For many newcomers, finding a place to live is one of the most important tasks you need to attend to once you arrive in Canada. Part of finding safe and comfortable housing for you and your family is understanding your rights as a tenant. For people who choose to settle in British Columbia (B.C.), here’s what you need to know when finding a place you’ll be happy with!
In this article:
- Documents needed to rent in B.C.
- Eviction rules in B.C.
- Your responsibilities as a tenant in B.C.
- B.C. rental lease coverage
- Aspects included in a B.C. rental lease
- Rental increase limits in B.C.
- B.C. tenant rights
- Where to get help
|Want to learn more about how to rent in Canada?
See How to rent your first home as a newcomer in Canada for a step-by-step guide on finding the right approach, identifying where you want to live, and preparing the proper documents.
Renting a house, apartment, or another type of dwelling in British Columbia usually requires you to provide certain types of personal information documents, in addition to a tenancy agreement. These documents will support your financial information and any previous rental history. As a potential renter, you should understand that it is reasonable to expect landlords to request certain types of personal information, such as proof of income, as part of the application process. Here is a list of common documents you’ll likely be asked to submit as part of your rental application:
- Proof of income: You should expect a potential landlord to ask you to provide proof of income, such as copies of recent pay stubs.
- Bank statement: If you’re self-employed or still looking for a permanent job, you could be asked to provide a copy of a recent bank statement in replace of pay stubs and employment letters. This is a way to show a potential landlord you have sufficient money to pay your rent.
- References: Similar to applying for jobs, you can expect to be asked for references from a trusted friend or manager who will speak to your character and reliability as a tenant. These references have to be based in Canada.
- Credit report: A full credit report is often requested as part of your rental application. Your credit report is a summary of your credit history, and you’ll be provided with a three-digit number. The higher the number, the better your financial health. A full credit report, which will cost approximately $25 CAD, also shows any debts or bankruptcy.
It takes at least a few weeks to a month for newcomers to receive their first Canadian credit card and a few additional months of credit transactions to generate a credit history. EQUIFAX and TransUnion are the two major credit rating organizations in Canada, and you can choose either one to get your credit report.
|Get more information on how to rent without a credit history in Canada
See How to rent an apartment with no credit history or job letter in Canada for tips on how to showcase your reliability as a tenant and where to focus your search.
In British Columbia, a landlord can evict for a number of reasons, which are outlined below. However, according to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), they must complete the correct paperwork and evict you for an acceptable reason, such as:
1. Eviction for non-payment of rent
In British Columbia, a landlord can evict for non-payment of rent, including if the rent is not paid in full. In this instance, a 10 Day Notice to End Tenancy for Unpaid Rent or Utilities (RTB–30) can be issued to a tenant. As a tenant, if you receive this form, you have only five days to pay the outstanding rent and/or utilities or to file an Application for Resolution with the RTA. If a tenant does neither, the landlord can use the RTA’s Landlord’s Direct Request process to obtain an Order of Possession. Learn more about the process of what happens if a tenant does not pay their rent on time in B.C.
2. Eviction for cause
A landlord can provide a one-month eviction notice for cause to a tenant. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Unreasonably disturbing other occupants, including the landlord
- Actions that cause danger to other occupants or the landlord
- Repeatedly paying rent late
- Serious damage to the rental unit
- Failure to repair or pay for damages caused by you, your guests or pets
- Engaging in illegal activity
- Having too many occupants live in the property
3. Personal use
Your landlord may evict you if they or one of their close family members (defined as a spouse, parents, or children of the landlord of the landlord’s spouse) wishes to move into the lodgings themselves. In this instance, they must provide a two-month eviction notice.
4. Sale of property
A landlord can evict you if the property you are renting is sold and the new purchaser or their close family member wants to occupy the property. Again, a landlord must provide you with a two-month eviction notice in this instance.
5. Major renovations or demolition
If your landlord wishes to make major renovations to the property that requires the tenant to move out for an extended period or demolish the property, they are legally allowed to evict. However, in this instance, a landlord must provide a four-month eviction notice, according to the RTA.
