Renting a Home
|This page is used in the Renting a Home Lesson Module, a law-related ESL lesson for newcomers to Canada.|
In every province in Canada, there are laws about renting. You must follow these laws if you are a landlord or tenant. Every province also has laws about buying and owing a home. In this section, you will learn about these laws in British Columbia.
- 1 Landlords and tenants
- 2 Rent and security deposit
- 3 Repairs
- 4 Resolving disputes
- 5 Eviction information
- 6 Moving out
- 7 Discrimination in renting
- 8 Buying a home
Landlords and tenants
When you rent a home or an apartment, you are a tenant, also referred to as a renter. If you own a home or apartment and you rent it to someone else, you are a landlord.
There is a department of the provincial government that is responsible for making sure landlords and tenants follow these laws. It is called the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Find out what the law says
Before you rent a place, find out what the law says. There are more rules contained in laws called Regulations.
The main law that gives the rules for landlords and tenants is called the Residential Tenancy Act. The Residential Tenancy Branch and Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre can provide you with important, free information.
- Residential Tenancy Branch
- Vancouver: 604-660-1020
- Victoria: 250-387-1602
- Toll-free: 1-800-665-8779
- Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC)
- Vancouver: 604-255-0546
- Toll-free: 1-800-665-1185
Looking for a place to rent?
If you are renting for the first time, or if you are new to BC, it is important to ask the landlord what is included in the rent — for example, heat, hot water, cable service, and laundry machines for your use. If you have any doubts or questions, call the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC).
When you look at a place to rent, the landlord will tell you how much the rent is. If you apply to rent the place, the landlord cannot charge you money to take your application. Doing this is illegal.
Making an agreement to rent
When a tenant finds a suitable house or apartment to rent, the tenant and the landlord make a contract. A contract is a legal agreement. A contract between a landlord and tenant is called a tenancy agreement.
A tenancy agreement must follow the rules about renting in the Residential Tenancy Act and Regulations.
The Residential Tenancy Branch has a tenancy agreement form that you and your landlord can use. The form is called Residential Tenancy Agreement. It is available from their website.
A tenant and a landlord can sign a month-to-month agreement or a fixed term agreement, also known as a lease. If you sign a lease, you can’t move out until your lease is finished without paying extra money.
- For example: if you sign a one year lease, you have to stay until the end of the one year. If you decide to move out before the end of the lease, you may have to pay your landlord some extra money to cover the difference between what you agreed to in writing and what you now want to change.
A tenancy agreement must be in writing. The tenant and the landlord sign it and date it. The landlord must give the tenant a copy of the tenancy agreement within 21 days. The agreement will say how much the rent is and when you must pay it. The agreement should also include what the law says about such things as security deposits, rent increases, and repairs.
You should read the agreement before you sign it. Get someone to help if you need to.
Move-in and move-out
A tenant and a landlord do an inspection together when a tenant moves in and when a tenant moves out. They check to see that everything is working. Make sure you get a copy of this inspection from the landlord.
Before you move in or move out, call the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre for information about the rules for the inspection. The phone numbers are in the section called Find Out More.
Rent and security deposit
When you rent a house or apartment, you usually pay rent to the landlord once a month. Make sure you have proof that you paid the rent, such as a witness, a receipt from the landlord, or a cancelled cheque from your bank or credit union. Keep this proof in case there is a dispute about it later.
If your landlord wants to increase your rent, he or she must follow the rules. For example, the landlord cannot increase the rent if you have not been in the place for at least 12 months.
Landlords must give tenants three months' notice if they increase the rent. This means the landlord must tell you in writing three months before you start to pay the higher rent. The month you receive the notice doesn’t count, even if you receive notice on the first of the month.
The landlord must use a special form called Notice of Rent Increase.
The landlord can only increase the rent once a year. In most cases, the landlord can only increase the rent according to a percentage set by the government. This percentage may change from year to year. In 2013, this percentage is 4.3%.
Check with the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre to see if this percentage has changed. Their phone numbers are in the section called Find Out More.
