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Can I legally withhold my rent?

It’s the end of the month, and your landlord still hasn’t fixed that leaky faucet. Or, maybe you’re just short on cash. Will putting off that rent payment cause you any harm?  In general, it’s a bad idea.

In most Canadian provinces, failure to pay rent in full by the agreed upon date will leave a tenant on the streets sooner rather than later, even if there are holes in the ceiling. Here’s what you need to know about the rules and regulations in various regions.

Ontario:

Once a payment is late, a landlord can submit a written notice, called a Notice to End a Tenancy Early for Nonpayment of Rent (N4), asking his tenant to pay the remaining balance by a certain date, or simply asking the tenant to leave.

The good news is that if a tenant makes up the rent payment before the date on the written notice, all is forgiven, at least in a legal sense. The bad news is that for monthly tenants, the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario only requires landlords to give two weeks notice. After that, a landlord can apply to the board to have the tenant evicted.

At this point, the tenant can either pay the landlord the outstanding rent, the landlord’s $170 application fee to the Board and any other payments owed, or attend an eviction hearing. At the hearing, a board member will consider arguments from both parties before determining if the tenant will be evicted, or if a payment plan can be arranged.

In Ontario, tenants are not allowed to withhold rent for repairs. Instead, any reparation disputes must be taken up with the Board.

Quebec:

In Quebec, landlords can apply to terminate a lease if they don’t receive the rent within three weeks after the due date. Additionally, if a tenant is frequently late in paying the rent, that can also be grounds to terminate the lease.

Like in Ontario, if a tenant makes up the remaining rent, plus any additional costs for the landlord’s application, then the hearing at the Régie du logement, is cancelled.

While Quebec’s tenants can’t withhold rent for repairs, they can fix their own urgent maintenance issues themselves, and be reimbursed by the landlord for costs and labour.

British Columbia:

Tenants in B.C. face much tougher laws than in Ontario or Quebec. If a tenant does not pay the rent on time in B.C., the landlord can give the tenant a 10-day notice to end the tenancy, or a warning letter. This means the tenant has five days to pay the rent in full. If the tenant does not, he or she must move out within 10 days. However, a tenant can delay the eviction date.

In B.C., withholding rent for repairs is allowed if the Residential Tenancy Branch grants an order to do so. Like in Quebec, tenants can be reimbursed for emergency repairs made to the apartment.

Alberta:

Tenants who withhold their rent can be served with a 14-day termination notice. Landlords can also get their rent arrears by applying for a “distress for rent” or an “order for possession” judgment through the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service.

Saskatchewan:

Renters must pay on time, but if repairs are not completed after notifying the landlord, tenants have a couple options. Renters can have the Office of Residential Tenancies issue an order directing the landlord to make the repairs, during which time they can request the rent be lowered until the job is completed. Tenants may also order an inspection of the rental unit be conducted by officials, who may then order the landlord to complete the repairs.

Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island all have similar laws.

It’s also illegal to withhold rent in the Northwest Territories, but tenants there do have the option of paying their rent directly to the government Rental Office to keep until repairs are made.

Read more:

Provincial and Territorial Fact Sheets CMHC

Paying Rent British Columbia