Tenant rights and landlord rights in british columbia

Governing or Regulatory Body

Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB)

Office of Housing and Construction Standards

Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas

Name of Act / Regulations

  • Residential Tenancy Act (RTA)
  • Residential Tenancy Regulation
  • Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA
  • Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation

Types of Housing/Living Arrangements Covered by the Provincial Legislation

Residential properties consist of manufactured home parks and accommodations with exclusive possession by the tenants.

Exclusions: Housing that is rented by a non-profit housing co-op to a member of that co-op; housing that is both owned and operated by an educational institution (college or university) and available for rent by students and staff of that school; housing where tenants share a bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner; housing that is included with a property utilized mainly for business purposes and is rented under a single agreement; housing that is meant for housing travelers/people on vacation; housing meant for providing emergency shelter or transitional needs; housing rented under a tenancy agreement with a term exceeding 20 years; housing that is classified under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act; housing that is classified under the Community Care Facility Act, Continuing Care Act, Hospital Act, or Mental Health Act; housing that offers hospitality support services as well as personal care; some senior care facilities; housing that provides rehabilitative or therapeutic services.

Types of Rental Periods

Tenancy agreements can be for a fixed term or a period corresponding to a calendar week, month, or year. A vast majority of tenancies are month-to-month.

Is a signed lease required?

Yes. Laws for British Columbia dictate that a written tenancy agreement, otherwise known as a “lease”, needs to be signed by both parties, whether it is a fixed term or periodic. The tenancy agreement itself must include all of the standard terms found in the RTA. A landlord is legally required to give the tenant a copy of the rental agreement within a period of 21 days after it has been signed.

Is a signed move in/move out inspection report required?

Yes. The law in British Columbia regarding these reports dictates that a move in/move out condition report must be signed for all residential properties; however, this does not apply for manufactured home sites. Both the landlord and tenant must conduct and initial and final inspection of the premises as well as write out and sign ingoing and outgoing Condition Inspection Reports. In the event that the reports are not completed in full, the landlord or tenant is at risk of not being able to keep the security deposit.

Deposits

The total amount of a security deposit cannot exceed the equivalent of ½ month’s rent. If tenants pay more than this for their deposit, they can take out the excess when paying their rent for any given month during their tenancy. If the landlord allows pets, however, they are allowed to ask for an additional ½ month’s rent as a deposit for any damage the pet may cause. In this case, the total combined deposits can be equal to one month’s rent. Landlords can also require tenants to pay deposits for things like extra keys, garage door openers, etc, in addition to the initial security and/or pet damage deposit(s). A security deposit can only be collected from a tenant at the beginning of their tenancy, but a pet damage deposit can be collected at any point over the course of the tenancy if a pet is brought into the premises to live there. The interest rate that is set on these deposits is fixed at 4.5% below business prime on January 1st for that year (but it never goes below zero).

Landlords have a total of 15 days after the tenant moves out and provides them with a forwarding address to return the deposit or get written consent from the tenant for deductions of the deposit (such as using some of it to pay for repairing damages). If the landlord does not get consent from the tenant, the landlord is required to return the whole of the security deposit, including interest, or apply for dispute resolution with the RTB within the 15 day time frame given. If a pet damage deposit is collected, it can only be used for repairing damage that is directly caused by the pet and no for any other expenses that may come up for the landlord.

Security deposits as well as pet damage deposits do not apply to manufactured home site rentals.

Key Money

The landlord is not allowed to charge a fee for a key that is the tenant’s only way to access the property. The landlord can, however, charge for an additional or replacement key.

Post-dated Cheques

Landlords are allowed to ask for post-dated cheques.

Renewal of a Lease

A fixed term tenancy agreement may include a specific date by which the tenant is required to move out. If there is no such date specified, and the landlord and tenant do not sign a new rental agreement, the agreement automatically converts to a month-to-month type tenancy and all other terms in the agreement continue to stay in effect.

Terminating a Tenancy (Lease): Notice and Timing

Before a fixed term tenancy agreement ends, both the landlord and tenant are both equally responsible for either re-negotiating the terms of the rental agreement or terminating it entirely. Tenants who have provided their landlords with written notice of their intent to terminate the fixed term tenancy agreement before the end date may be held responsible for all expenses the landlord incurs when going about re-renting the unit, including any lost rent. Landlords can only end a tenancy for specific and valid reasons, as described in the official legislation and they cannot end a tenancy because a fixed term has expired unless the lease is worded in such a way as to where the tenant must vacate at the end of the term. When a fixed term tenancy goes back to a month-to-month tenancy setup, the landlord cannot make the tenant sign another lease or agree to another fixed term. When a tenancy agreement is renewed for another period, the landlord and tenant(s) will agree to either the same or different terms.

Early termination of a rental agreement can be ordered by the RTB, provided that the situation is serious and involves safety, cause or conduct in some way. Under all other circumstances though, tenancies are always ended by the landlord, and they must provide the tenant with a Notice to End Tenancy form; there can also be a written notice by the tenant or a written agreement between both parties involved.

