sometimes knowing your rights is all it takes: in which we win our landlord battle

We won! And we won so easily, we're left scratching our heads and asking, "What just happened?"

As you'll recall, our landlord asked for an illegal rent increase - 10.5% when the legal allowable is 0.8%! - and implied that he would resort to dirty tricks if we didn't pay.

We did our homework, checked and double-checked that this home does not fall through a serious loophole in Ontario rent laws. We crafted an email with just the right tone - straightforward and firm, but with nothing that could be considered belligerent.

When he received our email, he asked when he could come over to discuss it. Part of me felt like shooting back, "There's nothing to discuss!"... but we successfully ignored that (younger, more volatile) self, and made an appointment.

Waiting to speak with him was nerve-wracking! We vowed we wouldn't negotiate or be intimidated, that we wouldn't agree to any increase over the legal one, and also that we wouldn't be baited into an argument, but instead would insist that anything further be brought to the Landlord-Tenant Board.

When Landlord came over, he immediately went to work repairing a broken light fixture - something he had tried to get us to take care of, even though it was clearly his responsibility. We were surprised... and wary.

Then we sat down, and he said, "What do you want to do?"

We were completely confused. "What do we want to do?"

"I'm a reasonable guy," he said. "I don't want to drag this out. I might not know all the details. You tell me something. I listen. So, what do you want to do?"

I said we want to renew our lease. Allan said he'd like no rent increase, but we understood that he could raise the rent this percentage in 2014, and this other percentage in 2015. So that's what we want: a new lease that is within the law.

Landlord: "I asked you last time I was here, do you have any questions? You said, no. Then I get your email. So I wanted to come over and finish this up right away."

Neither of us remember him ever asking that. But no matter. I said, "We were very surprised. We had to look into it."

"Yes, that's fine. So let's finish this up right now."

We went over the terms of the new lease, how we would work our new security deposit, and that was that.

It was as if the veiled semi-threats - the cash-only, undocumented increase, the implication that he could refuse to rent to us, the mysterious "other people" who offered him several hundred dollars more per month - had never happened. As if he had never said, "The rent will be $200 more a month," and when we balked, implied that we had no choice.

So what happened? I think he was trying to see what he could get away with. When we asserted our rights - when he saw we knew the law and were prepared to protect ourselves - he backed off. He's not a stupid man. Maybe he realized that the Landlord-Tenant Board would never rule in his favour, so fighting it would be a lot of work for nothing.

One other unknown variable was the presence of Mrs. Landlord during the first conversation. Was he showing off in front of her, playing the tough landlord? Was she the driving force behind the illegal rent increase? She did imply we broke the light fixture. (In fact, she questioned why we needed to change the light bulb!)

We'll never know what really happened. But here's the big lesson. If we had not known our rights and asserted them, we would be paying $200 more in rent every month, or we would have had to move. Instead, we are paying $15 more per month for the remainder of this year, and $30 more per month in 2015. Know your rights!

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