Stress Free Rentals

January is time of year for resolutions, detoxes, gym memberships and also when Fernie receives an influx of temporary residents. Since many of these temporary residents (or “ski bums” as they are fondly called) will be renting, this is a quick guide for landlords and tenants to hopefully have an uneventful rental relationship.

In British Columbia, the Residential Tenancy Act (“RTA”) is the legislation that governs residential tenancies. The RTA applies to residential tenancies only, not commercial units or accommodation occupied for vacation (like hotels or ski condos).

Every landlord and tenant should enter into a written tenancy agreement or lease. There are certain things that must be included in a residential tenancy agreement and both landlord and tenant would be well advised to use the form of agreement provided by the Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”). The RTB has a helpful and informative website where you can find a sample residential tenancy agreement: www.rto.gov.bc.ca.

Although this article can’t cover all issues that might arise in a residential tenancy, there are a few tips that the landlord and tenant should follow. The landlord must: make repairs and keep the unit and building in good condition, pay the utility bills if utilities are included in the rent and ensure that the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment and peaceful occupation of the premises are respected. The landlord must not enter the unit without permission (except in an emergency). A tenant must pay rent and other fees on time and maintain reasonable cleanliness throughout the rental unit. A tenant also needs to ensure that the property is not damaged (and if there is damage to repair it as soon as possible) and not disturb other people in the building or neighboring property.

Regarding the rent being paid on time, the day that rent payment is due should be
made clear in the tenancy agreement. Rent is overdue if the full amount is not paid by midnight on the day it is due. If a tenant does not pay the rent on time, the landlord can give the tenant a ten day notice to end tenancy for unpaid rent (this form, among many others can be found at the website referenced above). A landlord can also give a 30 day notice to end a tenancy if a tenant is repeatedly been late paying rent.

A landlord cannot refuse to rent to someone because of race, place of origin, religion, marital status, disability, gender or sexual orientation. Although a landlord can limit the number of people living in the rental property, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you if you have children.

A frequent source of conflict between landlord and tenant is the matter of security and pet deposits. It should be noted that a landlord can properly have a “no pets” policy, but if pets are allowed, a pet deposit, in addition to the security deposit, can be required. Neither the security nor pet deposits can be more than half of the first month’s rent (but combined they can equal one month’s rent). In order to claim the security or pet deposit, the landlord must ensure that there is an inspection of the rental property both at the time of move-in and move-out.

A further issue that often arises is the matter of when and how rent can be increased. Before increasing rent, the landlord must give the tenant three whole rental months’ notice. But, even with the proper notice, rent can only be increased once per year by an amount permitted by the RTB (see the website referenced above for the current allowable rate, which isn’t very much).

Maybe you’ve decided being s ski bum isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and you don’t want to stay in Fernie for the winter. If you are in a fixed term tenancy agreement, you can’t just take off without paying rent that is due to the end of the lease, but you may be able to sublet your rental unit. A sublet is when the original tenant rents the rental unit to someone else. In the case of a sublet, you need to first obtain the landlord’s permission and you will remain responsible to the landlord while the sub-tenant lives there.

Happy leases and New Year everyone!