Information for New Landlords

Are you a new landlord or thinking of becoming one?

Landlords and tenants have a business relationship. Understanding the rights and responsibilities of this relationship for both groups under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) (external link) or Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA) (external link) helps you and your tenants enjoy a successful tenancy.

 

 

Checklist: Before you advertise a rental unit 

  1. Is the rental you are offering covered by the RTA or the MHPTA - not all living arrangements are.
  2. Understand your rights and responsibilities under the RTA or the MHPTA.
  3. REMEMBER: standard terms must be included in all basic tenancy agreements:
    • Make sure you've included any additional terms (rules) you want in the Tenancy Agreement and/or addendum. Some examples:
      • Are all the utilities included in the rent, or is that extra?
      • How many people are permitted to live in the rental unit?
      • Will the rent increase if additional people join the household? By how much?
      • Can the tenant smoke in the unit?
      • Can the tenant grow cannabis in the unit?
      • Can the tenant have a pet (how many, what size)?
      • How are the rental unit/site and common areas to be used and what are the rules related to tenants' and guests' conduct?
      • What, if any, are parking and/or storage arrangement or restrictions?
      • Is tenant insurance required?
      • NOTE: if a term in your Tenancy Agreement conflicts with the RTA or MHPTA, such as forcing a tenant to pay a higher rent increase each year than is allowed by law, that clause is invalid. Read more in Policy Guideline 8 - Unconscionable and Material Terms (PDF) or RTA section 5 and 6 (External Link)
  4. Under the RTA and MHPTA, your rental unit must meet all local bylaws and regulations. Make sure you understand how local bylaws for your area including building, health and safety regulations apply to your tenancy.
  5. Make sure your rental unit meets local building and maintenance standards.
  6. Discrimination against prospective tenants is illegal. Make sure you understand your responsibility to understand how these rules work. For more information about discrimination laws, contact the Human Rights Tribunal (External Link).

                                                                                   

PROTECT YOURSELF: Remember the #1 thing you as a landlord can do to keep your property safe and avoid problems is to be very thorough during the selection process.

Here is a list of suggested steps you can take while looking for a tenant:

  1. Review the Privacy Guidelines for Landlords and Tenants (PDF)
  2. Use an application form. Make sure any potential tenant fills one out before any other action.
  3. Give yourself options to find the best tenant for your unit. Interview multiple applicants in person.
  4. Make sure the applicants use their full legal names on the application. You can and should ask to see at least one piece of government-issued identification to confirm their identity (preferably with a photograph). Copying identification is not permitted.
  5. Ask for references from the current landlord and past landlords. 
  6. Check the references for authenticity.
  7. Consider conducting a credit check for promising applicants
    • You must have applicant's written approval to conduct a credit check

Important note on deposits or fees: If you take money for a deposit, you may have created a tenancy under the RTA. The tenant may not even need to sign a Tenancy Agreement. To protect yourself, never take money from a potential tenant unless certain you want them as a tenant; it’s always a good idea to have the written tenancy agreement with any addendum signed first.

Landlord George owns a house and recently built a suite in the basement as a mortgage helper.

Applicant Robert was the first person to view the beautiful new rental unit. George is eager to rent the unit, so he offers it to Robert and feels relieved that he doesn't need to look any further.

MISTAKE! - Landlords should be selective; interview several applicants and choose the best fit for the unit.

Since Robert is such a nice person George thinks it should be fine to get the tenancy underway by a handshake.

WARNING: George is taking a big risk.

  • Landlords should be selective; interview several applicants and choose the best fit for the unit.
  • Checking identification and references is an important tool to help protect yourself and choose the right applicant
  • George needs Robert to sign a written Tenancy Agreement
  • It's important for George to know and follow the Residential Tenancy Act; for example, only the first month's rent plus a security deposit of up to half a month's rent and/or pet damage deposit of up to half a month's rent can be collected

A verbal agreement protects a tenant much more than a landlord. The Residential Tenancy Branch has a basic tenancy agreement available:

Did you know?

  • Even if there is only a verbal agreement, the law says the parties have entered into a tenancy agreement.

When Landlord George asks Tenant Robert to meet him for a walk-through before handing over the keys, Robert says he is too busy and he doesn't need a walk-through anyways, the unit is new and in perfect condition. George agrees and leaves the keys under the mat for Robert to let himself in.

