Is My Tenancy Covered Under B.C.’s Tenancy Laws?

The Residential Tenancy Branch provides information and dispute resolution services for residential tenancies.

Most rental housing situations are covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) and the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link), however, some are not. It’s important to know which laws govern your tenancy. Find out more about what is covered by B.C.’s tenancy laws based on the housing types listed below.

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation in which the tenant shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner of that accommodation. Depending on the nature of the dispute and amount of the claim, disputes between a tenant and the owner may be resolved through the Civil Resolution Tribunal (External link) or the court system.

The Residential Tenancy Branch does not have jurisdiction to resolve disputes between roommates. Most roommate disputes can be resolved through the Civil Resolution Tribunal (External link) or the court system.

Depending on the nature of the tenancy agreement, roommates may or may not be able to resolve disputes with their landlord through the Residential Tenancy Branch. If all roommates in a rental unit have signed a tenancy agreement with the landlord (either the same agreement or separate agreements), they can resolve disputes with their landlord through the Residential Tenancy Branch. However, if a roommate has an agreement with a tenant, but not the landlord, they can’t resolve disputes with the landlord through the Residential Tenancy Branch as there is no contractual relationship between the roommate and the landlord.

In strata housing, the owners own their individual strata lots and together own the common property and common assets as a strata corporation. Strata property owners can act as landlords and rent out their strata lot, as long as their strata rules do not prohibit rentals. When renting in strata properties, tenants and landlords must follow the Strata Property Act (External Link) and regulation (External Link), the strata properties bylaws and rules (External Link), and the Residential Tenancy Act (External link).

Disputes between owners and their strata corporation may be resolved through the Civil Resolution Tribunal (External link).

Commercial tenancies are usually those associated with a business operation like a store or an office. Generally, neither the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) nor the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link) apply to commercial tenancies. Commercial tenancies are contracts between landlord and tenants, and unlike residential tenancies that contain standard terms, are not subject to set terms and can vary substantially depending on what the parties agree to.  Due to the variability of contract terms, landlords and tenants may wish to seek independent legal advice on what options may be available to them in the event of a breach of the contract terms. The Commercial Tenancy Act (External link) and the Rent Distress Act (External link) set out recourses available to landlords if a tenant does not pay rent.   

For more information, read our policy guideline on commercial and residential tenancies.

If the Residential Tenancy Branch does not have jurisdiction, disputes may be resolved by the Civil Resolution Tribunal (External Link) or the courts. 

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation provided for emergency shelter or transitional housing.

An emergency shelter is a facility that provides temporary overnight shelter to homeless individuals and includes living accommodation provided in relation to the COVID-19 emergency.

Transitional housing means living accommodation that is provided:         

  1. on a temporary basis,              
  2. by a person or organization that receives funding from a local government or the government of British Columbia or of Canada for the purpose of providing that accommodation, and   
  3. together with programs intended to assist tenants to become better able to live independently.

Supportive housing is long-term or permanent living accommodation for individuals who need support services to live independently. This type of housing falls under the Residential Tenancy Act.

More information on the differences between emergency shelter, transitional housing, and supportive housing is available in our policy guideline.

Seniors housing falls along a continuum, depending on the level of assistance and care required.

Independent Housing, which is not defined in any legislation, typically refers to seniors who may live in retirement communities or other housing geared towards seniors. These may be stand alone seniors’ housing facilities, or there may be independent living units co-located within assisted living and long-term care facilities.  As part of a tenancy agreement with the landlord/facility operator, services such as leisure activities, dining or housekeeping may be offered.  These types of tenancies generally fall under the  Residential Tenancy Act (External link).

Supportive Housing is long-term or permanent living accommodation for individuals who need support services to live independently. This type of housing falls under the Residential Tenancy Act.

Assisted Living provides housing and assistance services for adults who can live independently but require regular assistance with daily activities. Facilities must be registered under the Assisted Living Registrar (External Link) and the Residential Tenancy Act does not apply.

Residential Care is for people who require 24-hour professional care and are unable to live independently. These licensed care facilities are governed by the Community Care and Assisted Living Act (External Link)and do not fall under the Residential Tenancy Act.

  • More information on the differences between assisted living and residential care facilities is available by clicking on this link.(External Link).

Military housing that is administered by the Department of National Defence and is managed by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency (CFHA) is not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (External link). The CFHA has a dispute resolution service for disputes involving military housing.

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation rented by a not for profit housing cooperative to a member of the cooperative. Refer to the Cooperative Association Act (External link) for more information.

The Residential Tenancy Act will generally apply to situations where a tenant who is not a member of the cooperative rents a unit from a member of the cooperative, as long as a tenancy has been established.

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation owned or operated by an educational institution and provided to students or employees of the institution. However, the Act may apply if a university provides accommodation to individuals other than students or employees of the university, if a tenancy has been established.

For more information about how to determine if a tenancy exists, read our policy guideline on tenancy agreements and licenses to occupy. You may also wish to reach out to the student housing or resident housing manager at your educational institution for assistance in resolving disputes.

In general, the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to housing where the primary intent is to provide health care or therapeutic recovery services. Specifically, the Residential Tenancy Act does not apply to living accommodation:

  • In a community care facility under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act(External Link);
  • In a continuing care facility under the Continuing Care Act (External Link);
  • In a public or private hospital under the Hospital Act (External Link) ;
  • If designated under the Mental Health Act (External Link), in a Provincial mental health facility, an observation unit or a psychiatric unit;
  • In a housing-based health facility that provides hospitality support services and personal health care; or - that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment or services.

