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STARTING A TENANCY

A tenancy begins when someone agrees to pay rent to occupy a property or unit owned by a landlord. Under the law, both tenants and landlords have specific rights and responsibilities in a tenancy. Make sure you’re renting the right way – access information and resources that will help you have a successful tenancy.

Before renting a property, landlords and tenants should be familiar with the rules and regulations that govern how residential properties or units are rented in B.C.

These rules do not apply to cooperative housing, transitional housing, homestay programs or vacation rental programs.

Tenancy Agreement

Tenancy agreements must comply with the Residential Tenancy Actand the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

Landlords are required to prepare a written agreement for every tenancy. Even if a landlord doesn’t prepare one, the standard terms of a tenancy agreement still apply. Also, paying a security deposit establishes a tenancy, even if there is no written tenancy agreement and if the tenant never moves in.

Both landlords and tenants must sign and date the agreement. Landlords need to provide a printed copy to their tenants within 21 days of entering into the agreement.

What Must Be Included

All tenancy agreements need to include standard terms that protect landlords and tenants and ensure that tenancy agreements are fair and balanced. These terms even apply when there is no written tenancy agreement.

Some tenancy terms are negotiated between the tenant and landlord:

  • Who the agreement is between: Include the full names of the landlord(s) and tenant(s). People not named in the agreement might not have any rights
  • Length of the tenancy:
    • Fixed-term – A tenancy set for a specific period of time (e.g. a year, a month or a week). The tenancy cannot be ended earlier than the date fixed unless both parties agree in writing or are ordered by an arbitrator. A “move out” clause can be included requiring the tenant to move out on the date the agreement ends – both parties must have their initials next to this term in order for this to be enforceable. If the agreement doesn’t say what happens at the end of the term, the tenancy continues on a month-to-month basis and the tenant doesn’t have to move out or sign a new fixed-term agreement
    • Periodic – A tenancy with no specified end date – it continues until the landlord or tenant serve notice or both decide to end the tenancy. For example, a month-to-month tenancy
  • Rent: Clearly specify how much the rent is and when it’s due. It should also be clear what’s included in the rent – for example, if utilities, laundry or cable are included; or whether there are other refundable or non-refundable fees payable, such as late fees. Essential services such as heat, electricity and hot water must be provided, but the agreement may say that the tenant pays for these
  • Deposits: Indicate what deposits are required and when they are due. Only one security deposit and one pet damage deposit can be requested per unit – each one should be no more than half of one month’s rent. Manufactured home park landlords cannot ask for deposits
  • Pets: Indicate whether there are any pet restrictions

In addition to the above, there are standard terms defined by law that set out the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. They include rental increases, the landlord’s access to a unit, repairs and subletting.

Be sure to include all standard terms in the tenancy agreement by using these forms:

Deposits and Fees

A landlord can request a deposit that will be held in trust as security against damage to the rental unit. Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, be sure you understand the process for returning a deposit at the end of a tenancy.

Security Deposits

At the start of a tenancy, a landlord can ask for a security deposit (or damage deposit) – it can be no more than half of the first month’s rent.

Paying a security deposit means that a tenancy has started and the landlord cannot prevent the tenant from moving in. Even if the tenant doesn’t move into the rental unit, they’re responsible for all obligations under a tenancy – including paying rent or repairing damages.

Pet Damage Deposits

A landlord may also request a pet damage deposit at the start of a tenancy or during a tenancy if a tenant gets a pet with the landlord’s permission. The deposit must be no more than half of one month’s rent, regardless of the number of pets allowed.

Deposits are not required for guide animals or pets that were in a rental unit as of January 1, 2004.

A pet damage deposit can only be used to cover the costs of repairing damage caused by a pet, unless the tenant agrees in writing or an arbitrator orders the pet damage deposit be applied to a Monetary Order.

