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How do I file a tenant complaint?

A complaint key on a keyboard. Stock photo by Getty Images.

As a tenant you have a number of rights. They are set out in each province’s residential tenancy act. For instance, the landlord must keep the house safe and in good repair.

Vital services such as hot and cold water, electricity and heat should also work. Your landlord can only enter your property for a limited number of reasons. The landlord may only increase your rent every so often ─ usually every 12 months and by the amount the law allows. You can only be evicted for certain reasons. You have the right to have children live in the house. You also have a right to a written copy of your tenancy agreement and to rent receipts. 

If any of the above is violated, you may notify your landlord ─ preferably in writing ─ and allow him a reasonable amount of time to address the issue. If nothing gets done, you may bring a formal complaint to the legal body that hears landlord-tenant disputes. 

In Ontario, the tenant applications are brought before the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The first step is to choose what type of application to fill out. There are different ones for different issues. For example, the application about maintenance may be different than the application about your landlord having entered your property illegally. A different application is likely needed for rebate of money the landlord owes you if your landlord, for instance, did not use your rent deposit to credit you the last month’s rent.    

You can file your application in person, by mail or fax in most provinces. In some places, you can even file it electronically. Some applications come with a fee. If you don’t pay the fee, the application will be refused. If you can’t afford the fee, some provinces allow you to apply for a fee waiver.

After your application is accepted, you will get a scheduled hearing date. In certain provinces, you have to give your landlord documents to inform the landlord of the hearing date and purpose. In some places, the office informs the landlord. 

When you arrive for your hearing, you may have the option of going before a mediator — a neutral person who sits with your landlord and you to come up with a solution that works for everyone. If mediation is not successful, you then proceed to a hearing. You present your case before the hearing judge on your own or with additional witnesses and the landlord does the same. The judge will issue an order that is binding on all parties and must be followed. 

If you get an order in your favour and your landlord does not follow it, you can generally enforce your order through the courts. 

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Click on the name of your province to find more information regarding tenant complaints.