|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, 2018.|
DO: pay your full rent on time. Failing to do so could result in a 10 Day Eviction Notice for Non-Payment of Rent.
DO NOT: stop paying rent unless the Residential Tenancy Act allows you to do so. If your landlord is breaking the law, you will most likely have to apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch.
When rent is due
Your full rent must be paid on or before the date it is due – usually the 1st of the month. If you are late by one day, or short by a few dollars, your landlord can give you a 10 Day Eviction Notice for Non-Payment of Rent in accordance with section 46 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). Once you have received this type of notice, you only have five days to pay the missing rent in order to cancel the eviction.
Paying rent on time is one of your most important legal responsibilities, and you cannot rely on the five-day grace period for late rent each month. If you repeatedly pay your rent late – at least three times within an unreasonably short period – your landlord can give you a One Month Eviction Notice for Cause. See section 47 of the RTA and Policy Guideline 38 for more information.
How rent is paid
Tenants and landlords usually arrange for rent to be paid by cash, cheque, e-transfer, or direct deposit. According to section 26(2) of the RTA, landlords are legally required to provide receipts for rent paid in cash. If you suspect that your landlord will not provide you with a receipt, consider bringing a witness and your own rent receipt for them to sign.
Legally withholding rent
When disputes arise with your landlord, it may be tempting to retaliate by withholding rent. Unfortunately, this is illegal in most cases. If your landlord is breaking the law, you will most likely have to apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB).
There are only five sections in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) that allow you to legally withhold rent without your landlord’s consent:
- section 19 of the RTA – you overpaid your security deposit or pet damage deposit;
- section 33 of the RTA – you paid for emergency repairs after carefully following the proper steps;
- section 43 of the RTA – you overpaid rent because of an illegal rent increase;
- section 51 of the RTA – you received a Two Month or Four Month Eviction Notice for Landlord’s Use of Property, which entitles you to one month rent as compensation, and you are applying that compensation towards the last month of your tenancy; and
- section 65 of the RTA – you have an order from the RTB.
Problems paying rent
If you know that you will be unable to pay your full rent on time, communicate with your landlord as soon as possible. Your landlord may allow you to pay your rent late – especially if you have always paid rent on time in the past. Make sure to get your landlord’s permission in writing if they do agree to give you an extension. You can also try requesting a short-term loan from a friend, family member, or one of BC’s Rent Banks. If that is not possible, you may have to prioritize your rent over other expenses.
Crisis supplement: If you receive income assistance and face an unexpected emergency, you might qualify for a crisis supplement through the provincial government.
Notice of rent increase
At the start of your tenancy, rent is set at whatever amount you and your landlord agree to as part of your agreement. From that point on, according to section 22 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation (RTR), your landlord can only raise your rent once every 12 months by a percentage equal to inflation. The allowable rent increase percentage changes each year, so check the Residential Tenancy Branch website or TRAC website to find out how much landlords can raise rent this year.
Section 42 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) says that landlords must provide an approved “Notice of Rent Increase” form three full months before a rent increase takes effect. For example, if you receive proper notice on April 5th, the three full months that count towards the notice period are May, June, and July, which means the rent increase would take effect on August 1st (assuming you pay rent on the first of the month). If your landlord does not raise your rent during a 12-month period, or raises it by less than the allowable percentage, they are not allowed to top-up a future rent increase to make up the difference.
Wrong notice period
If your landlord uses the proper “Notice of Rent Increase” form but gives you less than three full months’ notice, section 42(4) of the RTA says that you can continue to pay your current rent until the correct amount of time has passed. For example, if you normally pay rent on the first of the month and your landlord gives you a Notice of Rent Increase on March 1st (or anytime later that month), you will not have to start paying the increase until July 1st. Although this may seem like four months, the RTA counts it as three. By serving the notice on March 1st, your landlord has excluded March from the three-month notice period. To avoid any misunderstandings with your landlord, it can be a good idea to write them and explain the law to ensure that they do not try to end your tenancy for unpaid rent.
Overpaying a rent increase
If you have overpaid on rent because your landlord gave you an illegal rent increase, you have two options:
- deduct the overpayment from your next month’s rent; or
- apply for a monetary order through dispute resolution.
If you choose the first option, make sure to clearly explain to your landlord that you have the right to withhold rent according to section 43 of the RTA.
Exceptions to rent increase rules
Additional occupants added
If you wish to move someone in to your rental unit, you should first check your tenancy agreement. Your landlord may be allowed to raise your rent for additional occupants, but only if your agreement specifies by how much. If your tenancy agreement does not include such a term, your landlord cannot legally raise your rent when an additional occupant moves in. See section 13 and section 40 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) for more information.
Residential Tenancy Branch permission
Your landlord can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for an additional rent increase above the allowable annual percentage. Arbitrators will only allow these additional rent increases in exceptional circumstances, listed in section 23 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation (RTR).
The application fee for landlords is $300, plus $10 for each rental unit, to a maximum of $600. If your landlord applies for an additional rent increase, you will be served with a package of hearing documents, including the evidence they have submitted. As the respondent, you will have a chance to speak during the hearing and submit evidence that challenges your landlord’s application. See RTB Policy Guideline 37 for more information.
Geographic rent increases: For years, landlords had the right to apply for an additional rent increase when a rental unit’s rent was significantly lower than other similar units in the same geographic area. Fortunately, the RTR has now been amended to eliminate geographic rent increases.
Some subsidized rental units where rent is related to income may be exempt from the rent increase rules in the RTA. If you live in a subsidized rental unit, ask your housing provider about the rent increase rules that apply to you. See section 2 of the RTR for more information.
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