While landlords certainly have a responsibility to their tenants, similarly to a tenant renting in B.C., you also have responsibilities to your landlord. They include:
- Together with the landlord, the tenant must do a condition inspection of the property together when the unit is empty, prior to moving in and after moving out.
- Paying your rent and any utilities on time and in full on the date it is due.
- Permitting entry to the property, with minimum 24-hour notice, to the landlord for the condition of inspecting the property, repairs or maintenance or to show the property to prospective tenants or buyers.
- Inform the landlord in writing of anything that requires repair.
- Keep the rental property clean.
- Repair any damages the tenant, any guests, or pets may cause.
|Want to learn more about how to find a place to live in Vancouver?
See Top 10 tips for first-time renters in Vancouver for an overview of how to decide where to live, transit options, your rights and responsibilities, and communicating with your landlord.
In British Columbia, a Residential Tenancy Agreement (Form #RTB–1) is a contract between a landlord and tenant. Your landlord is required to prepare a written agreement for each tenancy, and even if they do not, the standard terms of a tenancy agreement still apply when renting. Here are the various components of a standard lease:
|Parties to the agreement||This includes the names of the landlord and tenant, their contact information and current address.|
|Beginning and terms of the agreement||This section outlines the date of the tenancy agreement and whether it’ll continue month-to-month, weekly, or bi-weekly, as well as the fixed term end date.|
|Rent and included services||This section details how much rent is to be paid by the tenant, the frequency of payments, and the due date. It also outlines other services that are included in the cost of the rent, such as electricity, water, internet, heating, snow removal, storage, garbage collection, and parking. Other items that can be checked off are appliances included with the property, such as dishwater, fridge, window coverings, stove and oven.|
|Security deposit and pet damage deposit||Outlines the total amount of security deposit required and due date, as well as whether a pet damage deposit is applicable. If so, the agreement outlines the rules of how much a landlord can request and the terms of returning this deposit back to the tenant at the end of the agreement.|
|Pets||This section covers the rights and restrictions of pets under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act.|
|Condition inspections||Outlines the conditions for the landlord and tenant must inspect the property together, whether the tenant will have pets, and the rights of the tenant and the landlord to claim against the security deposit or pet damage deposit.|
|Payment of rent||Outlines the responsibilities of the tenant to pay their rent on time, including the landlord’s right to issue a 10 Day Notice to End Tenancy For Unpaid Rent or Utilities (RTB–30). It also states that the landlord must provide a receipt for cash payments and return any post-dated cheques that remain in their possession at the end of the tenancy.|
|Rent increase||This section outlines the conditions of rent increases by the landlord each year, in accordance with the rent increases as set out by the Residential Tenancy Branch office. The landlord must also give a tenant three months’ written notice of any rent increase.|
|Assign or sublet||Outlines the conditions in which a tenant may assign or sublet the rental property to another person.|
|Repairs||This section outlines the responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord is responsible for ensuring the rental property is suitable for occupancy and those conditions comply with the health, safety and housing standards. It also includes providing the tenant with a contact for emergency repairs, as well as outlines the terms in which the tenant can undertake the repairs themselves and claim reimbursement from the landlord. The tenant must maintain the cleanliness of the property and repair any damage they or another person causes.|
|Occupants and guests||This section covers the rights of the tenant in terms of having guests visit as well as the rights of the landlord to serve a notice to end the tenancy if the number of people occupying the property is unreasonable.|
|Locks||This section states the landlord must not change the locks or access to the rental property unless the tenant agrees and is provided with new keys.|
|Landlord’s entry into the rental unit||Outlines the tenant’s rights to the exclusive use of the property, including the right to quiet, reasonable privacy and freedom. It also covers the conditions in which a landlord may enter the rental unit between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The landlord is required to give written notice at least 24 hours in advance unless there is an emergency.|
|Ending the tenancy||Explains the conditions in which a tenant can give notice to end their tenancy. The landlord may only end the tenancy for reasons outlined in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA).|
|Tenancy Agreement||The landlord is required to give a tenant a copy of the signed tenancy agreement within 21 days.|
|Resolution of Disputes||Briefly states that either the tenant or the landlord has the right to apply for dispute resolution under the RTA.|
|Additional terms||In this section, any additional terms which both the landlord and the tenant agree to can be included. These terms must comply with the RTA; otherwise these terms are not enforceable. Additional terms can include items such as pets, smoking on the property, yard work and snow removal.|
|Signatures||In this section, both parties sign the tenancy and agree to follow the terms laid out.|
When renting a property in British Columbia, your landlord should be using a standard RTA. This covers most of the basic information such as the duration of the agreement, rent, how frequently it is paid, and any appliances or additional bills such as heating are included.
