Guide to Rental Responsibilities: Tenants & Landlord Handbook

We’re all guilty of skimming over a contract, thinking that it’ll be the first and last time we see it, before signing away. And more often than not, you can get by with vaguely knowing what lies within your responsibility.

Taking care of a rental requires both parties involved to do their part. However, it’s not as clear-cut as some might think it is. There is a grey area for who should be responsible for the burnt-out lightbulb and the broken fridge. With our already busy lives, the last thing you want is to deal with a nasty lawsuit over a miscommunication. Knowing the details ahead of time will help to prevent conflicts and maintain a good relationship between tenant and landlord.

The following is a brief overview of what lies within your responsibilities as a tenant and a landlord. Note that laws and rules vary depending on where you live and the conditions of your contract. The majority of these rules will follow Canadian and North American standards.

What Are The Responsibilities of Tenant?

Small Replacements

Surprising to some, your landlord is not responsible for replacing everything in the rental before you moved in. For example, lightbulbs are often confusing when it comes to who is responsible as it is technically part of the fixed property. However, this actually falls under the responsibility of the tenant to replace. Aside from an apartment complex or a common public area, tenants are to replace the lights in their own apartments, where they are the ones flipping the switch on and off.

Outdoor Maintenance

Mowing the lawn and other yard works are to be covered by the tenant if you live in a detached home. For tenants living in apartments, exterior maintenance is usually taken care of by contractors or the building’s landlord. However, it is always important to double-check with your landlord to know what to expect for every season. For example in Canada, snow-removal actually falls under the landlord’s responsibility, meaning MLS listings in Toronto will be in need of snow removal services during the winter. Also, keeping an eco-friendly and low-maintenance backyard can save you time and money, and also make your outdoor property more sustainable.

Damages Post-Moving

Whether it was your friend or your pet, as a tenant, you are liable for any damages that have occurred since moving in. Your landlord would have done a sweep of the place before you move in so that they are aware of the state of the home. Any damages that occur after you’ve moved in will be yours to cover. This can include broken windows, broken furniture and pests. There will also usually be leniency concerning damage from wear and tear but know that your landlord could charge you for damages they deem significant. Prior damages should be made known to you before moving in and are not your responsibility to repair.

Pay Rent On Time

Paying rent in full and by the day you are supposed to, is your responsibility as being overall, a good tenant. It shows your landlord that you have financial responsibility and that you are capable of meeting expectations as set by your agreement.
You should be communicating with your landlord about any financial concerns or foreseeable issues. In addition to this, you should be honoring the conditions on your lease, and treating the place as if you own it. Keep it relatively clean and be a good neighbor – don’t be loud enough to draw in complaints.
Pay rent on time
Not only does it help you avoid eviction, but it doesn’t look good when looking for future rentals if you’ve had a history of late payments and poor behaviour.

Understand Sublet and AirBnB Rules

If you’re heading out of town for vacation and don’t want your empty apartment to go to waste, subletting or hosting an AirBnB is a smart way to offset your bills. However, before you host any short-term rentals, remember that you can only do so with permission from your landlord. Additionally, some cities have specific AirBnB rules and regulations that you will have to comply with. For example, while your landlord might be okay with you setting up an AirBnB, some building managements, such as those for Toronto condos do not permit hosting AirBnBs.

Know Your Tenant’s Rights in Repairs and Maintenance

By knowing what you are responsible for in your rental, you are able to better protect yourself in the case your landlord makes an accusation for something you are not responsible for. Your rights as a tenant is also critical information you should be aware of. As a tenant, you are entitled to a safe home, vital services (such as hydro and heating), privacy, and controlled rent increases. At all times, your landlord must provide a 24-hour notice before entering your home along with an appropriate reason.

Many cities will have some form of tenancy act, listing these rights, in place to protect tenants from scams and bad landlords. There may be conditions set in your lease agreement that break the rules of the tenancy act, for which you do not have to follow. For example, in Ontario, Canada, there is no official rule preventing you from having children in the home.

What Are The Responsibilities of Landlord?

Appliances and Vital Services

Vital services, which cover heating, hydro, electricity and fuel (like natural gas) must be provided by the landlord. If not functioning properly or in need of repair, it is the landlord’s responsibility to have a contractor come in to fix it. This means leaks or water damage, uncontrollable in circumstances, will also be an expense the landlord pays. These services cannot be shut off at any time, even if your tenant has failed to pay their rent on time and in the full amount. Often, the utilities bill can be negotiated between landlord and tenant for who is going to pay it.

Appliances on the other hand are the landlord’s duties if the lease agreement included appliances with the rental fee. These usually include washer, dryer, dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator. If it is not included in the agreement fee, then the tenant will have to cover it.

Maintenance and Common Areas

As the landlord, you are responsible to ensure a safe home for your tenant and abide by your city’s health, safety and maintenance standards. If there are damages to the property, you are responsible for repairing them as well as taking care of all common areas shared by renters. This may include staircases, hallways or laundry rooms. Again, common areas in which you are responsible for should be clarified in the lease agreement.
Maintenance of common areas
Regular maintenance includes checking on your smoke alarms, making sure that they are functioning and up to date. Your tenant will partake in the upkeep and testing to make sure that everything is working.


At any time, if you feel that your tenant has not been paying rent or is causing problems, you have the power to evict them from your rental. Keep in mind that you will have to go through the tenant eviction procedures and provide a written notice to your tenant ahead of time as formality. The notice should include all information your tenant needs to know as well as a time frame in which you want them (usually 30 days) to move out by. Different places have different rules; some cities will require the tenant to receive one month’s rent, if the landlord wishes to use the unit for themselves.

It is not until you get an order to end the tenancy that your tenant has to move out. This will usually include a hearing where you present your concerns to your city’s tenancy board. If your tenant still refuses to move out, you can escalate the issue and file a lawsuit to continue the process.

Provide Documents

All documentation regarding the process should be provided by the landlord. This includes the contract, a written notice of your legal name and address, as well as rent receipts, which your tenant will ask you for. You cannot charge for these documents and it is your responsibility to provide your tenant with a copy of them.

If you are aware of significant changes that will affect your tenant living in your rental such as transferring ownership of the property, you will have to provide your tenant with a written notification ahead of time.

Know Your Rights

Just as tenants have rights in order to protect themselves from bad landlords, landlords also have rights to protect them from bad tenants. As a landlord, you are entitled to the collection of rent deposits, entry to the unit for maintenance or repairs, entry to show the unit to a potential tenant and entry in the case of an emergency. You are also allowed to increase the rent as long as you follow the rent increase guidelines set by your city.

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