Everything you need to know about tenant rights


With March just around the corner, students are once again on the hunt for housing. With that in mind, here are a few key things students should be aware of when renting, as outlined by WUSA’s tenant rights meetings. These meetings were done in collaboration with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services (WRCLS) to inform students of their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). 

Keep physical records: The most common tenant concerns relate to maintenance, such as household appliance malfunctions, plumbing issues, and electrical concerns. Common issues surrounding maintenance include negligence, unaddressed maintenance requests, and emergency maintenance requests. 

The suggested solution is to keep a record of any conversations with the landlord about maintenance problems in writing, as well as to present the landlord with a reasonable date to have the issues fixed by.

Should the concerns not be addressed, the tenant can take them up in front of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB); therefore, it is important that there is physical evidence of the landlord’s failure to uphold a reasonable timeline.

Take photos: To avoid property damage allegations, ensure there is photographic proof of the state of the property before moving in and after moving out. 

As of Sept. 1, 2021, the RTA stipulates that landlords can pursue former tenants for damages or unpaid rent up to one year after the date the tenant moved out. This update has created a common issue of illegal charges to tenants after moving out for things considered regular wear and tear. 

Photographic evidence helps to establish proof that the damages are not a result of any direct action by the tenant. Particularly important areas to photograph include walls, windows, door casings, moulding, and floors. It is also vital to keep physical records of all rental payments to avoid rental charges at a later date.

Know the relevant terms of the RTA: According to WRCLS member Pataida Mzite, the RTA exists to “protec[t] the relationship that exists between a landlord and a tenant.” Knowing these terms protects tenants from exploitation. 

One such important term states that rent increases can only occur once every 12 months. Additionally, tenants must be given 90 days’ notice prior to the increase. Other essential terms relate to subletting. For example, if the tenant remains in the building, then the situation is not considered subletting, and the other tenant is considered under the RTA as a roommate or other occupant of the unit. Additionally, tenants must obtain consent from the landlord to sublet, but landlords cannot arbitrarily withhold this consent. In such cases, the tenant has the right to appeal to the LTB for consent.

The RTA also sets out important terms for eviction, such as the necessity of a notice preceding an eviction hearing with the LTB.

Additionally, if a lease agreement includes a clause that is not outlined by the RTA, that section of the agreement is void and can be brought up to the landlord or, if necessary, the LTB. Common examples of such clauses in leases include deductions for regular maintenance, or an outright ban on pets (though landlords can enforce this rule when reviewing rental applications or if the building’s corporation has passed bylaws banning pets). 

Use community resources: WUSA has resources available for those seeking legal assistance, such as the Student Legal Protection Program, which provides legal advice not just for tenants but also on issues such as academic rights, co-op, and employment. This program can be accessed by all full and part-time undergraduate students of UW and covers the legal expenses associated with housing issues, such as disputed or illegal rent increases. The Program is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WUSA also provides a guide to finding off-campus housing, including an interactive map of the area and surrounding housing. The organization is currently in the process of developing a “dedicated housing and tenancy resource that will be shared on [their] website and social media channels when it is ready,” according to WUSA’s media and communications specialist Hannah Wardell. This resource will contain information on “navigating housing concerns, what to look for when signing a lease and [provide] resources for support.”

Another resource readily available to students is WRCLS. The walk-in legal clinic provides free legal services such as legal information, support, advice, and representation. 

Though finding housing is often a stressful and difficult endeavour, a plethora of resources are available to Waterloo students looking to navigate the legal landscape of renting. Full-time or part-time undergraduate students in need of legal assistance can contact WUSA’s Student Legal Protection Program open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.