All You Need to Know About Tenancy

Know Your Legal Rights

 

The following information has been provided by the Tenant Resource & Advocacy Centre. For more information, please go visit their website below:

Are you a first time renter in British Columbia?

If you are and would like to learn more about your legal tenancy rights, please visit TRAC's free online interactive course directed to educate first time renters!


LEASE AGREEMENTS

Before you move into any residential unit, make sure you sign and keep a copy of of your lease agreement. Your lease agreement should state all the terms and conditions associated with your unit.

Before signing your lease agreement, you want to make sure you are covered by BC’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). The Residential Tenancy Act is there to protect you and make sure that your legal rights are met under the BC law. The residential tenancy law does not apply to the following housing:  

1. An accommodation where the tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the owner of the property (e.g. home-stay).

2.  An accommodation provided to a student by their school (e.g. UBC housing)

3.  An accommodation included with property occupied primarily for business purposes and rented under a single agreement.

4.  Vacation or travel accommodation (Airbnb, hostels).

5.   Emergency shelters and transitional housing.

6.  An accommodation in care (e.g. hospitals), rehabilitation, or psychiatric facilities.

7.  Correctional institutions.

8.  Rental agreements with terms longer than 20 years.

9. An accommodation rented by a housing cooperative (or “co-op”) to a member of the cooperative.

10. An accommodation arrangement where an individual rents from another renter (e.g. subletting).

For more detailed information, please visit BC’s Residential Tenancy Act:

If you do not fit the criteria to be covered under the BC Tenancy Act, then you will not be able to resolve disputes through the Residential Tenancy Branch. The Residential Tenancy Branch is there to help you solve any Tenancy issues associated with your unit, landlord, lease agreement, etc. You can apply for a Dispute Resolution at your local Residential Tenancy Branch Office. Although, if you do not fit the criteria, you will need to seek Small Claims Court, Supreme Court, legal advocates, and/or lawyers.


How do I apply for a Dispute Resolution?

You can either apply for a dispute resolution online through the RTB website or in-person at your local Residential Tenancy Branch office. When applying online, you will need to log in with BCeID. If you do not have an existing account with BCeID, you can register below:

After you have registered for a BCeID, you will need to complete your online application. The step-by-step instruction sheet can be found here.

If you are applying in-person, you can either download and print a copy of the application form, or pick one up at your local RTB office or Service BC location.

In both cases, you will need to pay an application fee of $100 to $150 CAD

The Student Legal Fund Society will reimburse the application fee amount per academic year for any current UBC undergraduate student.  


CONDITION INSPECTION REPORTS

It is both the tenant and the landlord’s responsibility to complete a condition inspection report of the rental unit at the start of the tenancy and at the end of the tenancy. It is also you and your landlord's responsibility to do a conditions inspection report any time during the tenancy if you buy a new pet. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to walk around the rental unit with your landlord and document its condition using BC’s Condition Inspection Form. This form can be found under http://tenants.bc.ca/condition-inspection-reports/ under approved forms

Terms and Conditions:

1. The condition inspection should be completed before the tenant moves their belongings into the rental unit and after the tenant moves out with their belongings.

2. It is the landlord’s responsibility to schedule two opportunities (between 8am-9pm) to perform the condition inspection. If you do not accept your landlord’s first offer for a condition inspection, they are required to serve you with the Notice of Final Opportunity to Schedule a Condition Inspection Form.

3. You are allowed to have a friend or partner inspect the rental until for you.

4. After the completion of the conditions inspection form, you and your landlord are both required to sign the report under the conditions specified on the form. If you do not agree with the conditions of the form, do not sign the form!

5. Your landlord is required to provide you with a copy of the condition inspection report within seven days of the start of the tenancy and the completed condition report within fifteen days of the end of the tenancy.

Under Section 20 of the BC Tenancy Act, the form must include:

1. The correct legal names of the landlord, the tenant, and the tenant’s agent (if applicable).

2.  The address of the rental until being inspected.

3.  The date on which the tenant entitled to possession of the rental unit.

4.  The address for service of the landlord.

5.  The date of the inspection.

6.  A statement of the state of repair and the general condition of each room in the rental unit including the following: entry, living rooms, kitchen, dining room, stairs, hallways, bathrooms, bedrooms, storage rooms, basement, exterior space, parking area.

7.  A statement identifying any damage or items in need of maintenance and/or repair.

8. An appropriate space for the tenant to indicate agreement or disagreement with the landlord’s assessment of any item.

If your landlord does not offer two opportunities to schedule a time or does not provide a copy of the condition inspection report within the timeline, they lose the right to claim against your security and pet damage deposit for damage.

