In the Know: Tenancy Rights and Obligations

UVic Global Community Newsletter: August 16, 2021

In the Know: Advice for International Students is a section of the UVic Global Community Newsletter that includes valuable information and important dates for undergraduate and graduate international students in the following categories: degree-seekingincoming exchange, and incoming study abroad/visiting.

Every year, the demand to live on campus greatly exceeds the number of rooms available, so most students live off campus for at least some of their time at UVic.

There are advantages for both on and off-campus housing options. On-campus housing is convenient, especially for students who are moving to a new city, but off-campus housing offers more independence and opportunities to explore everything Victoria has to offer.

This article will look at important things to consider when entering into a tenancy agreement, and maintaining a healthy relationship with landlords, property managers, and roommates. 

Types of Tenancy Agreements

In BC, the two main types of tenancy agreements are fixed term and month-to-month. 

A fixed term lease has a predetermined date when the tenancy will end or be up for renewal. Some students prefer a fixed term lease for the stability. However if you are unable to live at this residence for the entire period of the lease, you may owe the landlord money for “breaking the lease”. It is important to know that the landlord is legally responsible to minimize your loss and re-rent your unit to a suitable tenant, so that you do not have to pay the remaining months of your lease.  

A month-to-month tenancy does not have a fixed end date. Instead, the tenancy will end when either the landlord or tenant gives proper notice to end the tenancy. This often means one month’s written notice. Some students find the advantage of a month-to-month agreement provides the flexibility to move if your situation changes.

It is important that you know what your agreement states. Sometimes the tenancy agreement states that you will need to vacate your residence at the end of the agreement, but other times it will state that your tenancy agreement will move to a month-to-month agreement after the fixed term lease.

Entering a Tenancy Agreement

Whether you choose a fixed term lease or a month-to month agreement, you and your landlord will need to sign a tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is a very important document that will display important points about your living situation. This is to avoid falling prey to a rental scam. Additionally, when entering a tenancy agreement it is important to:

  • Carefully review the tenancy agreement prior to signing
  • Request that the landlord provides the signed tenancy agreement for your records
  • Ask your landlord to meet prior to moving in to complete a tenant inspection report. This should be completed upon moving out as well.

Your landlord may use the standard Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) tenancy agreement, or they may use their own custom tenancy agreement. The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre also provides a good starting point for creating a tenancy agreement in BC, including important points that should be written in the contract. 

Review the BC Government website for guidance and information on common topics about renting before meeting with a potential landlord to make sure you are educated on your rights and responsibilities. It is important that you never give money to a landlord without seeing the rental suite in person. You may also find this tenant survival guide a helpful resource.

Security Deposit

A security deposit ensures the tenancy of a rental unit for both you and your landlord. The amount will be held in trust as security against damage to the rental unit. A security deposit should never be more than half of one month’s rent. Once a tenant gives the landlord their security deposit, the landlord can no longer rent the suite to someone else. Similarly, the tenant can no longer decide to move in somewhere else, or they could owe the landlord the deposit and money for loss of income while their suite is vacant.

At the end of your tenancy, your landlord will likely inspect your place to ensure that there is no damage beyond reasonable wear and tear. If they believe the damage is beyond this, they may request to keep your deposit.  

Tenants Rights & Responsibilities

As mentioned, it’s very important to know about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant to avoid any legal problems, given that your tenancy agreement you sign with your landlord is a legal contract.

Many students are not aware that for their landlord to legally enter their suite they are required to provide at least 24 hours written notice before entering their rental unit unless it is an exceptional situation.

Additionally, it is your legal responsibility to pay your rent on time. If you repeatedly give the landlord less money, or are late on your payment, the landlord will have the right to evict you from your residence.  

Municipal bylaw and Community Standards 

Students living off campus in the Greater Victoria Region can learn about traffic, parking, garbage and recycling, safety standards, and being a responsible community member on the Office of Student Life website.

Students living on campus can learn about conduct and community standards on the Residence Services website.

FAQs

Will landlords ask for an application fee?
It is illegal for a landlord to request an application fee. Please refer to the Residential Tenancy Act (Section 15).

Should I buy tenant insurance?
It is important that you carry tenant or renter’s insurance for your possessions in case of loss of your belongings due to theft, or damage to your belongings due to fire or water damage. There are many insurance companies you can buy tenant insurance from, please do your research to find the best one for you.

Can a landlord require a pet deposit?
If you are allowed to have pets in your rental suite, your landlord can require a pet deposit of up to half of the monthly rent.

Can my landlord increase the rent?
Your landlord can raise the rent once every 12 months, by an amount equal to inflation. For 2020 the amount of inflation was 2.6%. Between the months of March 30, 2020 and January 1, 2022 a rental freeze has been in place to prevent landlords from increasing rent. If your rent has increased during this time period, you may want to discuss this issue with your landlord, or apply for a monetary order through dispute resolution.

Who is responsible for fixing things that break in my rental unit?
Every landlord in British Columbia has a legal obligation to maintain health, safety and housing standards. You can learn more about these standards in the Tenancy Policy Guidelines. Your landlord is also responsible for pest and mold. If there are pests or mold issues in your home, your landlord is responsible for hiring a professional company to have it removed.

I am currently in a month to month agreement with a landlord. How do I provide notice to leave?
If you are on a month-to-month agreement, you will need to give your landlord a full month’s notice in writing. Most people sign an agreement starting the 1st day of the month. If this is the case for you, your last day in your tenancy will be on the last day of the month. As an example if you give your landlord notice on May 31st, you would be able to move out on June 30th however if you were not able to give the notice until June 1st, you would not be able to move out until July 31st.

How do I get my security deposit back at the end of my tenancy?
Once your tenancy has ended, your landlord has 15 days to do one of the following:
  • Return your deposit
  • Get written consent from tenant to keep some of the deposit
  • Apply for dispute resolution to keep some of or all of the deposit

It is important to make sure that your landlord has your forwarding address in writing.

Resources and Courses

If you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities as a tenant in British Columbia (BC), the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) (250-387-1602) and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) (1-800-665-1185) are excellent resources. You can find a wealth of information and tips on their websites, or can reach them directly at the numbers provided here if you need support.

You can also find some more thorough answers to questions you may have on the BC government site’s information page on tips for landlords and tenants.

A great place to grow your knowledge is through the RentSmart courses online. Please visit their website to learn more about their organization, and the benefits that this training could provide you.

Another course to look into is Renting it Right, provided by TRAC. There are two parts to this free of charge video-based course available to take online anytime – the first focuses on finding a home in BC, while the second looks at your rights and responsibilities once you have entered into a rental contract.

Addtional Resources:

We hope this article has helped provide you with some important information and resources as you begin this important step, or at least some food for thought! Please always feel free to reach out to International Student Services at issinfo@uvic.ca or by phone at 250-721-6361 should you have any questions, and we will do our best to support you.

Upcoming events:

August 18International Student Information Sessions

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