I’m seriously thinking about buying a house that has a tenant, but I want to move in myself without becoming a landlord. What are my options?

Any time you buy or sell a property that houses tenants, it’s important to remember: a) tenants have rights, and b) the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board takes those rights very seriously. I recommend speaking to a lawyer who understands landlord and tenant issues, and working closely with a real estate salesperson who has handled similar transactions. Be sure to ask specific questions about their experience when you interview potential candidates.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario regulates the conduct of real estate salespeople, brokers and brokerages. We don’t adjudicate landlord and tenant cases, but we expect anyone who is registered with us to be aware of all relevant laws, including the fundamentals of the Residential Tenancies Act. Your salesperson can help you navigate these waters, but here are a few basics.

A landlord has the right to put their property up for sale at any time, and a tenant can’t prevent potential buyers from viewing their home, but there are some defined rules on the subject. For example, a tenant must receive at least 24 hours of advance written notice before a showing can take place, and it can only occur between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. As a general rule, you’re not allowed to photograph the property while it is occupied by a tenant unless they provide their express consent.

You mentioned that you don’t want to become a landlord. If you decide to purchase the house, it’s a good idea to obtain a copy of the tenant’s lease so you know how long they have been living in the building, and the terms of the agreement. Unless the tenant has violated the terms of the lease, you can’t normally evict the tenant until and unless their lease has expired. If the tenant is paying month-to-month (meaning the lease has expired), you must give them adequate notice to vacate the property.

As the owner, you are allowed to evict the tenant if you plan on living in their unit, or allowing certain family members (the qualifying relationships are set out on the RTA) to use it.

It’s illegal for a home buyer to evict a tenant under a false claim of the “Landlord’s Own Use” rule. If you evict your tenant and they find out you weren’t truthful, the tenant could sue you for moving costs and the higher rent paid at their new home. Moreover, the Ontario Rental Housing Enforcement Unit may investigate the matter and press charges.

Check out the Landlord and Tenant Board website if you wish to learn more about a landlord’s rights and responsibilities.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email askjoe@reco.on.ca.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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