MISTAKE! - Not doing a proper move-in inspection means George could be giving up the ability to keep Robert’s security deposit and it will definitely make it much more difficult to prove damage at the end of a tenancy.

Never start a tenancy without doing a condition inspection with a written report signed by the Landlord and the Tenant

You can use RTB's condition inspection form is RTB-27 Condition Inspection Report (PDF, 1.6MB).

If you can't agree on a time or date for inspection, you must offer a final opportunity for an inspection by using the form RTB-22 Notice of Final Opportunity to Schedule a Condition Inspection (PDF, 1.7MB).

Robert moves in on the first of the month.

Things start going wrong after two months; Tenant Robert has allowed another person to move in without checking with Landlord George and they have started having loud parties. After a few weeks George gives Robert a letter telling him to move out.

MISTAKE! - If George had read the RTB website and learned how to end a tenancy legally, he would have seen that a letter does not count as a notice to end Robert’s tenancy.

There must be a valid reason to require a tenant to move out; read more about ending a tenancy.

Tenant Robert tells George he knows his rights and the letter is not proper notice to vacate, so he won't be leaving.

Landlord George doesn't know what to do now, he has a tenant in his rental unit who won't leave.

When he asks around, he finds out from a friend he should visit the Residential Tenancy Branch website to learn his rights and responsibilities under the law. He can also consider joining a landlord association and taking a course on being a landlord.  .

On the RTB website George finds out what he should have done to start the tenancy and what steps he must take to legally end the tenancy.

SUCCESS - George follows the process on the website, and although frustrated by the time it will take, he understands now he could have done this faster and more easily if he had done things properly at the beginning of the tenancy.

Below is a list designed to help you make sure you meet your responsibilities as a landlord:

  1. If you need to enter the unit:
    • Give the tenant at least 24 hours written notice before entering the unit. This means on paper, no email, text, etc.
    • The tenant must receive the notice in person 24 hours before entry if you must post it on the door, allow for  three days + 24 hours (96 hours total).
      • For instance if you posted it on the tenant's door at 4:00 pm Monday, you can not enter until 4:00 pm on Friday.
    • The notice must include the date, time and reason for entry.
  2. Make sure you are keeping the unit and surrounding area/common areas safe.
  3. Repairs in and around the rental unit need to be done as soon as you find out about the issue:
    • As the landlord you must take care of any repairs, but you can request re-imbursement of the costs from a tenant if they were responsible for the damage due to their actions or negligence.
  4. Provide emergency contact name and phone number, in writing to each tenant, or post it in a visible place for tenants to see.
    • It is your responsibility to make sure you keep this information current, if you move or change business address.
  5. Ensure rents are paid in full by midnight on the day they are due:
    • You do not have to accept partial rent payment but if you do, this does not limit you from serving a notice for the remaining rent.
  6. You MUST provide receipts when a tenant pays in cash.
    • If you insist on cash rent a receipt must be provided.
  7. Before increasing the rent you must find out what the maximum rent increase amount is for the current or following year:
    • Review rent increase freeze information during the pandemic on the COVID-19 page
    • Use the Notice of Rent Increase Form. For residential tenancies use the form RTB-7.
    • Only raise the rent once in a 12-month period.
    • The tenant has three full calendar months before the notice takes effect. (e.g. if you give notice in January, the tenant would have February, March and April to prepare before the rent goes up on May 1).
  8. Make sure your tenant has "quiet enjoyment" of the rental unit - meaning they aren't disturbed; they are entitled to have privacy and use of the common areas for reasonable purposes.
  9. If you decide to sell the unit: 
    • The tenancy continues, and the new owners inherit the tenant.
    • There is no need to sign a new tenancy agreement, unless the new owners and the tenants both agree they want to.
    • If the purchasers intend to occupy the rental unit, they can ask you to issue a Two-month Notice to End Tenancy after the conditions of sale have been lifted.

Sometimes something comes up where there is an issue between you and a tenant. If it isn’t possible to resolve the issue together, you may need to take more ‘formal’ action up to and including ending a tenancy.

Before you start a formal process:

Are you sure the tenant is doing something wrong?

This may seem like a silly question at first. You should know one of the most common reasons an eviction dispute fails is because the landlords made mistakes about the law and the process.

