Landlord and Tenant Law
Landlord and tenant law, governed by provincial statutes and judge-made law, varies considerably from province to province. Essentially, a landlord and tenant relationship is contractual (see CONTRACT LAW). The tenant acquires an interest in land and the right to exclusive possession of defined premises. However, not every person permitted to occupy the premises of another is a tenant in the eyes of the law; for example, boarders or lodgers, who are not granted exclusive possession, would not qualify. Most leases are either for a fixed period (eg, one year) or for a periodic term (eg, from month to month). If the latter, the lease may be terminated by either party by giving appropriate notice (usually set out by statute).
Leases do not have to be written, although in some provinces long-term leases must be in written form and signed by the parties. Many of the obligations owed by the landlords and tenants to each other defy precise definition; in the absence of express, agreed terms upon which they generally depend, the law will imply certain obligations. The tenant's primary responsibility is to pay rent; the landlord's corresponding obligation is to provide the premises to the tenant, together with the assurance that the tenant has the right to enjoy possession of the premises. Consequently, a landlord who interferes with this possession, even indirectly (eg, by permitting noxious fumes to seep into the rented premises) may be in breach of the terms of the lease agreement.
Within the last 20 years statutory reforms have greatly redefined the obligations of both landlords and tenants, but they have been primarily concerned with residential leases and have not greatly altered the existing law respecting commercial leases. They have tended to enhance the legal position of the tenant, and many new tenant rights cannot be altered by a contrary provision in the lease. In some provinces, the protections and advantages accorded to tenants by these reforms have been extended to boarders, lodgers and others who have not acquired exclusive possession of premises.
In commercial tenancies, landlords are under no statutory obligation to keep the premises in a good or even reasonable state of repair, but under the reforms the landlord of residential property must undertake all major repairs. The tenant's only obligation is to maintain the property in a reasonably clean condition and to use it suitably.
Tenants have a right to assign or sublet the rented premises to others, unless the lease provides otherwise. Sometimes the tenancy agreement will require the landlord's consent to any assignment or sublease, in which case the landlord may not unreasonably or arbitrarily withhold consent. If a tenant violates the tenancy agreement by failing to pay rent or by abandoning the premises prior to the termination of the lease or in other ways, a landlord may sue the tenant to recover arrears of rent or damages. A landlord may sue to repossess the premises, in which case a court order may be necessary if the tenant does not consent.