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Breaking a Residential Lease in Ontario: Sublet versus Assignment

Posted by Sherry Rioux on January 31, 2013

We break here for an important announcement:  Happy Birthday to my wonderful, wonderful husband, John!  Ok, resume.

For many years, I always believed that a tenant was responsible for the full term of their lease no matter what.  With a landlord’s consent, they could sublet it though for the remainder of the term provided the new tenant was approved by the landlord. A quick survey of other people I know suggests that this is what most people still believe however, it is not correct in Ontario at all.

There is often confusion between the terms SUBLET versus ASSIGN.  A sublet is when a tenant with a lease lets another person occupy the unit for a temporary period of time but returns before the lease ends.   An assignment on the other hand is when a tenant with a lease transfers their lease to someone else.

A landlord and a tenant can mutually agree to terminate a lease at any time but if they can’t agree, it gets a bit more complicated.  Tenants have the right to ask for permission to assign their unit if they are intending to vacate before the end of their lease and, they must have their landlord’s permission to do so before they proceed with an assignment.  Makes sense so far, right?

Now, if you are a landlord, pay attention to this:  If the landlord does not reply to this request within seven days, the tenant can end the lease by giving notice within 30 days of making the request.  If they rent by the month or have a lease, the tenant only needs to give 30 days notice to end the lease.  That’s it.  If the landlord won’t allow assignments, same thing:  30 days notice and the tenant can vacate despite having a longer term lease. If a landlord has given their approval for the tenant to assign and the tenant finds another person to rent the unit, they then ask the landlord to accept the new person.  The landlord has the right to refuse to let this person become a new tenant, but must have a good reason for doing so.

There are other important details of the Act that all responsible landlords and tenants should make themselves aware of.  You can find more information about Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act online by clicking here.

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