Paying a security deposit
When tenants move into a place, they usually must pay the landlord some extra money that they may get back when they move out. This is called a security deposit. It is to pay for any damage the tenant might do. It can’t be more than one-half of one month’s rent money. It is very important for the tenant to keep the receipt for the security deposit.
Getting your money back
When the tenant moves out, the tenant should give the landlord an address in writing saying where to send the security deposit. Once the tenant has given the landlord this address, the landlord must return the security deposit with interest within 15 days or ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep some or all of it.
If the tenant damaged the place, the landlord can use some of the security deposit money for repairs. However, the tenant must agree to this in writing.
The landlord cannot keep the security deposit or part of it unless the tenant agrees in writing to pay for damages or unpaid rent. If the tenant does not agree in writing, the landlord must contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep some of the security deposit money. For more information, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch.
The landlord must put up a sign or tell the tenant in writing who to call if there is an emergency. If you have problems with the electricity, or the toilet doesn’t work, or there is no hot water, for example, the landlord must fix it. The law says a landlord must make such repairs.
Ask your landlord to make the repairs. It is a good idea to do this in writing and keep a copy of the letter.
If the landlord doesn’t make the repairs, phone the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre. Their phone numbers are in the section called Find Out More.
Asking for help with repairs
Some towns and cities have rules about keeping rental suites safe and healthy. You can phone your local city hall or town council and ask them about these rules.
You can use the Blue Pages of your phone book. Look under "Health," "Fire" or "Building Inspections." Or you can do a search for your local government on the Internet.
If you live in Vancouver, the phone number for the City of Vancouver Property Use Inspector is 604-873-7398.
When you call, ask if they will send an inspector. An inspector can check your place and order the landlord to do the repairs.
- For example: Susan Johnson lived in an apartment. The pipe from the toilet had water coming out, and the landlord didn’t fix it after Susan asked him to. Susan phoned city hall and told the people there about the problem.
- An inspector came to Susan’s apartment and looked at the problem. This inspection was free. The inspector told the landlord to fix the pipe right away. If an inspector tells a landlord to do something, he or she must do it.
Another place to get help is at the Residential Tenancy Branch. You can apply for a dispute resolution hearing for repairs.
Residential tenancy dispute resolution
If you have a problem with your landlord, you may be able to resolve the matter by talking to him or her. If you cannot work it out on your own you can access dispute resolution services through the Residential Tenancy Branch. A dispute resolution hearing is a bit like a court. You ask a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) to make a decision based on the law. You would need to have evidence in support of your argument.
A dispute resolution hearing can be held on the phone or in person. The DRO makes a decision. You and the landlord must obey the decision.
To find out more about dispute resolution, see the Tenant Survival Guide, a free publication of the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC), available online and in print. Contact details are in the Find Out More section.
Paying for damage
When a tenant or tenant’s visitors damage a rented house or apartment, the tenant should tell the landlord right away. The tenant must pay for the repair. The landlord doesn’t have to pay for it.
- For example: Bill Lee is a tenant living in a suite in an older house. One evening he had a party. One of his friends accidentally broke the big front window. In the morning, Bill called the landlord and explained what happened. The landlord called a company to replace the window and Bill paid for the new window. It cost $200.
Letting the landlord in
Landlords can ask to see the rented house or apartment. They may want to come once a month. Landlords must give a letter to the tenant 24 hours before they come. The letter must say what time between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. the landlord will come and why he or she is coming.
Sometimes there is an emergency. For example, you may have a fire or a broken water pipe. Then the landlord can come in without permission.
A landlord can sometimes make a tenant move out. This is called eviction.
If you are a landlord, and you need to evict a tenant, you must:
- Give notice in writing to tell the tenant to move out. You can get a form at the Residential Tenancy Branch or your local Service BC Centre. The notice must contain reasons for eviction and explain to the tenant his or her right to dispute the eviction.
- Give the notice to the tenant yourself or send it by registered mail. Landlords are not supposed to just put the letter under the door.
Give the tenant proper notice. The law says how much time you have to give tenants before they must move out.
If a landlord wants you to move out, the law says he or she must follow the rules and put the notice in writing. The landlord cannot just tell you to leave. If you are a tenant and you get an eviction notice, read it very carefully. You may disagree with the reason the landlord is evicting you. For example, you don’t think you’re too noisy, or you don’t have too many people living in your place.
