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Oct 21, 2020
3 min
How Long Can A Tenant Have a Guest For? What You Need to Know

It’s not uncommon for landlords to implement restrictions concerning how long tenants can have guests over. In this article, we’ll explore the legality of tenant guest policies in Ontario as well as how issues with guests might affect things like your tenant insurance.

Please note that this article is Ontario-specific. If you live in another province, make sure you look into its regulations.

How Long Can a Tenant Have a Guest in Ontario?

Generally, tenants in Ontario can have guests over for as long as they’d like, as often as they’d like. In fact, according to Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), a landlord attempting to restrict a tenant’s guest privileges may be found guilty of harassment.

Community housing is a notable exception, however. Landlords managing these properties are well within their rights to enforce restrictions on how long guests can stay over.

Toronto Community Housing, for example, only allows tenants to keep guests in their home for a total of 30 days per 12-month period. The Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation is even stricter, allowing tenants to have guests over for two weeks, after which they’ll need to request an extension.

Subletting Without Landlord Permission in Ontario

While laws allow tenants to keep guests over indefinitely, subletting without a landlord’s permission in Ontario is a different story altogether.

Subletting, in case you’re not familiar, is when the original tenant rents the property to someone else. Their name will still be on the lease but they’ll have an entirely separate legal agreement with whoever ends up occupying the space.

Subletting is common in scenarios where tenants need to relocate for some reason. Breaking a lease early comes with several consequences (including being forced to pay rent for the remainder of the term) so many people in this situation prefer to sublet.

Tenants who find themselves having difficulty paying rent often also attempt to sublet part of the house to offset some of the financial burden.

Subletting without a landlord’s permission in Ontario is generally a big no-no, however, as dictated in most residential rental agreements.

According to real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder writing in The Toronto Star, landlords who discover a tenant has been subletting their property without permission have 60 days to file paperwork and terminate the arrangement. If the 60 days pass, the sublet arrangement becomes formal.

Why such strict rules about subletting? Well, a landlord’s home insurance provider may have specific restrictions regarding subletting that wouldn’t apply to mere guests.

As such, when tenants sublet without permission, they’re exposing the landlord to significant liability concerns. This is one reason Ontario law doesn’t allow for subletting without the owner’s consent.

With all this being said, Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act does not allow landlords to arbitrarily refuse a subletting arrangement. There must be a valid reason.

What About Assigning a Property?

In many ways, assigning a property is similar to subletting it. For example, both require permission from the landlord, who can’t arbitrarily say no.

There are notable differences between subletting and assigning a property, however. With subletting, the original tenant maintains liability for certain aspects of the deal (including paying the landlord rent, even if they’re just passing it along).

When tenants assign a property, however, they’re transferring the lease agreement (along with all liabilities and privileges) to an entirely new tenant.

Legal Consequences of Keeping Guests Indefinitely

While laws generally don’t prevent tenants from keeping guests indefinitely in Ontario, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea to do so.

If a long-term guest who isn’t listed on the lease causes damage, the landlord will be justified in holding the primary tenant responsible. This might mean withholding security deposits or even pursuing greater damages as allowed in the lease agreement. In some cases, the tenant may even end up being evicted.

Any action taken will ultimately go on the primary tenant’s record while the guest enjoys little to no legal liability in that regard.

Tenants and landlords also need to be aware of occupancy limits. Depending on the dwelling’s size and the capacity of various systems (i.e. sewer and septic tank), guests may cause the living arrangement to fall out of code.

Insurance Consequences of Keeping Guests Indefinitely

Keeping guests indefinitely can also cause problems with tenant insurance. 

Say, for example, a kitchen fire breaks out in a rented unit. Tenant insurance may cover the damage, including to the surrounding units. Issues can arise, however, if the insurance company discovers the fire was actually caused by an undisclosed long-term guest.

You see, just as landlords spend a great deal of time vetting tenants, insurance companies are very careful about who they cover. If tenants aren’t upfront about a long-term guest, the insurer will be missing a very important piece of information that could influence premiums or even whether coverage is offered at all.

If the tenant’s guest is considered high-risk by the insurance company (i.e. they have a criminal record, long history of evictions, or some other red flag), that could further bolster the justification for denying a claim.

This impacts the landlord as well, who may have to go through their insurance provider for a claim denied by a tenant’s insurance policy. If their request for coverage is also denied, the situation becomes an even bigger headache for everyone involved.

Can A Landlord Restrict Guests in Ontario? Conclusion

Ontario law does not generally allow landlords to restrict tenants in regards to how long they can keep guests around. Subsidized government housing is a notable exception to this rule.

However, there are potential consequences to be aware of even if you don’t live in subsidized housing. If guests cause property damage or other types of issues, landlords will often hold the primary tenant responsible.

Issues may also arise with tenant insurance policies if long-term guests aren’t disclosed. 

It’s a similar idea to what you find with car insurance. Providers do offer accident coverage when a licensed driver borrows your vehicle once in a while. They may raise an issue, however, if it turns out the driver in question has actually been using your car for six months despite not being listed on your policy.

It should be noted, however, that not all tenant insurance policies are the same in this regard. At Surex, we help Canadians find the right policy for their needs. If you have long-term guests over regularly, start a quote with us today. A licensed insurance professional will get in touch and advise you on your best options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a landlord restrict guests in Ontario?

The law does not currently allow landlords to prevent tenants from having guests as long as they’d like. Subsidized government housing rentals are an exception as landlords overseeing those properties typically do impose limits on how long tenants can keep guests.

Can someone live in my apartment without being on the lease?

While the answer is yes on the landlord front, you’ll still want to look into the situation with your tenant insurance provider as they may have limitations.

Do I have to tell my landlord if someone moves in?

Tenants have a right to privacy and aren’t obligated to let their landlord know every time a guest stays over or moves in. However, it can be seen as a courtesy.

Also, keep in mind that the primary tenant will be held responsible for damage caused by a guest, which will impact their record and, subsequently, the ease with which they may get a rental property in the future.

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