When a tenant is giving notice to move out and end the rental agreement, they are required to give one rental month’s notice in writing to the landlord the day before the rent is to be paid. If the landlord wishes to end a tenancy, an official Notice to End Tenancy form has to be used.

In addition, a landlord can end a periodic tenancy in the event that:

  • 10 days for non-payment of rent
  • 1 month for cause or conduct
  • 2 months for landlord’s use of property in a residential tenancy
  • 2 months if the tenant no longer qualifies for a subsidized rental unit in a residential tenancy
  • 12 months for the landlord’s use of property in a manufactured home site

Assignments and Sublets

Unless a landlord agrees to it in writing, a tenant cannot assign or sublet a tenancy agreement. If a fixed term tenancy exceeds a period of six months, or for a manufactured home site tenancy, a tenant can choose to request a sublet or assign a lease. All information pertaining to the new tenant for the sublet has to be put in writing. In the case of a manufactured home site tenancy, the request for a sublet or assignment has to be in the prescribed “Request for Consent to Assign a Manufactured Home Site Tenancy Agreement” form. The landlord is required to have a valid reason to deny a tenant’s request for a sublet or assignment. The landlord does, however, have the right to approve the assignment or sublet, but they cannot deny it without valid grounds.

Rent Increases: Notice and Timing

In British Columbia, there is rent control. Landlords are required to use the approved form “Notice of Rent Increase” and provide the tenant with a period of three month’s notice when increasing their rent. Tenants cannot dispute the rent increase unless it exceeds the allowable amount.

As far as manufactured home park tenancies are concerned, landlords are allowed to recover costs for increased utility fees and property taxes, provided that the increases are equally distributed amount the tenants. Under these circumstances, landlords are required to provide tenants with copies of the receipts as well as tax notices that justify the rent increase.

Late Rent Payments

Rent is considered late if it is not paid either on or before the first day of the rental period. Landlords can charge the tenant an administration fee that cannot exceed $25 for late payment, depending on what the rental agreement states.

Evictions

There are a number of reasons why a tenant can be evicted. The required notice period for eviction depends on the ground for the eviction. Some of the reasons for eviction include:

  • Material breach of rental agreement is the reason given if the tenant violates the rental agreement and has been given one written warning as well as a reasonable amount of time to comply or correct the violation. Breach of agreement requires one month’s notice.
  • Non payment of rent requires a total of 10 days notice. The tenant can invalidate the eviction notice by simply paying rent within five days of receiving it. A tenant can also apply for dispute resolution within the five day period. Otherwise, the tenant is required to vacate the premises within 10 days.
  • Cause or conduct requires a total of one month’s notice; a tenant has a period of 10 days to apply for dispute resolution to contest the notice.
  • Landlord’s use of property requires a total of two month’s notice with a period of 15 days for filing a dispute. Landlords must pay the equivalent of 1 month’s rent to the tenant on or before the tenancy end date. For manufactured home sites, 12 month’s notice is standard with a 15 day period for filing a dispute.
  • Tenant ceases to qualify for subsidized rental unit (residential tenancy) requires a period of 2 month’s notice with a period of 15 days to file a dispute.

If an eviction notice from a landlord is disputed, the landlord has to provide evidence that there is a valid reason to end the tenancy.

If a tenant fails to dispute the notice, it is assumed that the tenant has accepted the end of their tenancy. If the tenant refuses to move, the landlord can apply for an order of possession, which is enforced through the Supreme Court, by a bailiff.

An RTB decision or order is considered to be final and legally binding. This decision may be reviewed by the RTB if the initial decision was obtained by fraudulent means, if evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing comes to light or if one party was not able to attend because of some unforeseen circumstance, including the sudden collapse of a bridge. Either party has the right to petition the BC Supreme Court for Judicial Review on the basis of an error in law or an error in procedural equality.

Fine Points

Landlord Entry

Landlords are legally require to provide tenants with a minimum of 24 hour and as much as 30 days written notice, stating the specific time and purpose of the entry in advance, unless either the tenant agrees or it is an emergency situation. Non-emergency entries are allowed between the times of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless the tenant agrees to another time. If notice to enter the unit is not given to the tenant in person, it must be taped to the door or put in their mailbox 3 days before the landlord enters. The landlord may enter if the RTB issues an order to do so. The tenant can also refuse entry if there is no valid reason given or it is unreasonable according to the RTB.

May the tenant withhold rent for repairs?

A tenant is now legally allowed to withhold rent for repairs unless the RTB provides them with an order to do so. Tenants can deduct the cost of certain repairs (emergencies only) from their rent. The tenant can also get the amount they are owed through dispute resolution if they tried on two separate occasions to notify the landlord within a reasonable amount of time regarding the emergency and were unsuccessful in doing so. The landlord does have the right to take over any emergency repairs that need to be done at any time.

Changing Locks

If a tenant is able to prove the landlord entered the property illegally, the tenant can apply for an order for a lock change (only with residential tenancies). This order denies the landlord the right to a key until the tenancy ends, and they may only enter the property in accordance with the order given.