If you are not able to participate in the inspection, your landlord has the right to do the inspection without you. If this happens, you may lose your legal rights on the return of your security and pet damage deposits.


SECURITY AND PET DAMAGE DEPOSITS

Your landlord can legally request for a security deposit to cover the costs of damage to the unit of property. Additionally, your landlord can also request a pet damage deposit if the unit allows pets in the contract. However, your landlord can only request these deposits if you agree to rent the place. You must pay the full deposit within 30 days after you move in. The highest amount your landlord can request for a security deposit is one half a month’s rent. If your landlord charges you more than one half a month’s rent for the deposit, you can legally get the rest back or deduct it from your next month’s rent. For the pet damage deposit, the maximum amount your landlord can charge you is one half month’s rent once you move in with your pet or once you get a pet.

dog.jpg

Your landlord cannot charge you extra if you have more than one pet. When you move out, your landlord has a maximum of 15 days to return back your deposits (if no damage was declared during the move-out inspection). If damage has been declared, and your landlord decides to not give back the initial amount, you either have to agree to it in writing, or you landlord must apply for a dispute resolution hearing within 15 days from the day that you moved out and gave your forwarding address in writing. When you move out, you are required by law to give your landlord a forwarding address in writing where your security deposit can be sent. If the landlord does not dispute, you can make a claim after two years for double the amount of your deposit.


LEGAL FEES

There are 4 fees your landlord can charge you:

1. Late payment of rent: your landlord may charge you a non-refundable fee of up to $25 for a late payment of rent. They can only legally do that if it is stated in your rental agreement.

2. New, replacement, and additional keys/fobs: your landlord may charge you a non-refundable fee for replacing a key that you lost, or for providing you an additional key. This fee cannot be more than the cost of replacing the fee.

3. Returned checks: Your landlord may charge you a non-refundable fee of $25 if you do not have sufficient funds in your account when your landlord tries to deposit your rent.

4. Moving fees: Your landlord may charge you a non-refundable fee of up to $15 or 3% of your rent if you move to a new unit within the same property. This is only possible if it is stated on your contract. If you rent a unit in a strata building, the strata corporation may charge a move-in or move-out fee, which is usually around $200.


ILLEGAL FEES

1. Your landlord is not allowed to charge you fees if your landlord decided to change your locks, as well as if you request to change the locks at the start of the tenancy.

2. Your landlord is not allowed to ask you for an application fee.

3. Your landlord is not allowed to charge you fees for guests, including overnight guests. However, if your guest damages property, participates in illegal activity, or violates the conditions of your lease agreement, your landlord may issue a one-month notice to end tenancy. If your tenancy agreement states that fees will be charged for guests, you can easily dispute the fee since your landlord cannot avoid the terms and conditions of the Residential Tenancy Act.


PERSONAL SPACE

1. Landlords cannot enter your unit without your permission! There are extremely strict limits to when a landlord can enter your unit. If your landlord enters your unit illegally, you may apply for a dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. After you do that, you can legally change your locks without the consent of your landlord.

2. Your landlord is allowed to request for monthly inspections, but before your landlord enters your unit, he/she must give you a 24-hour notice in writing, stating the time, date, and the reason for entry.

Your landlord can enter your unit without a notice under the following conditions:

1. There is an emergency and forced entry is necessary to save a life.

2. They have obtained the right to do so by the Residential Tenancy Branch.

3. The landlord is providing housekeeping and other forms of services stated on the rental agreement.

4. You abandon the rental property.


PERSONAL INFORMATION

Landlords cannot ask you for the following personal information:

1. Information about your bank accounts (how much money you have, your credit limit, your credit card number, etc.).

2. Your SIN (social insurance number).

3. Your criminal record.

4. Your driver’s license number (although they may ask you for your DL for identity purposes).


INSURANCE

Your landlord has the legal right to request their tenants to purchase tenant insurance. Even if this is something your landlord does not request, it is strongly recommended for everyone to have insurance to avoid serious financial consequences within tragic cases of flooding, earthquakes, fires, etc.


UTILITIES

Before you move in, you should read your tenancy agreement carefully and see whether utilities are included in your rent. If utilities are not included in your rent, you will need to pay for them separately either through the company that provides for the utilities or through your landlord. If the utility bill is paid through your landlord, you can always ask to see the bill for each month. It is always extremely important to know how much utilities cost as it varies significantly with each building. If your utility meter is connected to multiple units, your utility bill will usually come from your landlord and has to be divided fairly and evenly between all the units.

utilities.jpg

If you are required to pay utilities through your landlord and you miss a payment, your landlord can issue a 10 day eviction and you have 5 days to pay the full utilities amount in order to automatically cancel the notice.