Learn more about:

Deposits for Manufactured Home Parks

In a mobile home park, tenants usually own their manufactured home and rent the site that it sits on. In these cases, a landlord cannot request a security deposit or pet damage deposit. If a tenant is renting both a manufactured home and a manufactured home site under a residential tenancy agreement, then the rules related to deposits for a standard residential tenancy apply.

The person moving a manufactured home on or off the site may need to provide proof of insurance (or security) to the landlord if they request it.

Deposits paid before December 31, 2003 can be kept by the landlord until the end of the tenancy and be used for covering damages as agreed by the tenant or ordered by an arbitrator.

Unpaid Deposits

If a tenant doesn’t pay the security deposit within 30 days of entering into the tenancy agreement or the pet damage deposit within 30 days of it being required, the landlord may serve the tenant with a notice to end the tenancy.

Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities

Landlords:

  • Can only request one security deposit or pet damage deposit per tenancy agreement, regardless of the number of tenants or pets
  • Can serve a One Month Notice to End Tenancy (PDF, 2.1MB) if a tenant fails to pay the security deposit within 30 days of entering into the tenancy agreement or a pet damage deposit within 30 days of when it’s required
  • Cannot request deposits based on rules and procedures used in other areas (for example, landlords can’t ask for “first and last month’s rent” or “key money”)
  • Cannot increase the amount of a deposit with a rent increase
  • Cannot automatically keep all or part of the deposit at the end of the tenancy

Tenants:

  • Must pay the security deposit within 30 days of entering into the tenancy agreement or the pet damage deposit within 30 days of when it’s required
  • Cannot use a deposit as rent without the landlord’s written permission
  • Should contact the Residential Tenancy Branch if they paid too much for their deposit – they may be able to deduct the overpayment from their rent

Fees

Keys: A landlord can’t charge for a key or other access device (e.g. a fob) that is the tenant’s only means for getting in to the residential unit or manufactured home park. For keys or devices that aren’t the only way to access the rental unit, a landlord can charge a fee that is refunded when the key or access device is returned. The fee must not be more than the direct cost of replacing the keys or access device. Landlords can charge a fee to replace or provide additional keys.

Application fees: A landlord must not charge a fee for accepting, reviewing or processing an application.

Moving fees: A landlord can charge a fee if a tenant requests to move between units in a multi-tenanted building. This must be stated in the tenancy agreement and the fee can’t be greater than $15 or 3% of the monthly rent. A landlord can also charge a move-in fee only if it’s required by strata bylaws.

Pets

In the tenancy agreement, a landlord can indicate whether or not pets are allowed at the rental property. If they are allowed, landlords can also:

  • Restrict the size, kind and number of pets or include reasonable pet-related rules in the tenancy agreement (these can be negotiated to suit both parties)
  • Require a pet damage deposit

Tenants are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and repairing any damage they cause – even if the pet is a guide animal.

Landlords should remember that pet clauses in the tenancy agreement must comply with any strata property bylaws (e.g. a condominium), if applicable.

Guide Animals

Certified guide animals are legally allowed to live in rental properties – landlords cannot require a pet damage deposit for these animals.

In fact, landlords cannot refuse to rent a property to someone because they:

Moving In

Before moving day arrives, tenants and landlords should schedule a move-in time that works for everyone. Generally, tenants move in on the first day of their tenancy – the law does not set a specific time of day. In some cases, strata bylaws may require a landlord to schedule a move-in for a specific date and time.

Locks

If the locks haven’t been changed between tenants, the new tenant can ask the landlord to change the locks. The landlord is required to comply with this request and is responsible for covering any associated costs – a new tenant is not required to pay for this.

Inspect the Rental Unit

At the beginning of a tenancy, a landlord and tenant must inspect the rental unit together – this is sometimes called a “walk-through.” This should be done:

  • When the unit is empty
  • After the previous tenant has moved out and before the new tenant moves in
STEP1: Schedule the Inspection
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to schedule the initial condition inspection (“walk-through”). Both landlords and tenants should be flexible and reasonable when arranging a suitable time for the inspection together. It’s acceptable for a tenant to authorize another person to attend the inspection on their behalf – as long as they notify the landlord before the inspection.

