How To Avoid A Tenant Catastrophe When You Sell

By: Thomas Cook

How To Avoid A Tenant Catastrophe When You Sell



I recently was assisting a client with the sale of her condo suite in downtown Toronto and came up against a roadblock.

But of a bit of background first… the tenant had been in place for almost nine years and through most of that time, there was an amicable relationship.  However a couple of years ago, things changed… in my mind, both the landlord and the tenant both held some fault in that relationship failure… and the spirit of mutual cooperation disappeared.

My client decided to sell the suite but we immediately started to encounter problems with access.  First, the tenant changed the keys but ultimately we got that solved.

Then, the tenants decided that they wouldn’t accept phone calls or emails from either the landlord or myself as the landlord's Realtor.

As you know, in today’s online real estate market, one of the best ways we have to market a home… condo or otherwise… is by taking professional-grade photos and video and using them online to promote the property.

When I texted to ask the tenant for access to take those photos, I was refused.  Nothing I could offer could get past the ill-will that the tenant had for the landlord.

In my 39 years as a Realtor and many years as an investment property owner and property manager, this was a first.

I consulted with the Landlord Self-Help Centre and searched online but what I confirmed was this… by law, the landlord can only have access for a limited number of things UNLESS they’re specified in the tenant’s lease.

Here’s what the tenancy rules have to say about access to a rental suite.

A landlord may only enter a rental unit after giving written notice to the tenant at least 24 hours before the time of entry under the following circumstances:

The written notice from the landlord to the tenant must specify the reason for entry, the day of entry and a time of entry between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. 

If there are certain repairs to be done you’re allowed to enter to do the repairs as long as you give 24 hours written notice whenever you need to enter to do the work. You must specify the time of entry which can be between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. 

Access for Realtor buyer showings is allowed during that same 8 am to 8 pm time frame as follows.  A landlord or, with the written authorization of a landlord, a broker or salesperson registered under the Real Estate Business Brokers Act, 2002, may enter a rental unit in accordance with written notice given to the tenant at least 24 hours before the time of entry to allow a potential purchaser to view the rental unit.

If I’m representing the landlord for the sale or rental, I usually negotiate a tighter time frame to help smooth the process.  Depending on the tenant’s work schedule and family situation, I typically set showings from 11 am to 8 pm Monday through Friday and from 11 am to 6 pm on Saturday.  I usually recommend that no showings happen on Sundays to give the tenants a break and keep them happy with me.

Tenancy rules do NOT address such things as suite cleaning prior to showings, access for marketing photographs or video or for having an open house for the general public.

If the unit is messy and cluttered, you can try asking the tenants to clean and clear the suite of the clutter. There is no real way to enforce this, and unless they agree that you can help in cleaning up, you cannot do it yourself or hire someone to do it. 

With regards to holding an open house, the law does not make any specific reference to this... it only refers to allowing individual showings. 

What if your tenant gives their 60-days notice to vacate the suite, can they restrict showing times?

The tenant does not have the right to choose when you can enter the unit for showings to prospective tenants, and in this case the 24-hour written notice is not even required as stated under sec. 26(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act: 

For entry to show a rental unit to prospective tenants, Section 26 (3) states…

A landlord may enter the rental unit without written notice to show the unit to prospective tenants if, 

(a) the landlord and tenant have agreed that the tenancy will be terminated or one of them has given notice of termination to the other; 

(b) the landlord enters the unit between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.; and

(c) before entering, the landlord informs or makes a reasonable effort to inform the tenant of the intention to do so. 2006, c. 17, s. 26 (3).

If the tenant refuses to co-operate, you could try calling the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit at 416-585-7214 and discuss this issue with them.

So what is the best solution for ensuring that the landlord has complete access in the case where the suite is being put on the market for sale or for rent?

The most secure way to cover yourself is to put EVERYTHING into the lease document when initially signing up the tenant!

Here are the clauses you should add to EVERY residential lease to cover all those missing pieces and ensure you can sell or rent your suite for the best price…

Tenants agree that, in addition to the conditions for entry set out in s.27 of the Residential Tenancies Act, and pursuant to s27(1)5 of the Act, the Landlord may enter a rental unit in accordance with written notice given to the Tenant(s) at least 24 hours before the time of entry, said notice specifying the reason for entry, the day of entry and a time of entry between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m under the following circumstances:

I hope that this tenant lease clause is of assistance to you. 

You can download this entire clause as a Word document and insert it into all your future residential leases.

If you have any other questions about your tenants or selling your tenanted suite, call or text me at 647-962-1650 or email

I have years of expertise working amicably with tenants and enlisting their cooperation when the owner wishes to sell their condo suite… what’s the best way I can help you?

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If you are going to sell your suite in the next 1 to 9 months, what you do right now can make a difference of thousands of dollars in your sale price, and there are some simple things you can do forthwith to make sure you get "Top-Dollar" when you do sell.


First, is our FREE "Pin-Point Price" Analysis, where I can take a closer in-person look at your condo and prepare a very specific price for your suite. This price will be much more precise than the general range that you can get automatically from the site - and we guarantee in writing to sell your condo at the "Pin-Point Price" or higher in less than 32-days.

Second, is our FREE "Room-By-Room Review", where I do a 20-minute walk-thru and make specific recommendations about which fix-ups or improvements you should (and should not) do to prepare your suite for sale. I will point out the lowest cost, highest return improvements you can make to help sell your condominium quickly and for more money.

Third, if you would like, I will include your condo in our "Silent Market" of condominiums that are not yet on the market.  Because we generate so much buyer interest from our website, Facebook and Google advertising and other proactive marketing, we may be able to find a buyer for your condo without even putting it on the market… saving you both time and money.

These 3 services are FREE. The Room-By-Room Review takes about an 20 minutes, and we can arrange a time during the day or evening, whenever is most convenient for you.