There are many reasons for breaking a lease in Ontario. You may want to move because the rent is too high and is making you house-poor, or you may have a job opportunity in a different neighbourhood. But as a tenant, can you break a lease in Ontario early, and what are the legal and financial consequences?
Read on to find out how to get out of a lease in Ontario, including your rights as a tenant. You can also learn more about the potential consequences of breaking your lease in Ontario without following the proper process, so you can avoid these pitfalls and focus on your move.
Can You Terminate a Lease Early in Ontario?
Yes, you can terminate a lease early in Ontario. You may either come to an agreement with your landlord to end the lease before its term or give written notice to your landlord that you’re ending your lease early.
If you opt to give notice, your notice should tell your landlord the last day you intend to live in your home in Ontario. This day will be considered the termination date for legal purposes.
When to Give Notice for Ending Your Lease Early
If you don’t give notice to your landlord, your tenancy will continue even if you leave on the termination date. Here are the guidelines for when your termination date should be in your notice, depending on the terms of your tenancy:
In a fixed-term tenancy, the renter and landlord agree that the lease will last for a specified period of time. This lease agreement must include the start and end date. Both the tenant’s and the landlord’s rights and obligations are fixed within this lease term.
If the term of your tenancy is fixed (e.g., a lease for one year), you need to give your landlord notice at least 60 days before the term ends. The termination date on your notice can’t be before the last day of your lease’s fixed term.
In a non-fixed-term tenancy, the landlord and the tenant don’t have an agreed end date. If rent is paid monthly, this is known as a month-to-month tenancy. If you pay your rent every week, this is typically known as a weekly tenancy.
This is the minimum notice you need to give and when to fix a termination date for your notice depending on whether you have a monthly or weekly tenancy:
- Monthly tenancy with no fixed term: If you have a month-to-month tenancy with no fixed term, you need to give your landlord at least 60 days’ notice. The termination date on your notice should be the last day of a rental month.
- Weekly tenancy with no fixed term: If you rent your space weekly or daily and are not in a fixed-term tenancy, you need to give your landlord at least 28 days’ notice. The termination date on your notice needs to be the last day of a rental week.
When a Tenant Can Terminate a Lease Early
Rental properties in Ontario are regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act. Here are the typical situations covered by this law for breaking your lease in Ontario early:
- You and your landlord agree to end the lease: The easiest and least stressful way to terminate your Ontario lease early is to come to a mutual agreement with your landlord. Get this agreement in writing.
- You are a victim of sexual or domestic violence: You can terminate your lease early if you show that staying in your rental property constitutes an unsafe living situation due to domestic or sexual abuse. Note that, in this case, you must present two documents:
- A notice to your landlord to end your tenancy due to fear of sexual or domestic abuse
- Either a statement about the abuse or a copy of a court order (e.g. a restraining order)
- Your landlord didn’t provide the standard lease form: For tenancy agreements entered into on or after April 30, 2018, these must be provided by your landlord in the standard lease form. If your landlord doesn’t provide your lease in the standard form, you can make a written demand for a signed copy of the standard lease form. If they don’t give you a copy within 21 days of your demand, you can give notice to your landlord to break your lease early.
- What if my landlord gives the standard lease form?: You may still opt not to enter the tenancy agreement and give notice instead to your landlord to end the tenancy. However, you need to give this notice no later than 30 days after your landlord has given you the standard lease form.
Note that, in either case, you still have to provide the landlord with a written notice for termination of the lease at least 60 days before the last day of a rental period. The notice’s termination date does not have to be the last day of the fixed tenancy agreement.
- You assign the tenancy to another person: Your landlord may allow you to break your lease and assign it to another person. This allows that third person to take on your tenancy when you permanently leave the unit. Note that an assignment is not the same as subletting, which is strictly regulated and may make you liable for any property damage caused by a sublessee.
- The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) issued an order ending the lease: The LTB can allow you to break your lease early if your landlord fails to meet certain legal obligations. Some of these obligations include unlawfully entering your rental property, renters harassment, and failure to maintain health and safety standards.
- Your landlord didn’t respond to a request to assign a rental space in seven days: If you apply to have your lease assigned to someone else and your landlord doesn’t respond within seven days, you can file for your lease to be terminated immediately.
- Your landlord rejected a new assignment with no justifiable reason: While your landlord has the right to refuse a person you’ve suggested for assigned your tenancy, they can’t refuse arbitrarily. If they reject the assignment and you don’t think there was a justifiable reason for the refusal, you can contact the LTB and ask them to end the tenancy, authorize the assignment, or order your landlord to pay a rent rebate.
When a Landlord Can Terminate a Lease Early
If you’re a landlord wondering how to break a lease in Ontario, the LTB only allows landlords to end a lease early for the following reasons:
- The rental property is required by a family member or purchaser.
- The tenant has failed to comply with the terms of the lease agreement. Examples of such failures include non-payment of rent, subletting without an agreement, and involvement in criminal activities.
- The tenant has agreed with the landlord to end the lease early. Note that if you’re a landlord who breaks a lease early this way, you have to fill out Form N11 (Agreement To End Tenancy).
- The property has to be repaired, demolished, or converted for other uses.
What Is the Penalty for Breaking a Lease in Ontario?
If you break your lease in Ontario without an agreement with your landlord or giving proper notice, you may face the following penalties:
- Being responsible for paying the rent until the day the property is rented out to a new unit or the earliest termination date that could’ve been put in a proper notice to end the tenancy, whichever date is earlier
- Forfeiting your security deposit, which is an amount typically worth one month’s rent and deposited at the start of your lease
Note that even if legally you break your lease early in Ontario, you may still have to forfeit your security deposit if you sublet your rented property. Because you’re responsible under the lease for any damage to your rental, your landlord can retain your security deposit to cover the cost of repairs and replacements.
How Long After Signing a Lease Can You Back Out in Ontario?
Once you’ve signed your lease in Ontario, you’re bound to honour the start and end date indicated in its terms.
You may still break your lease early by following the guidelines we’ve listed above for termination dates and minimum notice periods. Note that this may cause your landlord to charge you rent until a new tenant is found or require you to forfeit your security deposit.
The Bottom Line
If you’re wondering how to break a lease in Ontario, this article has plenty of information on how to take the right approach. Communicating honestly with your landlord is the most important step, and you may come to a mutual agreement with little fuss.
However, note that breaking your lease may have financial consequences, especially if you don’t follow the correct procedures. Keep the tips above in mind, and you’ll be one step closer to preparing for your new home.
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