Moving Out Of The Dorm? Understand The Law Before Renting Your First Apartment

If you're like most college graduates, moving from the dorm into your own apartment such as with the Certified Rental Building Program in Ontario is both very exciting and a little bit scary. Before you begin the process of searching for your first apartment, it's important to educate yourself on your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. You can avoid future misunderstandings and disagreements with your landlord about maintenance and repair issues in your apartment if you understand these tenancy laws beforehand.


Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the apartment so that it always remains in a "good state of repair" and is fit for habitation. Issues like leaking faucets, pest extermination and malfunctioning utilities are the landlord's responsibility. Generally, landlords are also responsible for snow removal and other outdoor property maintenance around your apartment building.

This doesn't mean you aren't responsible for certain maintenance tasks, though. It's up to you to keep your apartment clean and you must take care of smaller tasks like changing light bulbs and replacing batteries in your smoke detectors.

Regular maintenance tasks, like garbage removal, can be negotiated with your landlord if there isn't already a protocol in place. Before you sign the rental lease, make sure you both come to an understanding of how this type of task is going to be handled throughout the duration of your tenancy. To be safe, you should insist that this agreed-upon procedure is written in the lease before you sign it.

If you have a repair or maintenance problem that needs attention, you're responsible for contacting your landlord in a timely manner to have it resolved. If you wait too long to notify the landlord about a needed repair, you could be held responsible if it causes further damage to the property. For instance, if you fail to inform your landlord about a leaking pipe under the kitchen sink and it eventually causes water damage, you may be partially responsible for the repair costs because your failure to report the problem contributed to the damage.  


If something breaks down in your apartment, it's helpful to know ahead of time which types of maintenance issues you need to take care of, as well as the ones that are your landlord's responsibility to repair.

Basically, if you or your guest damages something in the apartment, it's your responsibility to take care of it. For example, if you accidentally flush your cell phone down the toilet and it causes a flood in the apartment, you're responsible for the repair costs. On the other hand, if your apartment floods because of a tree root blocking the sewer line, it's your landlord's responsibility.

Landlord's Entry

In an emergency situation, your landlord is legally entitled to enter your apartment without prior notice. This includes floods, fires and other urgent circumstances that need immediate attention.

You have a right to privacy, so if your landlord wants to enter the apartment to perform routine maintenance or make a non-urgent repair, there are a few rules that must be followed:

  • The Landlord must give you a 24-hour notice of his intent to enter your apartment.
  • The landlord should give you the notice in writing, explaining why he needs to enter.
  • Unless he has your permission, the landlord can only enter your apartment between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Keep in mind that these rules don't apply in an emergency situation.

This overview should give you a basic understanding of your rights regarding maintenance and repairs in your apartment. If you're interested in learning more about landlord-tenant laws in Ontario, the Residential Tenancies Act contains everything you will ever need to know as a renter. Protect yourself by reading through the Act before you sign a rental agreement because, as they say, "Knowledge is power."