My Tips for Students Renting after my Co-Op with the Residential Tenancy Branch
Last summer, I had the opportunity to work for the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) that regulates rental-housing laws in British Columbia. The Branch has been undergoing a number of changes in the last few years, as the rental-housing crisis has become a more important issue on the government’s agenda. Several legislative changes have been made to protect renters from the increased cost of living in the Province.
One of the biggest problems many students have with renting is being informed of their rights and responsibilities. Those who live off campus know the Victoria rental market is a hassle and it is therefore important to be informed on the laws and regulations. These are a few renting tips I have for those currently living or planning to live off campus.
Please note this is not legal advice and you should contact the Residential Tenancy Branch if you have specific questions!
Pay your rent! And on time!
This seems obvious but paying your rent is a serious matter. Always keep receipts of every payment made and try to avoid paying in cash. In my experience, the most secure method of payment is e-transfer, as both parties will automatically have a receipt. If you experience problems with paying rent, make sure to communicate this with your landlord as soon as you can. They will likely understand in most situations.
Maintain a good relationship with your landlord
This is always a good call. Even if you may think a request is unreasonable or a hassle, try your best to remain in good terms with your landlord as they will be necessary in case of any problems. Do keep in mind, however, there are requests that are illegal so make sure to read up on your rights and responsibilities.
This is one of the largest concerns I—and many students who return home in the summer—have. There are several myths about what landlords and tenants can or cannot do with regards to subletting.
Your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse a sublet in a fixed-term agreement if there are six months or more remaining in the term. So make sure you verify with your landlord if they will allow subletting if your lease begins in September and you intend to go home in the summer. You must also always get written permission from the landlord to do so. If your landlord refuses to allow you to sublet, and you have followed the rules, you can file a claim with the Residential Tenancy Branch.
It is best, however, to always ask your landlords about subletting before signing a tenancy agreement to avoid future conflicts.
One thing I believed before beginning my job was that landlords have the right to keep the security deposit for whatever reason. The truth is landlords must apply through the RTB in order to withhold all or part of your security deposit.
If your deposit is not returned after 15 days and you have not received proper notice, you can apply to have double the deposit returned. This is of course unless you mutually agree to have all or part of your deposit deducted.
Read your tenancy agreement
This is really important because this is what will give you legal recourse in the event you have a problem with your landlord. A landlord can attach an addendum of additional rules for the house. This usually includes things like no parties, no drugs, etc. However, there are rules that are illegal, such as banning guests. The demands have to be “reasonable” so do not rent from someone who has rules you think are unordinary or illegal.
With regards to pets, landlords have full discretion over whether or not to allow animals in your house. If they do allow a pet, they are allowed to charge another security deposit.
Evictions and dispute resolution
This is a last resort and will happen in very few cases. However, it’s important to know that you do have legal recourse if you have been unjustly evicted or are not being provided proper utilities.
You can only be evicted for a number of reasons and you must be provided notice before. It can only happen if your landlord has a legal order of possession to make you leave.
If you are evicted because your landlord wants to use the property for themselves or remodel the apartment, and they do not follow through on this, you can ask for twelve months rent in compensation from the RTB. This was changed last year to prevent the high amount of unfair evictions in BC.
Renting seems really scary but it shouldn’t be! The best advice I can give is to always be transparent with your landlord and let them know of any issues. It is important, however, to know your rights in case you encounter a problem. The RTB received additional funding from the government in the last few years and the service has become more efficient so they are a great resource.
Below are more resources that can help if you have specific rental questions:
- Residential Tenancy Branch: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy
- Solution Explorer. The RTB provides a helpful tool that guides you through your specific problem. It is the best first point of contact when engaging with a conflict: http://www.housing.gov.bc.ca/RTB/WebTools/SolutionExplorer.html
- TRAC. Advocacy group that can help tenants with legal questions and help: http://tenants.bc.ca/
- Tenant Survival Guide. TRAC also created a “Tenant Survival Guide” which provides a detailed and simple guide for renters: https://lss.bc.ca/resources/pdfs/pubs/Tenant-Survival-Guide-eng.pdf