Rights And Responsibilities Of A Tenant In British Columbia

Rights And Responsibilities Of A Tenant In British Columbia

Written by Matthew Taylor
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 1, 2021

Each province and territory has different rules and regulations that govern how tenants and landlords must act. This means that a tenant’s rights and responsibilities in each province and territory are different. If you’re moving out for the first time, or are moving from another country, you should know about the rental laws of where you’re planning to live.

Responsibilities Of A Tenant In British Columbia

As a tenant in British Columbia, you have certain responsibilities to your landlord, just as they have certain responsibilities to you. These responsibilities include:

  • Doing a condition inspection with your landlord before moving in and after moving out
  • Paying your rent and utilities in full and on time
  • Allowing your landlord to enter your unit if they give you at least 24 hours of notice if they need to inspect the unit, make repairs, perform maintenance, or show it to potential tenants or buyers 
  • Letting your landlord know in writing if any repairs are needed
  • Keeping your unit clean
  • Repairing any damage you, your guests or your pets cause beyond regular wear and tear

What Should Be Included In A Rental Lease?

Tenancy agreements are the basis for your tenancy. They should provide all the information you should need about your tenancy, including the terms and how to end it.

Your tenancy agreement should include the following information:

  • Who the agreement is between
  • The length of your tenancy
  • How much rent is and when it’s due
  • Security and pet damage deposits
  • Pet restrictions

Security Deposit In British Columbia 

At the start of your tenancy, your landlord can ask you for a security or damage deposit. This deposit cannot be more than half of your first month’s rent. Generally, your tenancy starts once your landlord accepts your deposit.

Getting Your Security Deposit Back

There are some rules you must follow to get your deposit back. You must give your landlord written notice to end your tenancy and provide your landlord with your new address in writing within one year of moving out. You also have to clean out your unit when you move out, make any necessary fixes, and remove all your belongings. Finally, you must participate in a move-out condition inspection and sign and date the completed move-out condition inspection report. If you follow these rules and your landlord does not request compensation for damage or file a dispute resolution application, you should receive your deposit back within 15 days of moving out.

When Can Your Landlord Keep Your Security Deposit?

Sometimes, your landlord will have the right to keep all or a part of your deposit. They can do so if your unit is damaged beyond regular wear and tear and you agree in writing to compensate them. They can also do so if an arbitrator, in dispute resolution, determines that you owe a certain amount or if you move out and do not provide them with your new address within one year.

Rent Increase Limits In British Columbia

In British Columbia, tenancy laws set out limits for annual rent increases based on the 12-month average percent change for the British Columbia Consumer Price Index. In 2020, landlords could increase the rent by a maximum of 2.6%. In 2021, there is a rent increase freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landlords must give tenants at least three full months of notice before increasing the rent. They can only increase the rent either 12 months after a previous rent increase or 12 months since they agreed on a rental rate with their tenants.

How Long Does Your Landlord Have To Fix Repairs?

Both you and your landlord have the responsibility to make repairs, depending on what they are. Your landlord is usually responsible for making repairs if any damage was not made by you, your guests, or your pets. These repairs include maintaining the furnace and replacing any defective smoke alarms.

You must make requests for repairs to your landlord in writing. You should clearly state what you need repaired and give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to make repairs. If your landlord doesn’t make repairs, you can apply for dispute resolution. You cannot make the repairs yourself and charge your landlord with the costs unless they agree in writing to pay the costs.

What Happens If You Damage Your Rental Unit?

As the tenant, you are responsible for reasonably maintaining your unit’s health, cleanliness, and sanitary standards. This requirement usually means paying for cleaning costs when you move out and for making any repairs for damage you, your guests, or your pets cause other than regular wear and tear. The Residential Tenancy Branch could order you to pay for repairs or for damage you caused.

How To Terminate A Lease Early In British Columbia

If you wish to terminate or break your lease early in British Columbia, your landlord has a right to minimize their losses by trying to re-rent your unit for a fair price. They could be entitled to the difference in rent if they are forced to rent out your unit for less than they were charging you. If they can charge a new tenant more, the difference can be applied to pay off any rent or damages you owe. You may be responsible for the costs associated with finding a replacement tenant if you break a lease that includes a “liquidated damages” clause.

There are several reasons why you could terminate a lease early in British Columbia, including:

Mutual Agreement To End Tenancy

In this case, you and your landlord agree to end your tenancy early. Your landlord may be more inclined to offer you this option if you advertise your unit or make it accessible for regular viewings so they can find a new tenant.

Sublet / Assignment

If you find someone to take over your lease, you may be able to break it. You could sublet your tenancy agreement, where you move out temporarily and rent your unit out until you get back, or you could assign your tenancy agreement, where you move out permanently and transfer your tenancy agreement to a new tenant.

