Security Deposits and Additional Fees
Do participate in a move-in and a move-out inspection, or else risk losing your deposit. Don't pay a deposit for a place you are not sure you want, or you may lose your deposit.
- 1 Security deposit and pet damage deposit
- 2 Extra deposits and non-refundable fees
- 3 Getting your deposit back
- 4 Legislation and links
Security deposit and pet damage deposit
A landlord can ask you for a security deposit (also called a damage deposit) to cover the costs of damage to the unit or property, or unpaid rent or utilities. The landlord can also ask for a pet damage deposit and deposits for extras like keys or garage door openers. Your landlord can only ask for a security deposit when you first agree to rent the place. You must pay the full security deposit within 30 days after you move in or you can be evicted. See sections 20 and 47 of the RTA.
Amount of security deposit
The most a landlord can ask you to pay for a security deposit is a half month's rent. The landlord cannot ask for an extra deposit if the rent goes up. If the landlord collects more than one half month's rent as a security deposit, the law allows the tenant to deduct the overpayment from rent, or otherwise recover the overpayment. Make sure you let the landlord know why you are deducting the overpayment.
Pet damage deposit
A landlord can ask for an additional half month's rent as a pet damage deposit. The landlord can ask you for this when you move in with your pet or when you get a pet. You only have to pay one pet damage deposit. The landlord cannot ask you to pay extra deposits if you have more than one pet. If the landlord collects more than one half month's rent as a pet damage deposit, the law allows the tenant to deduct the overpayment from rent, or otherwise recover the overpayment.
If you pay a deposit and then change your mind about moving in, you might not be able to get your money back. The landlord might try to make you pay the month's rent if another tenant cannot be found to rent the place. Don't sign anything and don't give money to the landlord until all your questions are answered. Make sure you really want the place before you pay any money and make sure you know the landlord's name and address. Whenever you give the landlord cash, get a receipt. It is better to pay with a cheque or money order.
If you get a new landlord
If your building is sold and you get a new landlord you don't have to pay a new deposit. You only have to pay a deposit when you move into a place, sign a new agreement, or get a pet. It is the new landlord's responsibility to get the deposits from your former landlord. The new landlord is responsible for paying back your deposit when you move out.
Applying deposit towards rent
You cannot use your security deposit towards your rent unless your landlord agrees to it in writing. For example, you cannot pay only half of your last month's rent and tell the landlord to cover the rest with your security deposit. If you do this the landlord can evict you for non-payment of rent, which means you would have to be out in ten days, yet you would still owe rent for the entire month. If you owe rent when you move out and there is no damage to the place or other payments that you owe the landlord, the landlord can put your security deposit towards what you still owe in rent. See section 21 of the RTA.
Extra deposits and non-refundable fees
The law allows landlords to charge a deposit for access devices like keys and automatic garage door openers or for equipment that is for the tenant's use only. You cannot be charged a deposit for a key or access card if it is your only means of entry to your building.
In addition to your rent and refundable deposits, the Residential Tenancy Act allows landlords to charge extra fees for certain services. The law allows a landlord to charge the following fees:
- direct cost of replacing keys or other access devices,
- direct cost of any additional keys that you request,
- service fees charged by banks for NSF cheques,
- move-in and move-out fees charged by a strata corporation to the landlord, and
- fee for services or facilities requested by you that aren't covered in your tenancy agreement; for example, a parking fee, if it wasn't in your original agreement.
As well, the landlord can charge the following fees as long as your tenancy agreement states that you may be charged these fees:
- fee of not more than $25 for a NSF cheque or late payment of rent, and
- fee that is not more than $15 or three percent of the monthly rent as a fee for moving between units in a building if you requested the move.
Getting your deposit back
The law requires you to do move-in and move-out condition inspection reports with your landlord in order to get your security deposit back. The penalty for a landlord or tenant not participating in the condition inspections is losing the right to the security deposit. See the section on Condition Inspection Reports.
When you move out, you must give your landlord a forwarding address in writing where your security deposit can be sent. This is required by law. After your landlord receives your forwarding address and you have moved out, the landlord has 15 days to return your security deposit to you. The forwarding address does not have to be where you live, but somewhere you can receive mail.
If the landlord wants to keep some or all of your deposit, you must either agree to it in writing, or the landlord must apply for a dispute resolution hearing within 15 days from the day when you moved from your place and gave your forwarding address in writing. If the landlord does not do this, you could make a claim for double the amount of your security deposit. You have two years from when your tenancy ended to make a claim for your deposit at the Residential Tenancy Branch. However, in order to do this, you must provide your landlord with your forwarding address in writing within one year after the end of your tenancy.
Your landlord is required to pay you interest on your security deposit. However, the amount of interest required to be paid is established yearly by the government. Some years you will not receive any interest on your deposit if the prime lending rate of the principal banker to the province is less than 4.5 percent on the first day of the calendar year. You can go to the Residential Tenancy Branch website and use the rate calculator to find out how much you are owed.
- Residential Tenancy Branch
- RTB Policy Guideline 29 - Security Deposits
- RTB Policy Guideline 31 - Pet Damage Deposits
Resources and forms
- TRAC Template Demand Letters - Request for Return of Security/Pet Deposit
- Renting it Right- Video on Security Deposits
|The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, 2012.|
|Tenant Survival Guide © TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|