Here are some examples:

  • Tenant is smoking in a rental unit, and there is no written Tenancy Agreement. Because ‘No Smoking’ clauses have to be written down somewhere, the landlord cannot take action against the tenant.
  • Tenant has someone staying for two weeks. Tenancy Agreement says “no guests longer than 48 hours” or “No guests without landlord’s permission”. Under the Residential Tenancy Act (External Link) Landlords must not stop the tenant from having guests under reasonable circumstances. A Tenancy Agreement can’t contradict the law, so you might not be successful if this was the reason for a dispute with your tenants.

Warning! 

When deciding to end a tenancy, remember your tenancy agreement cannot contradict the law:

If you have concerns about an issue – you can find information in the During a Tenancy section of our website, or contact us via email or phone to ask about specific issues.

Sometimes you may be required to take formal action to warn, or even evict a tenant if issues are ongoing.

To protect yourself, it’s very important that you follow the correct procedures. If you miss a step, it could mean trouble for your case should it have to go to arbitration.

Generally, the first step is to provide a written letter (on physical paper, no e-mail text, etc.) to the tenant with three clear parts:

  1. This is the problem (when possible mention the specific clause of the tenancy agreement that is being breached):
    • (e.g. you re smoking in your unit and section five of the addendum to the tenancy agreement does not allow this)
  2. Here is the solution we want:

    • (e.g. stop smoking in the unit)

  3. Here are the reasonable deadlines and/or consequences:
    • (e.g. stop smoking in the unit by X date or we may end the tenancy)

Keep a copy for your records, so if necessary you can show you ‘officially’ informed the tenant of an issue according to the RTA (external link)  or MHPTA (external link).

Ideally, the tenant will respond to the letter and/or resolve the issue. If so, make sure any agreements reached between you and the tenant are signed on paper and copies are shared.

If you are not satisfied with their response, or if the issues continue, you may wish to take further action.  See below on how to end a tenancy.

  1. Try to resolve any disagreements before they become a bigger issue.
  2. Protect yourself by putting your concerns in writing along with relevant documentation (remember, under the RTA and MHTPA, in writing means on a physical piece of paper, not an email, text etc.)
  3. If an agreement is reached, put it in writing for future reference.
  4. If a resolution can't be reached, ask the RTB for assistance and/or move forward with a notice to end tenancy.

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch

 

          Example: There’s a problem in the rental unit 

Sunil has a duplex and two tenants, John lives in Unit 1, and Beth lives in Unit 2. One day Beth says she saw John smoking on the property and when she asked him to stop, he yelled at her, and since then he has been acting aggressively when she sees him. Sunil tells her to see if she can work it out with John.

            MISTAKE! – Tenants are not responsible to sort out their issues, it’s the Landlord’s responsibility to make sure all tenants are able to live peacefully in their unit 

Sunil gets the details from Beth and says he will contact John. He calls John and tells him to leave Beth alone, reminds him that smoking is not allowed, and John will be evicted if he is caught smoking again.

            CAREFUL - Sunil should speak with John to get the whole story. If he decides John requires a warning, he should be aware that a phone call or email isn’t an ‘official’ warning. To do things correctly Sunil should put everything in a written letter.

After an unsuccessful conversation with John, Sunil writes a letter outlining the issues and potential consequences and serves it to John in his mailbox, keeping a copy for his records. He tells Beth that if she still has issues, to provide him with the evidence and he can take further action.

            GOOD – The warning was given to John, and if the problems persist Sunil can take further action, such as issuing a One-month Notice to End Tenancy.

Hopefully John will take the warning seriously and there wont be any further problems. If not, Sunil can take further action, including ending the tenancy or by arbitration at the RTB.

If you have questions about your situation, a conflict or your options under the RTA, you can always contact us to get help. 

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch

Tenancies end when:

IMPORTANT – Even if the move out section in a fixed-term tenancy agreement is initialed by the tenant, it may still be invalid!

  • A fixed move out date CAN ONLY BE ENFORCED if there is a proper exception listed when the agreement is signed:
  • If there is no valid listed reason in the agreement, the tenancy will continue on a month-to-month basis, even if the tenant initialed the section agreeing to move out.

Find out more about when a tenancy ends here.