Section 17 of the rental agreement outlines additional terms that might be included. It’s important to note that although a landlord might insist on certain terms and conditions unless they are enforceable in accordance with B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act, then they cannot legally be enforced.
Clauses that can be included in a lease
The following clauses are examples that could be included in section 17 of an RTA. Any additional terms should be included as an addendum to the tenancy agreement. Examples of what might be included are:
- Smoking and use of cannabis: The landlord can include an addendum that states “no smoking” and also outlines the conditions for this, such as ensuring windows and doors are closed if a tenant does smoke outside or charge a fee for cleaning up cigarette butts if a tenant smokes outside on the property. Since cannabis is now legal in Canada, a landlord may also include a clause that prohibits the growing and smoking of cannabis, including vaping cannabis.
- Roommates: A landlord can include a term that restricts the number of additional occupants or roommates, as long as these restrictions are not discriminatory in any way.
- Locks: As a new tenant, you can request the landlord change locks prior to moving in. A landlord is required to comply and cover all the costs associated with this expense. They cannot charge the tenant for the cost of changing locks between tenants.
- Pets: A landlord can restrict the number, kind and size of pets a tenant can have in the rental property, as well as make other pet-related rules that are reasonable. A landlord may also ask for a pet damage deposit. However, this deposit must not be more than half of one month’s rent, regardless of the number of pets a tenant may have.
- Cleaning: A landlord may include a cleaning schedule as an addendum to a tenancy agreement that outlines a cleaning checklist the tenant is expected to comply with prior to moving out of the rental property – even if it wasn’t clean at the beginning of the tenancy. Items that could be included are cleaning appliances, window coverings, windows, steam cleaning carpets, washing walls, replacing light bulbs, and repairing excessive nail hole damage on walls.
- Tenants insurance: In this section, you and the landlord can agree on whether you require liability insurance. If the tenant decides not to take out insurance, the landlord can state they are not liable for loss or damage to a tenant’s property that should be covered under insurance, nor cover the costs of alternative accommodation if a tenant needs to move out because of a disaster such as fire or flood.
Clauses that cannot be included or changed in a lease
The following clauses cannot be included in a lease:
- Subletting: A landlord cannot unreasonably refuse the right for a tenant to sublet if there are six months or more remaining on the tenancy agreement. However, the tenant must have the landlord’s written permission before subletting and a new sublease agreement must be signed by both the tenant and the new sub-tenant.
- Service dogs: Legally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent a property to someone who has a service dog, nor can they refuse guests to the property who also have a guide dog or service dog. The only exception is if there are condominium rules which prohibit dogs.
- Guests: A landlord cannot include a clause restricting a tenant from having guests. Nor can a landlord charge a fee for guests.
- Additional deposits: A landlord cannot request a security deposit of more than one-half a month’s rent and an additional pet damage deposit of one-half of a month’s rent. It is illegal for the landlord to increase the amount of any deposit if the rent increases.
Landlords can only legally increase a tenant’s rent once in a 12-month period for an amount that is permitted by law. The amount set out for 2021 is 1.4 per cent. This means if your rent in 2020 was $2,000 CAD, a landlord can legally increase it after 12-months to $2028. They also must provide a tenant with no less than three months’ notice before a rent increase takes effect and use the approved Notice of Rent Increase form.
In response to COVID-19, the B.C. government has currently applied a rent increase freeze until July 10, 2021.
