Frequently Overlooked Residential Tenancy Issues

A brief overview of some misunderstood points about landlording

Rent it Right: Frequently Overlooked Residential Tenancy Issues
A brief overview of some misunderstood points about landlording

Most landlords know the basics of the Residential Tenancy Act (the Act) and understand the mechanics of a tenancy. However, there are many unknown or misunderstood points that can greatly effect how you run your business as a landlord– whether you have one rental unit or one hundred rental units. Here are some commonly overlooked issues:

Can you enter into a tenancy agreement with a minor?

Yes, the Act allows landlords to rent to minors. As a tenant, a minor can be held liable in the same way as an adult. The Infants Act protects minors and, in general, provides that a contract with a minor is unenforceable. Despite this, the Residential Tenancy Act has a section which overrides the Infants Act, allowing a minor to be held financially liable for rent, damage, or any other debt incurred in the context of a residential tenancy. This provides minors with the possibility of finding housing without the involvement of a parent or legal guardian. For various and often unfortunate circumstances, minors can no longer live with their family and cannot or choose not to rely on their parent(s)/guardian(s).

On the other hand, the Human Rights Code allows landlords to refuse renting to minors. The Code states that a landlord cannot discriminate based on age but then goes on to define “age” as an age of 19 or more, allowing landlords to have a policy of not renting to anyone under the age of majority. We do not recommend setting a strict policy to whom you will and will not rent too. Rather, we suggest having a thorough tenant selection process that involves effective screening steps.

Do you have to allow political canvassers into your building?

The Act states that political canvassers must be allowed access to the residential property for the purposes of canvassing or disturbing election material. This applies to candidates seeking election to the Parliament of Canada, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, or an office in an election under the Local Government Act, the School Act or the Vancouver Charter. Authorized representatives of such candidates must also be allowed access.

This rule generally applies to multi-unit buildings that have common hallways for access to rental units. This does not mean you have to provide access to tenants’ rental units.  Canvassers should be able to easily identify themselves to ensure you do not allow someone in that should not have the right to enter. It is advisable to inform tenants during election time that you may have to let canvassers in the building so they can expect someone knocking on their door.

Can you make changes to a signed tenancy agreement?

Making changes to a signed tenancy agreement is permitted so long as it does not change a standard term, the rent amount, or a service or facility included in the agreement.

Some scenarios where you may need to make an amendment to an agreement include;

  • adding an occupant or tenant;
  • changing the end date of the fixed term (generally extending but shortening is also allowed);
  • changing a non-standard clause such as the smoking clause.

Changes need to be made with the agreement of the tenant(s) and must be written on the agreement with initials (landlord, all tenants and the date).

Can you request a new pet damage deposit for each new pet?

The Act allows a pet damage deposit to be required by the landlord in the event the tenant has a pet. The total amount the landlord can require is half of one month’s rent. There cannot be a new deposit for each new pet and the deposit does not need to be paid back until the end of the tenancy.

The pet damage deposit can only be used for pet damage unless the landlord and tenant agree in writing otherwise. For an agreement on anything in the act to be considered it must be in writing and signed.

Do you have to do a new condition inspection for each new pet?

There are only two times in a tenancy when a landlord and tenant would complete a move-in condition inspection. The first is at the beginning of the tenancy before the tenant moves their belongings in to the rental unit. The second is when the tenant acquires a pet during a tenancy and a condition inspection was not completed at move-in.

While an official condition inspection is not required with each new pet (or at all when a pet is moved in if an inspection was done at the start of the tenancy) we recommend an informal regular inspection before any pet is moved into the unit. Performing this general inspection and making a written record of the state of the rental unit will give you as a landlord the ability to determine if the damage done after a pet was moved in was caused by a pet or the tenant.

Can you add an addendum to a tenancy agreement?

The Act allows additional clauses to be added to an agreement so long as the terms are not unconscionable and do not attempt to contract out of the Act or part of the Act. Using LandlordBC‘s Residential Tenancy Agreement reduces the need for any addendum a landlord may wish to add to a tenancy agreement.

Originally published in LandlordBC‘s Fall 2015 Newsletter.