You may want to try to stop the eviction. You can appeal, which means you ask an official to decide. The eviction form says how much time you have to do that. Never ignore an eviction notice. You should ask for help or advice. See the Find Out More section.
How much notice must a landlord give?
The landlord must give:
- Immediate notice when the tenant is doing something that is likely to be dangerous to others. The landlord can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for something called an order of possession.
- 10 days notice when the tenant didn’t pay the rent.
- One month notice when the tenant is too noisy or has too many people living in the place.
- Two months notice when the landlord is going to renovate the apartment, or tear it down, convert it to something else, or live in it. If you get a two-month eviction, check with the Residential Tenancy Branch or the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre about compensation.
When you want to move out of a house or apartment that you are renting, the law requires that you tell your landlord in writing. This is called giving notice. You have to write your address and the date you will move out and sign your name.
If you are in a month-to-month tenancy, you must give it to the landlord at least one month
before you will move out. The first day of the month before you plan to move out is too late.
If you signed a fixed-term agreement or lease, you are not allowed to end your tenancy early. If you do, you may have to pay extra money to the landlord for breaking the tenancy agreement.
- For example: Raj Gill has a month-to-month agreement and has decided to move. He plans to move out of his apartment on December 31. He will give his notice to his landlord on November 30 at the latest. Giving notice December 1 is too late. If he is late, Raj has to pay an extra month’s rent.
It's best to give the notice to the landlord or the building manager yourself. You may want to ask someone to go with you in case the landlord denies receiving the notice. Keep a copy of the notice.
If you mail the notice via registered mail, make sure you keep the receipt and a copy of the notice. Remember that if the landlord denies you gave proper notice, you will need evidence to prove that you did.
Discrimination in renting
Sometimes a house or apartment is for rent. The landlord can’t refuse to rent to people because of their gender, age, race, religion, birthplace, sexual orientation (gay, bisexual, or straight), marital or family status (single, married, or living common-law), or mental or physical disability.
Unless the building is reserved for people over 55 years old, a landlord can't refuse to rent to people because they have children. The landlord also can't refuse to rent to you because you are on welfare. BC law says this is discrimination.
A landlord can't charge a different price or make different rules for tenants of a different race, skin colour, religion, sex, and so on. This is the law. You can complain to the BC Human Rights Tribunal if you think a landlord has discriminated against you.
- BC Human Rights Tribunal
- Vancouver: 604-775-2000
- Toll-free: 1-888-440-8844
For information about the Human Rights Code and how to file a human rights complaint, you can contact the BC Human Rights Clinic operated by the Community Legal Assistance Society:
- BC Human Rights Clinic
- 300 - 1140 West Pender Street
- Vancouver BC V6E 4G1
Buying a home
If you want to buy a home, you need to know how much you can afford. Home expenses include the purchase price, legal fees, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, heating costs and others expenses such as repairs.
It is a good idea to talk to your banker, credit union or mortgage broker to find out how much you can afford to pay for a home.
Most people cannot afford to pay for the entire cost of a home. A lender may lend you money to purchase it. Borrowed money for a home is called a mortgage.
The lender will also expect you to use some of your own money and make a down payment on the home you buy. Sometimes a lender will give you a pre-approved mortgage. This is a mortgage amount at an interest rate they guarantee for a period of time, often for 90 days.
You make a regular payment, most often monthly, to pay down your mortgage. Your monthly payment includes the interest that the bank charges for you to borrow their money.
What's involved in buying a home
Most homes in Canada are sold through real estate agents, also called realtors. A real estate agent can assist you through the purchase process including: negotiating the price, providing you with information on the community you want to live in and sharing information about the housing market in general.
The cost associated with working with an agent is usually covered by the seller of the home. It is a good idea to meet with a realtor before you decide if you would like to work with them.
When you find the property you want to purchase, a real estate agent will write an offer, called a Contract of Purchase and Sale. The agent will present your offer to the seller.
Once you and the seller have agreed on a price, the agent will prepare the necessary documents to complete the purchase. Your agent will take care of sending the documents to the bank in order to arrange for the mortgage that you had been pre-approved for.
It is a good idea to have the home inspected before you buy it. This may help you avoid big or small surprises such as a broken frame or mold in the walls. A realtor can help you find a home inspector. You can also find information about home inspectors online or in your local phone book. The buyer pays for the cost of the inspection.
You will need a lawyer or notary public to prepare the documents that transfer legal ownership from the seller to you. Your real estate agent may be able to suggest a lawyer or notary public for you to choose from. Lawyers and notaries can also be found online or in your local phone book.
Owning a home: bylaws
When you own your home, you must still obey the city laws. These are called bylaws. They deal with safety and health issues and allowable uses of the property.
They cover everything from rules about building a house to rules about making noise and maintaining fences. To find out more, read Buying a Home in British Columbia, available online at www.hpo.bc.ca.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2013.|
|Learning about the Law Wikibook © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
In law, to formally deliver documents to a person in a manner that complies with the applicable rules of court. Service may be ordinary (mailed or delivered to a litigant's address for service), personal (hand-delivered to a person) or substituted (performed in a way other than the rules normally require). See "address for delivery," "ordinary service," "personal service" and "substituted service."
An agreement between two or more people, giving them obligations towards each other that can be enforced in court. A valid contract must be offered by one person and accepted by the other, and some form of payment or other thing of value must generally be exchanged between the parties to the contract.
An agreement which requires payment for the use of property, under which the owner of property, like a car or an apartment, gives up the right to occupy and use that property in exchange for a sum of money. A "lessor" is the person who retains ownership of the property and receives money for its use. A "lessee" is the person who purchases the right of possession and use of the property.
Evidence which establishes or tends to establish the truth of a fact; also, the conclusion of a logical argument. See "evidence" and "premises."
A person with direct, personal knowledge of facts and events; a person giving oral evidence in court on oath or affirmation as to the truth of the evidence given. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath" and "opinion evidence."
A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."
A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration."
The processes used to conclusively resolve legal disputes including negotiation, collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration and litigation.
In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision" and "evidence."
In law, a judge's conclusions after hearing argument and considering the evidence presented at a trial or an application; a judgment; the judge's reasons. A judge's written or oral decision will include the judge's conclusions about the relief or remedies claimed as well as their findings of fact and conclusions of law. A written decision is called the judge’s "reasons for judgment." See "common law," "conclusions of law," and "findings of fact."
Facts or proof of facts presented to a judge at a hearing or trial. Evidence can be given through the oral testimony of witnesses, in writing as business records and other documents, or in the form of physical objects. Evidence must be admissible according to the rules of court and the rules of evidence. See "circumstantial evidence," "hearsay," and "testimony."
In law, an attempt to persuade by logical reasoning. Usually refers to oral or written argument presented to a judge following the presentation of evidence, or to a written summary of argument.
An application to a higher court for a review of the correctness of a decision of a lower court. A decision of a judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia can be appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. A decision of a judge of the Supreme Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.
In law, the right to have the control and use of a thing. One can have a right to the possession of a thing without owning it, as in the case of a car lease, or ownership without possession, as in the case of a landlord who rents an apartment suite. See "ownership."
The conditional transfer of the title to real property by an owner to another person in return for money given by that person as a loan, while retaining possession of the property. The party to whom title is given, the "mortgagee," usually a bank, is allowed to register the title of the property in their name if the person taking the loan, the "mortgagor," fails to make the required payments. See "encumbrance" and "real property."
In law, someone acting on behalf of someone else, with that person's express permission and normally at their express direction.
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
In contact law, the expression, either orally or in writing, of a willingness to be bound by a proposed agreement, contract or settlement. See "offer to settle."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
A person authorized to administer affirmations and oaths, and to execute or certify documents. All lawyers are notaries public in addition to being barristers and solicitors. See "barrister and solicitor.”
In property law, the act of an owner of a thing giving ownership of that thing to another person, in exchange for money or other property in the case of a sale or in exchange for other rights in the case of a family law agreement. See "family law agreements," "ownership" and "sale."
A legal right to have and use a thing that is enforceable in court. See "possession."