Sometimes, there is only one tenant in the tenancy agreement and the tenant is the only occupant of the rental unit. Other times, there will be more than just one tenant living in the same rental complex. In such a case, we need to determine if the tenants are joint tenants or tenants in common.
Joint tenancy is a living arrangement of which two or more tenants residing in the same rental complex. They co-sign the tenancy agreement and are jointly and severally responsible for the rent payment. Joint and several means any one of the tenants is responsible for the entire rent payment.
In joint tenancy, all of the occupants are tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (Act). They equally enjoy the protection of the Act and take the full responsibilities to the rental complex and the landlord. For example, if a couple signs a tenancy agreement and agrees to pay the rent together, they may be found joint tenants.
However, often it is difficult to determine if the tenants are joint tenants. When this becomes an issue, the case law* requires the Landlord and Tenant Board to examine the relationship between the landlord and tenants.
Usually, if all of the joint tenants give a notice of termination, the tenancy agreement may be ended by following the rules of the Act. However, if only one or some of the joint tenants want to terminate their interests in joint tenancy, special rules will apply. Pursuant to section 47.1(2) of the Act, only the following conditions will secure termination:
- The joint tenant has experienced violence or another form of abuse; or
- The child residing with the joint tenant has experienced violence or another form of abuse.
Let us use the same example. After the couple has moved into the rental complex, they decided to separate and one of the partners wishes to end his or her interests in the joint tenancy. According to our discussion, this partner can only terminate his or her interests when one of the above conditions apply.
Tenancy in Common
Tenancy in common is an arrangement that all the tenants reside in the same rental complex. They may also share some common areas such as the kitchen and washroom. However, the difference is that each tenant in common is only responsible for his or her own rental payment.
Tenants in common may sign their own tenancy agreement with the landlord. They may also just sign one tenancy agreement with the landlord together but each of them is not jointly and severally responsible for the entire rent.
This type of tenancy is very common in big cities such as Toronto. Many rental apartment buildings and rooming houses’ landlords allow tenants in common. In such a case, each tenant occupies a bedroom but shares the common areas.
Technically, each tenant in common has a separate and independent tenancy agreement with the landlord. Therefore, each tenant is only responsible for his or her own payment of rent and other responsibilities. For instance, if one tenant caused damage to the kitchen, other tenants are not responsible for the damages. Furthermore, if a tenant wishes to terminate the tenancy agreement, he or she can provide a notice to the landlord. Other tenants are not required to provide the notice to the landlord.
*Parsons v. Twin Elm Estates,  O.J. No. 1907