If the first attempt to schedule an inspection isn’t successful, the landlord must make an offer to schedule the inspection in writing:

If there’s no response to the final written notice, the landlord completes the inspection alone and gives the tenant a copy of the final inspection report. This means that the tenant may lose their right to the security deposit because later on they won’t be able to dispute damage claims or disagree with the landlord’s inspection report.

Landlords must follow the inspection procedure closely in order to claim any deposit money for damage done to the rental unit.

STEP 2: Get the Form
The landlord should bring along a printed copy of the Condition Inspection Report (PDF, 1.6MB) to the inspection. The completed report will serve as an official record of the rental unit’s condition at the start of the tenancy.

STEP 3: Conduct the Inspection
Walk through the rental unit and write down any damages on the inspection report – this includes things like scratches and carpet stains.

Be sure that all damages and concerns are noted in the report – it’s a good idea to take photos, if possible. These items can be submitted as evidence if there’s a dispute about the rental unit’s condition at the end of the tenancy.

STEP 4: Sign the Condition Inspection Report
The landlord and tenant must sign and date the inspection report. If a tenant disagrees with the landlord’s assessment, they should note any concerns or comments on the report before signing it.STEP 5: Distribute Copies
Within seven days of the inspection, the landlord must provide a copy of the completed Condition Inspection Report (PDF, 1.6MB) to the tenant(s). If there are more than two landlords or two tenants, the landlord should include the additional names on a separate form called the Schedule of Parties (PDF).

Manufactured Home Parks

In a mobile home park, tenants usually own their manufactured home and rent the site that it sits on. In these cases, a landlord and tenant don’t have to do a condition inspection, unless the tenant is renting both the manufactured home and the manufactured home site under a residential tenancy agreement.

The person moving a manufactured home on or off the site may need to provide proof of insurance (or security) to the landlord if they request it.

Landlords Should Also Consider . . .

Keep rental properties in good condition – they should meet health, safety and housing standards.

Carefully assess the suitability of any new tenant:

  • Ask for proof of identity
  • Thoroughly check all references
  • Contact previous landlords to ask about rental and payment history
  • Conduct a credit check to confirm income and financial suitability
  • Get the names of all persons to be living in the rental unit

Tenants Should Also Consider . . .

If a security deposit or pet damage deposit is required, pay the deposit(s) in full. Never pay a deposit before viewing a rental unit.

Before moving in, walk through the residential rental unit and complete an inspection report with your landlord.

Also consider:

  • Is the tenancy agreement month-to-month or for a fixed length of time?
  • Is a security or pet damage deposit required?
  • Are things like parking, storage, laundry or utilities included in the tenancy agreement?
  • What are the rules of the building or property?

Protection from Discrimination

A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant based on a their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, gender, sexual orientation, age or lawful source of income.

Here are some examples:

  • Income assistance is a lawful source of income – a landlord can’t refuse to rent to someone for this reason
  • In most cases, a landlord can’t refuse to rent a property to a family with children, though, they can limit the number of people living in a rental unit
  • According to the Guide Animal Act, a landlord cannot refuse renting to or require a pet deposit from a tenant with a certified guide animal

There are some exceptions that include:

  • The rental unit is a building or development reserved for people age 55 or older
  • The rental unit is designated for people with disabilities
  • The owner of the accommodation will share a bathroom or kitchen with the tenant

For more information about protection from discrimination, contact the Human Rights Tribunal.

Protection of Personal Information

It’s reasonable to expect landlords to ask potential tenants for certain types of personal information like proof of income, references or identification. This information should only be used for completing the application process – to verify income or perform a credit check. Providing this information should not be a condition for renting.

Use of personal information is governed by privacy laws, so landlords can’t use any information they collect for something unrelated to the tenancy. They also cannot ask for information that would be unreasonable to share – like credit card numbers.

If you have concerns about the protection of your personal information, contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.

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