Copy That! A Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent

By John Wigle, Student-at-Law, and Bhavin Bilimoria, Director of Legal Services, Don Valley Community Legal Services

Question: Can I withhold my rent if my landlord does not provide me with a copy of the lease?

Answer: If a tenancy agreement is in writing (i.e. a lease), the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the “RTA”) requires landlords to provide their tenants with a copy of the agreement, signed by both parties, within 21 days of the tenant signing the agreement and giving it to the landlord. Similarly, if the tenancy agreement is verbal, the landlord has 21 days after the tenancy begins to give the tenant written notice of the legal name and address of the landlord to be used for giving notices and other documents under the RTA.

If a landlord fails to comply with the 21-day deadline, the tenant’s obligation to pay rent is suspended, and the landlord is prohibited from requiring the tenant to pay rent. In other words, the tenant is lawfully entitled to withhold their rent until they are provided with either a copy of the tenancy agreement if it was made in writing, or the aforementioned written notice if it was a verbal tenancy agreement.

However, once the landlord complies with these requirements, the tenant must pay all of the rent that they previously withheld to their landlord. Accordingly, tenants who exercise this entitlement to lawfully withhold their rent would be wise not to spend the money, but rather save it in anticipation of their landlord subsequently complying with the RTA’s requirements.

A tenant should not expect to receive any financial compensation for a landlord’s failure to meet the requirement to provide a copy of the tenancy agreement or written notice for their legal name and address. Instead, the RTA simply provides tenants with the tools to incentivize landlords to comply with the RTA requirements in this regard.

If you have any questions about this or any other Landlord and Tenant matter, contact your local community legal clinic or the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA).

This is legal information and not legal advice. If you need further information or need legal advice, please call our Intake Line at 416-441-1764 ext. 1 or complete our online Intake Form.