ROOMATES

There are 3 types of roommates:

1. Co-tenants: Co-tenants are two roommates who share a single tenancy agreement. Co-tenants are jointly responsible for paying the full rent amount and repairing any damages that they have caused to the unit. Only one co-tenant is needed in order to end the tenancy agreement. For more information, see the RTB Policy Guideline #13 – Rights and Responsibilities of Co-tenants.

roomates 2.jpg

2. Tenants in common: Tenants in common are roommates who have separate tenancy agreements with the landlord. Each tenant is responsible to pay their own rent, and if one roommate fails to pay rent, the other roommate will not be affected. Additionally, if one tenant ends their tenancy, it has no effect on any other roommate’s tenancy.

3. Occupants: Occupants are roommates who pay rent to another tenant who owns all legal rights and responsibilities of the unit. Occupants are not part of the lease agreement.


COMMON PROBLEMS

1. Bed Bugs/Infestations: If you are certain that your unit is infected with bed bugs, inform your landlord in writing as soon as possible. It is always important to gather up evidence of the infestation through pictures and/or having a friend witness the problem. Your landlord should contact a pest control company right away, and if your landlord has failed to do so, you can apply for a dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Brach and request maintenance. Additionally, every city has Standards of Maintenance bylaws. Contacting your city about this problem and ordering a bylaw, health, or building inspector to come in and look at the unit would be a smart step to take as well. Your landlord is usually responsible for all costs of maintenance with infestations unless your landlord can prove that you introduced or made the situation worse and more expensive. Thus, it is always important to report any problems right away so they do not become more expensive to treat.

bed bugs.jpg

2. Late Fees: Your landlord may charge you a non-refundable fee of up at $25 per late payment of rent. This fee can only be brought up if it is stated in your Tenancy Agreement. Additionally, your landlord can charge you a non-refundable fee for replacing a lost key or providing an extra set of keys at your request. Your landlord cannot charge you a non-refundable fee if they decide to change the locks in your unit.

3. Noise: Every Tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of their rental property. The definition of quiet enjoyment can be difficult to address but includes the following: 1) Freedom from unreasonable disturbances, such as noise and smoke 2) Reasonable privacy 3) Freedom from harassment 4) Reasonable use of common areas 5) A safe and well-maintained unit to live in.

noice final.jpg

If you are experiencing a disturbance in your right to quiet enjoyment, dispute the problem through your Residential Tenancy Branch. The arbitrator may award you with reduced rent. Additionally, if you wish to end your tenancy due to severe circumstances, you may be able to end your tenancy agreement based on a breach of a material term.

4. Rent Increase: Rent increase is one of the biggest problems faced by tenants. Your landlord can set the rent at any amount at the start of a new tenancy. Although, during a tenancy your landlord is only allowed to increase the rent every 12 months only if they provide 3 months of a written notice in an approved form. Your landlord can only increase rent without these terms and conditions is if an additional occupant moves in, but only if the tenancy agreement allows your landlord to do so.

Your landlord can only increase rent every year based on a formula set by the Residential Tenancy Regulation. The formula is allowable rent increase = 2% of rent + inflation rate. The allowable rent increase for 2015 was 2.5% and the allowable rent increase of 2016 was 2.9%. However, there is no limit to how much landlords can charge you for rent at the start of the tenancy. It does not matter what the previous tenant paid.

The only time your landlord can increase the rent by more than the allowable amount is when you agree to it in writing. If your landlord illegally raises your rent (does not let you know 3 months in advance, does not have an approved form, and does not increase amount within the legal limit) then you can apply for a dispute resolution for a monetary order to recover your payments.

5. Evictions: An Eviction is a notice to end tenancy and can only be set for certain reasons set out in law and with a proper written notice. There is an approved form from the Residential Tenancy Branch, Notice to End Tenancy, that landlords must use. Otherwise, the eviction notice may not be legal. As a tenant, you have the legal right to dispute or challenge any eviction notice by applying to the RTB for a dispute resolution hearing. Make sure to always ask for the dispute deadline. If you miss the deadline, which varies depending on the type of notice, you may lose your right to dispute the eviction. For a detailed explanation of the types of evictions and their deadlines, please click the button below, or visit the Residential Tenancy Act Section 46-66.

6. Frustrated Tenancies: Your tenancy agreement could end without a notice when your agreement is considered frustrated, which means that an unpredicted and uncontrollable situation occurs, such as an earthquake, fire, or flood. When a tenancy is frustrated, the landlord is not required to pay for moving costs or replacing damaged items. That is why it is extremely important to acquire tenancy insurance before you move into your unit – that way, your insurance company may cover most of these costs. For more information on frustrated tenancies, please visit the Residential Tenancy Act Section 92.