Renting in Vancouver

The governing or regulatory body for renting in British Columbia is the Residential Tenancy Branch (www.rto.gov.bc.ca).

B

ritish Columbia law requires a written tenancy agreement. A tenancy agreement may be month-to-month or for a fixed term. The term lease is not used in the Residential Tenancy Act. Landlords and tenants are required to complete incoming and outgoing Condition Inspection Reports. The landlord is obliged to provide a number that can be contacted 24-hours a day, in case of emergencies. Landlords may not discriminate when renting, unless they will share a kitchen or bathroom with the tenant, or intend to limit a building to people over age 55 or to those with disabilities.

Tenants are required to pay a security deposit, which can be no more than half a month’s rent. Tenants can deduct an overpayment from any rent owing. However, a landlord who allows pets may also ask for an additional half-month rent as a pet damage deposit. In this case, the total combined deposits can add up to one month’s rent. Landlords may also require additional deposits for items such as keys or garage door openers. Security deposits may be requested only when the tenancy agreement is signed, but pet damage deposits can be requested at the time a pet is introduced. Deposits must be returned to the tenant within fifteen days of the end of a tenancy unless the tenant consents or an application is filed by the landlord to keep all or part of it. The tenant must provide a forwarding address.

Landlords may request post-dated cheques and are allowed to charge an administration fee of no more than $25.00 for any late payment of rent. Provisions prohibiting pets or smoking in the rental unit are legal provided they are part of the original tenancy agreement; however, no pet clauses must be specific, such as “no dogs or cats,” and they do not apply to guide animals.

Landlords must provide 24-hour notice to enter a unit except in the case of emergency. If given 30-days written notice, a landlord may terminate non-essential services or facilities provided the tenant is reasonably able to replace them (e.g. cable TV) and the landlord reduces the rent accordingly. The tenant may dispute whether the service is essential, as well as the proposed rent reduction.

When an emergency arises, the tenant must call the emergency contact at least twice, allowing a reasonable amount of time for the contact to respond. The tenant should keep a record of the date and time of each call. The tenant must also allow a reasonable amount of time for the repair to be done. If the emergency contact does not respond, the tenant can get the repairs done after making sure the costs are within reason and the repair will be done properly. At any time, the landlord may take over the work and pay for what was already done.

British Columbia has rent control. Landlords must use the approved form “Notice of Rent Increase” and give the tenant three months’ notice of an increase in rent. Tenants cannot dispute the rent increase unless the increase is more than the allowable amount. Unless a landlord consents in writing, a tenant may not assign or sublet a tenancy agreement.