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Guide to renting in British Columbia

Vancouver's English Bay in the West End is a popular spot for renting

Key Facts

Unfurnished Rentals

Furnished Rentals

General Advice

It is hard to find rentals (some areas have 1% vacancy rates or lower). Allow time to find somewhere. If you are planning on renting long term it is worth staying in an unfurnished place initially so that you have time to find a suitable long term rental.

Beware of scams on internet sites like craigslist. Don’t pay money in advance unless you have verified the landlord or agent’s details.

Residential Tenancy Act

This section covers renting for longer periods of time. In B.C. the rental market is governed by the Residential Tenancy Act.

The most important aspects to note are:

Residential tenancy agreement

When you rent a property you will have to sign a Residential Tenancy Agreement (i.e. a lease). This is a standard agreement, as laid down by the Residential Tenancy Act. You can get the agreement form from the Residential Tenancy Office

Period of tenancy

The residential tenancy agreement specifies the length of the tenancy. Usually the period will be a year, but you may be able to get a rolling month-to-month agreement or even a weekly or bi-weekly rolling agreement.

If you agree to a fixed period, then you will be committed to this. You cannot usually get out of the tenancy without losing your deposit. With the landlord’s agreement you may be able to assign or sub-let your tenancy.

The tenancy agreement also specifies what happens at the end of the fixed period. The most common practice is for the tenancy agreement to continue on a month to month basis at the end of the year. Alternatively you may agree to leave the premises at the end of the initial period.

Rent

The tenancy agreement specifies the rent, when it is paid and what it covers. Be careful to check what is included. A cheaper apartment, for example, may not include electricity or heat. Don’t assume that the parking stall is included.

Deposits

The landlord will require a security deposit. This cannot be more than half of the monthly rent. The landlord is obliged to repay this deposit at the end of the tenancy agreement with interest calculated on the basis defined by the Residential Tenancy Act.

If the landlord allows pets then there could also be a Pet Damage Deposit. This is also limited to half of the monthly rent, and is repaid with interest when you leave.

Condition inspection

The Residential Tenancy Act requires the landlord and tenant inspect the property together when:

The two of you go around the property and mark down any damage or items that need attention. There is a standard form for this, though the landlord can use their own form as long as it is broadly similar and allows you as the tenant to sign your agreement to the condition report.

Rent increases

The Act says that rent can only be increased annually. The landlord must give 90 days notice of a rent increase.

Generally the rent can only be increased by a maximum of the Consumer Price Index plus 2%. The allowable rent increases for 2005 for residential tenancies is 3.8%.

If the landlord requests a larger increase then you can dispute this and take it to arbitration with the Residential Tenancy Office.

Ending a lease

Fixed term leases generally lock the tenant in for the whole period - you cannot leave prior to the end of the lease. The only escape is to assign or sub-let. This option applies to terms of over 6 months, in which case the landlord cannot unreasonably stop you from assigning or sub-letting.

For month to month leases, you must give the landlord a written, signed notice providing the complete address of the rental unit and the date when you plan to move out. You must give a a minimum of one clear month’s notice. It should be given on or before last day of a rental payment period so that it is effective on the last day of the subsequent rental payment period.

At the end of the tenancy, you and the landlord should inspect the property and agree on it’s condition. This will determine what money, if any, the landlord can retain from your security and pet damage deposits.

Rental advert terms

Here is a guide to the abbreviations and terms you may find in ad’s for rental property.

Note that there are variations on these terms and probably new ones coming along. Newer apartment buildings often have high speed internet included.

Also beware that some buildings have restrictions that you need to know about. For example pet restrictions are common, and in urban centres you can find age restrictions, such as no children or even a minimum age, such as over 40.

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