 

Ways to End a Tenancy

  1. Landlords and tenants can mutually agree to end a tenancy:
  2. For a tenant to end a tenancy they must provide notice in writing to the landlord: 
    • Landlords must receive the notice on or before the last day of the month for it to take effect the following month.
    • Example: Tenant gives written notice to landlord on October 31 to move out November 30.
  3. Landlords must provide notice to end tenancy on the appropriate RTB form.
    • A Notice to End Tenancy MUST be on a RTB form. Letters, emails, texts or verbal conversations do not count as a notice to a tenant.
    • Make sure to use the correct notice – using the wrong form can have consequences ranging from just being invalid to risk of monetary or other penalties.
    • The forms can be found here
  4. Any landlord Notice to End Tenancy must be complete, signed, dated and served on paper properly and in the right timeframe. Read the notice forms carefully for instructions. Service by email or other electronic means is invalid.
  5. Tenants can apply to the RTB to dispute a notice but there are strict timelines. The deadlines are specified on the notice forms. You can also call the RTB information line to confirm if a tenant has filed a dispute.
  6. If a tenant doesn't move out when they should:
    • You cannot physically remove them, lock them out, hold or remove their belongings, or cut utilities.
    • You can apply for dispute resolution to secure an Order of Possession.
    • During this process they will continue to owe you the additional rent and other expenses, and if unpaid, this can also be recovered through the RTB dispute process.
    • Learn about the steps that must be taken to remove a tenant legally, and how to begin the process. 

 Helpful information:

  • Timelines for giving notices to end tenancy.
  • Information on disputes to a notice to end tenancy and/or collecting owed rent or other expenses.
  • Information on Orders of Possession, what they are, how to enforce them.                                                                                                                                   
 

Checklist: At the End of a Tenancy

  1. Make sure you received proper notice from your tenant (if they ended the tenancy):
    • This means on paper, the tenant should clearly state the date they are ending their tenancy, the address of the rental unit.
    • In some cases, an Arbitrator might allow an email or other method, but it isn’t guaranteed. Paper notice cannot be disputed.
    • Tenants cannot change their mind about giving notice without your agreement.
  2. You must provide at least two opportunities for a move-out inspection when a tenancy ends:
    • Offer a time to do the inspection (the first opportunity). If the tenant agrees, confirm the date and time in writing, email or text.
    • If the tenant wants a different time, if acceptable, confirm the date and time in writing, email, or text. 
    • If the time requested by the tenant is unacceptable, or if the tenant ignores the first opportunity; you must offer the second opportunity for an inspection by using the form RTB-22. Notice of Final Opportunity to Schedule a Condition Inspection (PDF, 1.7MB)
  3. The unit must be empty for an inspection.
  4. If the tenant gives you a forwarding address you have 15 days to do one of three things:
    • Get written permission to keep all or part of the deposit(s) signed by the tenant on paper.
    • Return the deposit(s).
    • File for dispute resolution with the RTB to ask to keep the deposit(s) and get an order for other expenses or rent above the deposit amount (if necessary).
  • If the tenant refuses to give you a forwarding address
    • You do NOT have to return the deposit(s).
    • The tenant has 12 months to provide you with an address, if they do, your 15-day timer starts at the point you receive the forwarding address – see above.
    • If you want to claim rent, utilities damages or other expenses, you will need to find a mailing address to serve the tenants and apply for dispute resolution with the RTB.

Some tips on Move-in/Move-out inspections

  • You must provide the opportunity for a move-out inspection even if you didn’t do a move-in inspection when the tenant moved in.
  • Your tenants have the right to disagree with your evaluation of the unit. Disagreements that you cannot resolve can be settled through the RTB. There's more information in the Dispute Resolution section.
  • If part of a group of co-tenants leave and others continue to occupy the unit, you don’t have to return the deposit(s) until the last tenant moves out.
    • The tenants must handle splitting deposits among themselves, it’s not the landlord’s responsibility until the unit is empty and the move-out inspection can happen.
  • Other than filing to retain a security and/or pet damage deposit, you have up to two years from the end of the tenancy to claim damages or other costs from your tenant.

Commercial tenancies are not covered by this information. For help with commercial tenancies, please seek out independent legal advice.

Keep up to date!
When tenancy laws and policies change it is up to both landlords and tenants to stay up to date.


 

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: January 28, 2021


 

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch