If you are renting for the first time, or if you are new to BC, it is important to know what the laws say before you rent a place to live. It’s a big step and you will find it helpful to read the Tenant Survival Guide. Additionally, you may want to visit Renting It Right for a free online video course on your rental rights.
The main law with rules for landlords and tenants is called the Residential Tenancy Act. There are more rules contained in laws called Regulations. The department of the BC government that is responsible for making sure landlords and tenants follow these laws is called the Residential Tenancy Branch.
For free information about the laws for landlords and tenants, go to the Residential Tenancy Branch website. Or call the branch at:
- 604-660-1020 (in the Lower Mainland)
- 250-387-1602 (in Victoria)
- 1-800-665-8779 (elsewhere in BC)
You can also get helpful information from the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre. You can reach the centre by phone at:
- 604-255-0546 (in the Lower Mainland)
- 1-800-665-1185 (elsewhere in BC)
Making a rental agreement
Before you make a rental agreement, 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 one of the information numbers above. We also suggest that you watch the Residential Tenancy videos.
When a tenant finds the right house or apartment to rent, the tenant and the landlord make a contract. A contract between a landlord and tenant is called a tenancy agreement, or a lease. It is a legal agreement. A tenancy agreement must follow the rules about renting that are in the Residential Tenancy Act and Regulations.
A tenancy agreement must be in writing. The tenant and the landlord sign it and date it, and 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. It must also include what the law says about such things as security deposits, rent increases and repairs. Ideally, your landlord will use the Residential Tenancy Agreement form provided by the Residential Tenancy Branch. It is important to read the agreement before you sign it. Get someone to help if you need to. Read Tenancy Agreements to learn more.
Discrimination in renting
It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against people in rental accommodation. The landlord can’t refuse to rent it to people because of their sex, age, race, religion, birthplace, sexual orientation (gay, bisexual, or straight), gender, marital or family status (single, married or living common law) or mental or physical disability.
Unless it is a seniors’ building, 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, disability benefits, or student loans. BC law says this is discrimination.
A landlord can’t charge a different price or make different rules for tenants of different races, skin colours, religions, sexes 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. Call 604-775-2000 (in the Lower Mainland) or 1-888-440-8844 (toll free in BC).
If you need free legal advice to help you with your human rights complaint you can contact the BC Human Rights Clinic.
You can also contact the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner who can provide information and referrals.
Move-in and move-out inspections
A tenant and a landlord must 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 that you get a copy of this inspection. 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.
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.