A woman in London, Ontario, was asked to move out of a three-bedroom rental in which she shared a kitchen and bathroom with the landlord because his fiancé was moving in, only to find the same unit listed for more money.

Judging by the rancorous reaction the landlord has received online, which has doubtless been partially driven by frustration with tight rental markets across Canada and the consequent price gouging, many observers likely don’t realize that the landlord, who works as a paralegal, was probably acting within the law.

“Can you confirm the tenant was sharing a bathroom, was sharing those stated facilities, with the landlord? Then you’re not protected by the Residential Tenancies Act, end of story,” real estate lawyer Bob Aaron told STOREYS. “I don’t think it really matters if you’re sharing facilities like a kitchen or bathroom, you have no security of staying there. This is a matter of government policy. It’s been this way for decades for people who are sharing. People who are sharing a bathroom and kitchen can’t be forced to live together and the tenant has no protection.”

Aaron, who added that he is neither taking the landlord’s side nor is it clear the former tenant -- whose name is Mikayla Koevoets -- had an active lease, says the law is pretty clear on the matter, and because the tenant would have to move out immediately, such cases rarely, if ever, make it to a Landlord Tenant Bureau tribunal hearing.

If Koevoets’ lease was both active and renewed by the year and not the month, Aaron says it should have protected her. At the heart of the matter is whether or not Koevoets was a tenant like she claims, or a roommate like the landlord, whose identity CBC concealed because he was receiving threats, claims. Also at the heart of the matter is how much she knew about the living arrangement before moving in.

If Koevoets’ lease had expired or ran month to month, Aaron says the law would treat her case the same way it would a roommate who isn’t on a lease.

Living Realty Downtown’s Managing Broker Isaac Quan says Koevoets’ situation has received a lot of attention in Toronto’s real estate community, with the overwhelming majority of observers, including Quan, taking her side.

Noting today’s tight rental markets in cities Canada-wide, Quan says tenants should be cautious because they could find themselves in similarly unfavourable situations.

“It’s absurd. Just because she is sharing a kitchen and bathroom, she doesn’t have rights. It doesn’t happen too often but this is why tenants need to learn about the rental market. It’s so competitive that you’re going to have situations like this, where tenants bypass or don’t read their rights and jump into arrangements without taking into consideration everything they need to know,” Quan said.

Living Realty Downtown is located at Yonge and Bloor, which Quan says is surrounded by investor-owned condominium units, and counts many landlords and tenants among its clientele. Although he hasn’t witnessed untoward landlord behaviour, it wouldn’t surprise Quan if, because Ontario’s laws tilt in favour of tenants especially when it comes to security of tenure, some landlords coerce desperate tenants into agreements that don’t protect them legally like Ontario’s newest standard lease form does.

“A lot of landlords may be looking for loopholes or different designations with their tenants as this market becomes tighter and hotter,” Quan said. “Mortgages are going up which means rents will go up, so landlords could be thinking, ‘Maybe I will treat them like a roommate and kick them out at any time.’”