Landlord Breach Of Material Term

If your landlord has broken a material term of your rental agreement, you could potentially have the right to end your tenancy. If you break your lease this way, your landlord may apply for a monetary order against you, so it is important that you be able to prove to an arbitrator that your tenancy could not have continued. You can also apply for dispute resolution so you can get permission to break your lease. 

Family Violence / Long Term Care

If you need to protect yourself or your children from family violence, have been assessed as needing long-term care, or have been accepted as a resident of a long-term care facility, you can break your lease early if you give your landlord one month of notice.

Eviction Rules In British Columbia

There are five reasons that a tenant can be evicted in British Columbia: eviction for non-payment of rent, eviction for cause, personal use, sale of property, and major renovations or demolition.

Eviction For Non-Payment Of Rent 

Landlords can evict tenants if they don’t pay the rent. If a landlord chooses to evict a tenant, for this reason, they must give the tenant a 10 Day Notice to End Tenancy for Unpaid Rent or Utilities form. The tenant then has five days to pay up or to file for an Application for Resolution under the Residential Tenancy Act. Landlords can use the Landlord’s Direct Request process under the Residential Tenancy Act to get an Order of Possession if the tenant does neither of these things within five days.

Eviction For Cause 

Landlords can evict tenants for several reasons, including disturbing other tenants or the landlord, putting other tenants or the landlord in danger, or repeatedly paying the rent late. If a landlord is evicting a tenant for cause, they must give the tenant a one-month eviction notice.

Personal use

A landlord can choose to evict a tenant if the landlord or their close family members wants to live there. The definition of a close family member includes a spouse, the parents, or the children of the landlord. If a landlord is evicting a tenant so they can use the premises for personal use, they must give the tenant two months of notice beforehand.

Sale Of Property

If a landlord is selling a property, and the new buyer or their close family member wants to move in, the landlord can evict the tenant currently occupying the premises. In this case, they must provide the tenant with two months of notice ahead of time.

Major Renovations Or Demolition

Landlords wanting to demolish a property or make major renovations where the tenant must live elsewhere for an extended period of time must provide tenants four months of notice before they evict them.

British Columbia Tenant FAQs

Can a landlord say no to pets in British Columbia?

In British Columbia, landlords can say no to pets in a rental property.

Can a landlord say no to overnight guests in BC? 

Your landlord cannot restrict you from having overnight guests in British Columbia unless they become an occupant and move onto the premises without being on your tenancy agreement.

Can a landlord say no to smoking in BC?

Yes, your landlord can ban smoking on their property, including in your unit, on your balcony, or their property. 

Do I need to do a condition inspection report in British Columbia?

You do not need to do a condition inspection report in British Columbia, but both you and your landlord must be given ample opportunity to do one because it protects you both. You should inspect your unit with your landlord when you start your tenancy and when you end it so you can both see the condition of your unit before and after your tenancy. The notes from the inspection go into a report, which both of you must sign.

When can my landlord enter my apartment in British Columbia? 

Your landlord can enter your apartment for a valid reason, such as to make repairs, and must give you at least 24 hours’ written notice. They must give you the time and reason for entry in this notice. Unless you agree to waive it or unless they are entering for an emergency reason. Your landlord can enter your apartment between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. if it’s not an emergency unless you agree to another time outside this window. If your landlord does not give you written notice in person, they must tape it to your door or put it in your mailbox three days ahead of time. 

Can I make changes to my apartment in BC?

You can make changes to your apartment, but upon vacating your unit you must return it to its original condition unless you get explicit permission from your landlord to not undo your changes. If you don’t undo your changes and don’t get your landlord’s permission, your landlord can undo your changes themselves and charge you the cost for doing so.

Can I refuse to pay rent if my landlord refuses to repair something?

Unless the Residential Tenancy Branch provides you with an order to pay rent, you can legally withhold rent if your landlord refuses to repair something you asked them to repair. You can also deduct the cost of emergency repairs from your rent. If you tried on two separate occasions to notify your landlord within a reasonable amount of time about emergency repairs and were forced to pay for repairs because they wouldn’t, you can get the money you are owed through dispute resolution. Your landlord does, however, have the right to take over emergency repairs.

Bottom Line

As a tenant in British Columbia, you have rights that protect you, and you also have responsibilities to your landlord. Generally, if these rights and responsibilities are followed, you and your landlord should have no problem with each other. Should you or your landlord have an issue, you can apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch. The Residential Tenancy Branch serves to arbitrate disputes between tenants and landlords and can dole out decisions requiring you or your landlord to pay each other, allowing for evictions, and more.

Rating of 5/5 based on 2 votes.

Matthew joined the Loans Canada writing team in 2021 while was finishing up a Bachelor's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. It was there that he discovered his love of writing. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Canadian Student Review and NewEngineer.com. In his spare time, Matthew enjoys reading, geocaching, and spending time with his family and pets.

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