A person who rents a home or apartment is called a tenant, or a renter. A person or company that owns a home or apartment and rents it to someone else is called a landlord.
The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) is the government office that helps with problems between landlords and tenants. RTB staff provide information about the law to tenants and landlords in BC. The RTB also holds dispute resolution hearings for landlords and tenants when they cannot settle disputes on their own.
Residential Tenancy Branch Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre
Toll-free: 1-800-665-8779 Toll-free: 1-800-665-1185
The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) is a non-profit organization that helps tenants and landlords to understand their legal rights and responsibilities. Since 1948, TRAC has helped hundreds of thousands of tenants across British Columbia.
RentingItRight.ca is a new online course developed by TRAC and the Justice Education Society. The course provides expert answers to your rental questions. It includes dozens of questions and answers, with videos and worksheets to help users understand their rights.
Most of the information in this Legal Help Guide is taken from the Renting It Right course.
What is renting?
Renting is a legal contract between a landlord and a tenant for the use of property, such as an apartment unit or basement suite. The landlord is usually the person who owns the property, and the tenant is the person who rents it. In this course, you will often hear this situation referred to as a tenancy.
Rent is the money a tenant pays to their landlord on a regular basis – usually once per month. Sometimes rent covers only the use of the property. On top of that basic rent amount, there could be additional expenses like electricity, heating, cable, internet and parking. One of your first questions about a place should be: what does the rent cover?
Rental units covered by the RTA
Apartments and rented houses are the most common and straightforward types of rental properties, but the Residential Tenancy Act can apply to other types of rental properties too.
On this page, there are a series of videos that describe some of these more complex types of rental properties. Are you interested in a strata property? Will you rent a secondary suite? Are you trying to get into subsidized housing? All of these types of housing are covered under the Residential Tenancy Act, but have some unique rules and exceptions to keep in mind.
Do I have to pay a damage deposit?
At the start of a tenancy, a landlord can ask for a security deposit – often called a damage deposit. In BC, a security deposit can be a maximum of half the monthly rent. For example, if the rent is $1000 per month, the security deposit could be up to $500.
Rental Application Forms
In a competitive market, you need to be ready to immediately fill out rental application forms in order to beat out other applicants. Some properties are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. Often, the person who gets the place is the person who submits the first good application. When you go to a viewing, be prepared to complete an application on the spot.
Take your time and fill out the form carefully to ensure everything is accurate and legible. Bring a paperclip with you so you can attach your references, cover letter, credit check, pet resume, and certificate of completion from this course.
Some landlords may ask you for an application fee, but this is not a legal request. The Residential Tenancy Act says that a landlord must NOT charge a person for:
What is a Tenancy Agreement?
A tenancy agreement is a legal contract between you and the landlord that outlines the terms and conditions for the rental property. Most of the time, when we talk about a tenancy agreement, we are referring to a written document, but a tenancy agreement can also be verbal.
Although verbal tenancy agreements are covered by the Residential Tenancy Act, we do not recommend them. It is always best to sign a written agreement with your landlord in order to avoid future problems.
Tenancy Agreements with Roommates
There are different rules that apply when two or more people rent a place. The type of tenancy agreement you will have will depend on the relationship between you and the landlord, as well as the relationship between you and your roommates.
There are three potential ways of structuring a tenancy involving more than one person, and each has its pros and cons. On this page, there are a series of videos that describe each roommate situation. View the videos for the type of arrangement that applies to you. When you are done, move on to the next section.
A security deposit (often called a damage deposit), is money that that the landlord collects at the start of the tenancy and holds on to until you move out.
Landlords are allowed to ask for up to half the monthly rent as a security deposit. In addition, they can ask for up to half the monthly rent as a pet damage deposit. Landlords can only require one of each, regardless of how many co-tenants or pets are moving in. Unlike some other provinces in Canada, landlords cannot require you to pay the last month’s rent at the start of the tenancy.
Signing a tenancy agreement is a legally binding commitment. Paying a security deposit is also a commitment. It secures the tenancy – for you and the landlord. Once you have paid your deposit, you can’t decide to move in somewhere else. At the same time, your landlord can’t decide to rent to someone else.
If you have paid a security deposit but then decide not to move in, the landlord may be allowed to keep your deposit. You may even have to pay additional money to cover the landlord’s cost of trying to re-rent the unit, or to cover rent if they are unable to find a new tenant.
In addition to securing the tenancy, the security deposit is also meant to cover any damage that you or your guests may cause. Similarly, the pet damage deposit is meant to cover any damage caused by your pets. If the landlord thinks you, your guests, or your pets are responsible for causing damage, they can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep your deposits at the end of your tenancy. As long as you have not caused damage and do not owe any money, your landlord is required to return your deposits after you move out.
Condition Inspection Report
Landlords and tenants are required to complete condition inspection reports when moving in and moving out. Before moving in, your new landlord must make an attempt to complete this inspection with you.
Ideally, the inspection should be done when the unit is empty. You and your landlord should walk through the unit together and complete the condition inspection report.
It is very important that you participate in the inspection. It is your chance to thoroughly inspect every part of the unit, such as the windows, carpets, walls, appliances, etc. The condition inspection report is your chance to ensure that your rental unit has been repaired up to your standards.
At the end of your tenancy, your landlord may try to use your security deposit to pay for damage to the unit. You want to be sure to clearly document the condition of the unit before you move in so that the landlord can’t hold you responsible for any damage that wasn’t your fault.
It is crucial to pay close attention during the inspection and to make sure you agree with the landlord’s assessment in the written report. If you disagree, the form should provide you with space to explain your reasons.
When the inspection report is complete, both you and the landlord should sign it. Your landlord is required to give you a copy of the report within 7 days of the inspection.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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