Pets and Smoking

Is a landlord allowed to refuse to rent to a tenant who has pets?

A landlord has the right to include a provision in a rental agreement to prohibit pets in the units. This provision must be specifically mentioned in the rental agreement at the beginning of the tenancy, or a tenant has to voluntarily agree to the amendment. This type of provision cannot be enforced retroactively without both parties’ agreeing to it in writing.

Can a landlord include a no-smoking clause in the lease?

Yes, the landlord has every right to put a no-smoking provision in the lease agreement in both the unit and common areas. This provision must appear in the rental agreement at the beginning of the tenancy, or the tenant has to agree to the amendment voluntarily. This provision cannot be enforced retroactively without written agreement from both parties involved.

If there is a no pets and no smoking clause written in the lease and the landlord finds out that the tenant has a pet and/or is smoking in the unit, can the landlord legally evict the tenant?

Rental agreements that have no smoking and/or no pets clauses in them and are signed by the tenant and landlord are considered to be legally binding and can therefore be enforced if the terms are broken. These clauses have to be specific though, such as “no cats or dogs”.

If a landlord discovers that one of their tenants has violated one of the terms of the rental agreement by bringing in a pet or by smoking, a written warning (referred to as a breach letter), has to be issued to the offending client. The letter has to state that the tenant must comply with the terms of the rental agreement, or the tenant will be evicted if they do not get rid of the pet within a certain period of time or if they do not stop smoking in the unit.

The termination process cannot start until the landlord has issues the tenant the breach letter.



Contact Information

Lower Mainland: 604-660-1020
Victoria: 250-387-1602
Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-665-8779
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca
Email: HSRTO@gov.bc.ca
See Web site for branch office locations.



Residential Tenancy Act
http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_02078_01

Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act
http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_02077_01

Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB)
The RTB administers the Residential Tenancy Act throughout the province. This main page gives a basic overview of the RTB, with links to other valuable sections.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca

Publications and Reports
Links to various RTB publications.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/publications/default.aspx

Forms and Fees
A collection of online forms (PDF files) for both residential rental units and Manufactured Home Park tenancies.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/formsFees/default.aspx

Security Deposit Interest Rates and Calculator
A downloadable program (PC compatible) designed to help landlords and tenants calculate security deposit interest.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/calculator/

Fact Sheets
Short summaries of important landlord topics such as entering into a tenancy dispute resolution process.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/publications/factSheets.aspx

Sample Residential Tenancy Agreement
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/RTB-1.pdf

Sample Manufactured Home Site Tenancy Agreement
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/RTB-5.pdf

Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline #1
This Guideline explains the policy intent of the landlord and tenant legislation and also takes common law and the rules of statutory interpretation into consideration.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/GL01.pdf

The Residential Tenancy Policy Guidelines
These guidelines clarify the responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act and cover issues such as: the maintenance, cleaning and repair of residential premises; the obligations of landlords and tenants with respect to services and facilities; the right to quiet enjoyment of the premises; and damage claims. It offers very useful clarifications.
http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/publications/policy.aspx

BC Housing.org
The Web site of BC Housing, a crown agency that delivers the provincial government's social housing programs (commonly known as affordable housing programs).
http://www.bchousing.org/

BC Non-Profit Housing Association
This non-profit's mission is to provide "... leadership and support to members in creating and supporting a high standard of affordable housing throughout British Columbia." The Web site provides information on the organization and its services.
http://www.bcnpha.ca/

TRAC Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre
A coalition of groups working on behalf of BC's tenants. They promote the handbook, "Tenant Survival Guide".
http://www.tenants.bc.ca/

Tenant Survival Guide
The Web site of the Tenants Rights Action Coalition, this site provides information about the organization and fact sheets. It also includes an online version of Tenant Survival Guide, a popular print publication.
http://www.tenants.bc.ca/main/?tenantSurvivalGuide

Co-operative Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC)
The Web site of CHF BC, a co-operative association whose members are housing co-ops and related organizations in British Columbia.
http://www.chf.bc.ca

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
A non-profit, public interest law office that provides "... representation to groups that would not otherwise have the resources to effectively assert their interests."
http://www.bcpiac.com/

Information for Seniors
Look for the B.C. Seniors’ Guide, which includes information on things like shelter, homeowner grants and subsidized housing.
http://www.seniorsbc.ca/

B.C. Apartment Owners and Managers Association (BCAOMA)
Promotes the interests and rights of apartment owners.
http://www.bcapartmentowners.com

Rental Owners and Managers Society of BC (ROMS BC)
Provides services, products and representation to over 750 rental owners, who manage nearly 20,000 residential rental units throughout British Columbia.
http://www.suites-bc.com

Shelter Aid for Elderly Tenants (SAFER)
Provides direct cash assistance to British Columbians aged 60 or older who pay rent for their homes. On average, seniors involved in the SAFER program receive $169 a month.
Tel.: 1-800-257-7756
http://www.bchousing.org/programs/SAFER