While it might seem that a landlord holds all the power when it comes to renting a property, tenants in British Columbia also have rights that are designed to safeguard them. Here are some common questions on renting in B.C.:
Do I need a signed move-in and move-out inspection?
Yes, it is the law in B.C. that both the tenant and landlord must conduct an initial inspection of the property prior to moving in and a final inspection at the end of the tenancy agreement. Both parties must be present, and the unit should be empty when the Condition Inspection Report (Form #RTB–27) is conducted. An inspection is important as it compares the move-in and move-out condition of the property in order to assess if any damage was done and who is responsible for covering the cost of repairs. It’s advisable to take photos at the beginning of the tenancy in order to document the condition of the property prior to moving in.
What is normal wear and tear on a rental property in B.C.?
B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act states that tenants are not responsible for “reasonable wear and tear” to the property. While the act doesn’t spell out exactly what constitutes reasonable wear and tear, it’s broadly defined as the deterioration of a property due to ageing and other natural forces. The older the building and the longer a tenant has resided there, the more wear and tear you can expect. Wear and tear is not the result of neglect or abuse on the part of the tenant. There is a distinction between scuffed paint or worn down floorboards as examples of reasonable wear and tear and damage, such as a broken window. In the case of a broken window caused by the tenant or guest, it’s expected the tenant would be responsible for fixing or paying for the damage.
Can a landlord say no to overnight guests?
Despite what a landlord might say or even try to include in a rental agreement, in British Columbia, they legally cannot prevent you from having overnight guests stay at your rental property. You have the right to decide who you can invite to visit and stay at your place. A landlord is not permitted to create any sort of limitations on your right to do this, nor can they charge you an extra fee or threaten to raise your rent if you have guests stay. However, please note, as a tenant, you are also responsible for any disturbances or damages your guests may do to the property.
How do I report a bad landlord in B.C.?
B.C.’s residential tenancy law is there to protect you. If you have a bad landlord or one who breaks the rules, firstly be respectful in your dealings with them. Put communication between the two of you in writing – either by text or email, so you have a record. You can contact the Residential Tenancy Branch at 1-800-665-8779 for further information or help with dispute resolution.
Can I break my rental lease in B.C.?
A tenant cannot legally break a lease early in B.C. except for the following reasons: fleeing family violence or because you require long-term care. If you break the lease early, you may be required to pay the landlord for the remaining months of rent. Even then, if the landlord has to re-rent the property for less than you were paying, the landlord is entitled to that difference for the remainder of your tenancy agreement.
Alternatives to breaking to lease would be to talk with your landlord and mutually agree to end the tenancy early. To help, you could offer to help advertise the rental property as well as make yourself available to show to prospective new tenants. Another alternative is to consider subletting the property.
Can I not pay rent if the landlord doesn’t fix things?
In the case of an emergency repair, if a tenant has paid for the emergency repair themselves, they can submit the receipt to the landlord and ask for payment. If the landlord doesn’t cover the costs, then the tenant can deduct this amount from their rent. However, even then, the landlord could claim the costs were too high or unnecessarily. In this instance, a landlord would submit a request for a monetary order or could even serve notice to end the tenancy on the basis of unpaid rent.
When it comes to regular repairs, instead of without holding rent, a tenant needs to follow the proper procedures. This involves putting the request in writing to the landlord, clearly describing the problem and allowing sufficient time for the repairs to be made. If repairs are still not made in the property, then a tenant needs to apply for dispute resolution. Through this process, they can request the repairs are made and for money to cover their inconvenience.
If you have any questions or concerns about renting in British Columbia, you can contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for advice or dispute resolution at toll-free 1-800-665-8779 or by email at HSRTO@gov.bc.ca. Another great resource for tenants is the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC). The non-profit organization offers free legal education and advocacy on matters related to renting. Contact TRAC at tel 604-255-0546 or toll-free 1-800-665-1185 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays, and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for an informal place to seek advice as a tenant in British Columbia, you can join the B.C. Residential Tenancy Information for Tenants group on Facebook.