy.
At its Appendix, the Standard Form Lease contains a summary of some of the most important rules provided in the Residential Tenancies Act. If the parties wish to add other terms to the lease, all they have to do is attach them to the Standard Form Lease.
Regarding additional lease terms, one matter which is particularly relevant these days is the use and growth of Marijuana in leased premises. Now that Marijuana is decriminalized and no longer considered an “illegal act”, it is analoguous to smoking cigarerttes in rented premises for the purposes of the Act. Although case law goes both ways with regards to a tenant’s right to smoke within their unit, nothing prevents landlords from prohibiting the use of marijuana in their units in their new leases, just as they can do with tobacco use, within the additional lease terms of the SFL.
On growing Marijuana in rental units, the Attorney General of Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations submitted a report to the federal Department of Public Safety stating that this poses certain hazards and could result in damage to buildings and loss of insurance. Understandably, some landlords are also concerned about overloaded electricity systems, the risks of mould, and additional repairs. That said, landlords may want to include a ban on growing marijuana plants in their SFL.
Another item landlords should consider is the use of AirBnB and short-term rentals by their tenants. These days, more and more landlords are encountering tenants who are illegally subletting their units to AirBnB guests. Although a Landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent to sublet, certain Landlord Tenant Board decisions have found that advertising and renting a rental unit for short term holiday rentals is “a serious interference with the Landlord’s right privilege and interest” in the premises. For this reason, landlords may want to include a ban on the tenant’s ability to rent unit via AirBnB or any short-term rental intermediary in the additional lease terms.
In short, the new SFL is a good thing. It outlines both the landlord and the tenant’s rights and responsibilities and ensures that no vital items are overlooked, which can happen in the case of verbal or non-standard leases. If the parties wish to add more terms to the Lease, they can do so by attaching them to the SFL, which provides some flexibility. However, additional clauses cannot cancel out any of the clauses or rights under the RTA.