There is a general misconception that residential tenants may terminate their leases at will, without consequences or without any specific notice requirements. This simply isn’t true and can lead to financial consequences for the tenant.
If the tenant leaves without giving proper notice, they are on the hook for rent until the earlier of: (a) the date the unit is rented to another tenant; or (b) the earliest termination date that could have been put in a notice to end a tenancy, if the tenant gave proper notice.
There are different circumstances in Ontario where a tenant can terminate a lease early – some require simple notices while others require an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Generally, circumstances that permit early termination are:
- The tenant and landlord agree to terminate a lease early. While you don’t have to, it’s highly suggested that you get this in writing. You can use the Agreement to Terminate a Tenancy (Form N11).
- The tenant gives proper notice to terminate the lease at the end of the term (more about the notice periods below).
- The tenant assigns – not sublets – the lease to someone else (unless your lease says otherwise, tenants require landlord approval to assign a lease. Note that assigning a lease doesn’t absolve the original tenant from a variety of legal obligations to the landlord, but it does generally terminate the tenant’s right to occupy the unit).
- The LTB issues an order ending the tenancy agreement early.
- The tenant or the tenant’s child is a victim of sexual or domestic violence (tenants who believe they could be abused if they don’t leave the rental unit can terminate the tenancy by giving 28 days notice at any time during their tenancy).
- The tenant entered into a lease with the landlord on or after April 30, 2018, the landlord did not use the provincially mandated standard lease form, the tenant has sent a written demand within 30 days of the receipt of the “non-standard lease” requesting that the landlord provide a standard lease form and the landlord has not provided the standard lease form.
Since each of the termination rights listed above have a variety of technicalities, this article will dissect the requirements for situations where the tenant wants to terminate the lease at the end of the term. Speaking from experience, notice periods and correct spelling of the landlord’s name are crucial details to get right – failure to be precise may render the notice invalid and unenforceable, causing the tenant to be on the hook for rent even if they are not occupying the space.
Giving notice and termination dates
Notice dates depend upon whether or not you are in a fixed-term tenancy or periodic tenancy (monthly or weekly). If you are in a fixed term, such as a one-year lease with a specific end date to the lease, then you must give notice at least 60 days before that specific end date. The LTB provides the following scenarios:
Example 1: You pay rent on the first of each month. The last day of your lease is August 31. You give the landlord notice on June 20. The earliest possible termination date you could put in the notice is August 31.
In this example, 60 days notice is August 13, but the termination day must be the last day of the monthly rental period, so you would need to use August 31.
Example 2: You pay rent on the first of each month. The last day of your lease is August 31. You give notice on July 31. The earliest possible termination date you could put in the notice is September 30.
If rent is paid monthly and you have no specific end date (a month-to-month periodic term), then the tenant must give at least 60 days notice and the termination date must be the last day of a rental month. The LTB provides the following example:
You have a month-to-month tenancy and pay rent on the first day of each month. You give the landlord notice on August 15. The earliest possible termination date you could put in the notice is October 31.
If rent is paid daily or weekly and there is no specific end date, the tenant must give at least 28 days notice and the termination date has to be the last day of a rental week.
Calculating the number of days
Do not count the day that you mail or deliver the notice to the landlord. In fact, it’s best to add on at least five days to the notice period. In other words, the notice period from when you mail the notice will be 65 days instead of 60 or 33 days instead of 28.
Include the termination date as part of the notice period.
Days include weekends and holidays.
Because February only has 28 days, the LTB allows for less than 60 days notice if the tenant is moving in February or March. For example, if the tenant is moving at the end of February the tenant doesn’t have to give 60 days notice so long as the tenant gave notice no later than January 1. If the tenant is moving at the end of March, 60 days notice is not required so long as the tenant gave the notice no later than February 1.
Note that, depending on the type of lease (periodic or a term lease) the termination date must still be the last day of the lease or the last day of the monthly or weekly rental period.
Although the residential market is booming and landlords may not mind tenant turnover if the original tenant was paying below market rent, abiding by the law is simply good practice for legal reasons as well as character development reasons. After all, how you do some things is how you do all things.