Refer to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act for information regarding complaints made in respect of a community care facility.

When a tenant in a manufactured home park owns their manufactured home and rents the site that the home sits on (the pad), this tenancy is covered under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link). This legislation is similar to the Residential Tenancy Act (External link), but is specifically designed for manufactured home parks. Tenancies covered under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act are under the jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Sometimes, a tenant in a manufactured home park will rent both the manufactured home and the site that the home sits on. These tenancies are covered under the Residential Tenancy Act.

Under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link), it’s possible that an RV, park model (manufactured home smaller than 560 square feet) or a tiny home could fit the definition of a manufactured home. However, determining whether the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act applies would depend on whether a tenancy has been established.

Some factors that may determine if there is a tenancy agreement are:

  • The RV, park model or tiny home is intended for residential use.
  • The RV, park model or tiny home is located in a Manufactured Home Park, not a campground or RV Park.
  • The rent is calculated on a monthly basis.
  • The RV, park model or tiny home owner pays utilities such as cable-vision and electricity.
  • There is access to services and facilities usually provided in ordinary tenancies, e.g. frost-free water connections.
  • Visiting hours are not imposed.

Read more about tenancy agreements and travel trailers in our policy guideline.

The Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act does not apply to float homes or live-aboard boats. However, if a float home or boat owner rents out their float home or boat to a tenant, the Residential Tenancy Act would apply as long as a tenancy has been established.

For more information about how to determine if a tenancy exists, read our policy guideline on tenancy agreements and licenses to occupy.

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation occupied as vacation or travel accommodation. This includes hotel rooms and vacation rentals such as AirBnBs. However, the act ­will generally apply if a vacation rental is rented under a tenancy agreement.

Some factors that may determine if there is a tenancy agreement are:

  • Whether the agreement to rent the accommodation is for a term;
  • Whether the occupant has exclusive possession of the hotel room;
  • Whether the hotel room is the primary and permanent residence of the occupant.
  • The length of occupancy.

An example of a situation where the Act would apply is a winter chalet rented for a fixed term of six months.

Read our policy guideline on jurisdiction for more information about hotel rooms and the Residential Tenancy Act.

In Canada, non-treaty First Nations land is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Because of this, B.C.’s tenancy laws do not generally apply on First Nations reserve land. However, B.C.’s tenancy laws may apply if the landlord is not an Indian or Indian Band (as defined under the Indian Act (External Link)),  or if the issue is not about possession or use.

On First Nations treaty land, whether the Residential Tenancy Branch has jurisdiction will depend on the terms of the Final Agreement and whether the First Nation has enacted law.

Read our Policy Guideline on Jurisdiction for more information about tenancy laws and First Nations land.

Some rental suites may be considered “illegal” or unauthorized if they do not comply with local bylaws or zoning regulations. However, the jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancy Act is not determined based on whether a suite is permitted under local bylaws. If a renter can prove that a tenancy exists, the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) will apply, regardless of whether the rental unit is authorized.

Read more about illegal contracts in our policy guideline.

For more information about how to determine if a tenancy exists, read our policy guideline on tenancy agreements and licenses to occupy.

Landlords are required to prepare a written agreement for every tenancy but even if a landlord doesn’t prepare one, the tenant and landlord still have rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) or the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link).
Landlords must provide written tenancy agreements so both parties agree on the terms of the tenancy. This may prevent future disputes.

It is important to protect yourself from fraud when looking for a place to rent, as scammers will sometimes use fake rental listings to defraud renters. Because of this, renters should be careful when searching for a rental unit, especially if an offer seems too good to be true.

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) regulates relationships between landlords and tenants. However, the Residential Tenancy Branch has limited authority to investigate fraud that occurs before a tenancy is established.

Some tips to help protect yourself from rental fraud:  

  • Never pay a security deposit without viewing a property in person first.
  • Be careful about paying with cash. If you pay a security deposit in cash, get a receipt from the landlord.
  • Be aware that tenants are not required to provide a security deposit until they have signed a tenancy agreement with the landlord.
  • It is contrary to the Residential Tenancy Act for a landlord to collect a deposit for processing an application or to charge an applicant for obtaining a credit report.

If you have evidence of a rental scam, report it to your local police department as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (External Link).

It is not always easy to determine if a tenancy is covered under the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) or the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link). If a dispute arises over whether a tenancy has been established, landlords and tenants can apply for dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch, and an arbitrator will determine if the branch has jurisdiction to resolve the dispute.

In addition to the situations mentioned above, the Residential Tenancy Branch may decline jurisdiction when a dispute is related to:

  • tenancies that ended more than two years ago
  • a decision has already been issued on that matter
  • an issue substantially linked to a Supreme Court matter
  • commercial tenancies
  • property interest or rent-to-own
  • a family relationship other than to form a contractual relationship

For more information about how to determine if a tenancy exists, read our policy guideline on tenancy agreements and licenses to occupy.

If you have a dispute and your agreement is not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act (External link) or the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (External link) you may want to seek independent legal advice. If you do not have legal counsel, you might wish to consult the Lawyer Referral Service operated by the Canadian Bar Association – British Columbia Branch (External Link)

In B.C., most housing disputes that fall outside the jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancy Branch can be resolved through:

 

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: June 19, 2020


 

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch