Ontario Lease Wizard title icon

Ontario Lease Wizard

 

Start: October 2018 – Ongoing

  • What’s the Problem?

In Ontario’s highly regulated residential rental markets, landlords must comply with complex rules that are confusing to landlords and tenants alike. A well-drafted lease is one of the most important tools a landlord has to protect their investment and promote a positive relationship with their tenants.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of leases are long documents written in legalese that:

  • Leave people confused or misinformed about their legal rights and obligations
  • Contain terms that parties never read, are ambiguous, or may not comply with the law
  • Leave people feeling vulnerable and upset increasing the risk of conflict
Confused lease users
  • Ontario’s Standard Form Lease

In 2018, the Ontario Government introduced the Standard Form Lease (SFL) to clarify confusing terms and to help streamline the lease-creation process.

While the SFL was a great step forward, the Ministry’s limited timeline and budget could only accomplish so much.

The OSFL is long, and uses lots of legal terminology. It does include an appendix and a guide, but it can be overwhelming to sort through the information on your own. The OSFL does not provide Landlords with any additional resources, supports, or contact information for agencies and organizations that support Landlords.

Ontario Standard Lease Form
  • Our Objective

We propose to redesign the standard form lease to create a digital-first design.

In completing this project, we hope to:

  • Bring together design, legal, and grassroots community groups to participate in a well-scoped, co-design process.
  • Build skills and knowledge among community members.
  • Build awareness and engagement among legal and design professionals.
Objectives_OSL
  • Introducing the Ontario Lease Wizard

Ontario Lease Wizard mock

The Ontario Lease Wizard offers a streamlined and intuitive interface for landlords and tenants. It’s the work-product of an engaged and neutral nonprofit team.

Not only does it provide access to useful legal information, resources, and supports, but it’s also easy and quick to use!

With the Ontario Lease Wizard, I would know that:

  • I have maximized my legal protections under Ontario law to protect my investment
  • I have access to expert help from lawyers, paralegal, and landlord support groups
  • My tenants actually understand their legal obligations because they’ve been guided through intuitive explanations and unbiased legal information.
  • I am saving time, money, and avoiding future frustrations by providing my tenants with clear terms and educational resources.
  • Features of the Lease Wizard

Features of the Ontario Lease Wizard
screen_rent

Easy to understand money – simply drag-and-drop costs. Help tenants understand what is and isn’t included in rent!

Additional terms – Select from our list of most common, valid terms or create your own.

screen_additional terms
screen_timeline

Timeline – important dates will be auto-generated so you don’t have to do the math.

  • Our Process

Tenant Workshop

On Feb 12, 2019 We held a workshop with tenants at the Law Society of Ontario, to get feedback on our tool progress so far. The purpose of the event was to gain feedback on overall concept of the project , understand how the project could best fit into the market, and to gather detailed feedback feedback on specific sections of lease document.

Overall, we were able to gain a better understanding of the challenge we were trying to address.

Posting notes

Key Takeaways

  • In order for the tool to have an actual impact on peoples lives, it must be designed for use by landlords and realtors (it must have a strong value proposition)
  • Since few people actually read the Standard Lease, we should think more radically about the redesign. Let’s just kept the core fields and change everything else to whatever content/design best accomplishes our goals.
  • Participants shared many ideas for potential features, e.g. communication, payment, or rating systems, crowd-sourced terms, among others. This brainstorm helped us identify the “core” features and refine our scope.
  • This feedback also helped clarify “what we’re not”: we’re not biased to landlords or tenant (we’re creating a positive-sum interaction) and we’re not restricting the scope of our tool to vulnerable populations.

Competitive Review

There are a number of existing products currently on the market that help tennants and landlords understand the renting process. We reviewed a number of these tools, asking ourselves, Why is it relevant? What can we learn? and how are we different?

competitive review

Key Takeaways

  • There are many highly-developed software tools for large and corporate landlords.
  • For small landlords, consumer-friendly digital tools are focused on facilitating tenant screening, payment systems, and maintenance logs. We found no tool that is focused on educating / guiding the parties through the terms of a lease.
  • There are several great websites devoted to legal and practical education for landlord and tenants – they are not, however, focused on or designed around the lease document, e.g. Renting it Right, Renter’s Tool Kit, Steps to Justice.
  • There are several civic tech projects focused on later phases on the tenancy relationship in response to existing conflicts, e.g. requesting maintenance Justfixit.nyc or Toronto N12 Registry.
  • Next Steps

next steps

If you are interested in joining our team, please send an email to lawdesigncolab[at]gmail.com.

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