Before drafting a tenancy agreement, parties should check to make sure that the proposed living accommodation does in fact fall within the scope of the Residential Tenancy Act (the Act). For example, taking on a paying roommate who shares a bathroom or a kitchen with the owner of the property does not create a residential tenancy. This means that the rights and obligations set out by the Act would not apply to any such accommodations.
Written Tenancy Agreements Required
The Act requires that all residential tenancy agreements in British Columbia be put in writing. This does not mean that a verbal agreement is not enforceable, but rather that if the tenancy agreement is not in writing, a landlord may be subject to administrative penalties. A written tenancy agreement will also provide proof of any rights and obligations of the landlord and of the tenant should a dispute arise.
Essential Elements of a Tenancy Agreement
Each residential tenancy agreement must contain:
- The legal names of the landlord and the tenant;
- The address of the rental unit;
- The date that the tenancy agreement was entered into;
- The address for service and telephone number of the landlord or the landlord’s agent;
- The starting date of the tenancy;
- If the tenancy is a periodic tenancy, whether it is on a weekly, monthly or other periodic basis;
- If the tenancy is a fixed term tenancy, the date the tenancy ends and whether and how the tenancy may continue after the end date;
- The rent payable and if and how the rent varies;
- The day in the month (or other period) on which the rent is due;
- When the rent is payable;
- Which services and facilities are included in the rent;
- The amount of the security and pet deposit and when each of those is to be paid or was paid; and
- The set of standard terms as prescribed by the Regulation of the Act.
Cannot contract out of the Residential Tenancy Act
It is important to note that landlords and tenants may not contract out of the rules set out by the Act. Also, any term in a tenancy agreement that is inconsistent with the Act, is deemed unconscionable or fails to express in a clear manner the rights and obligations it creates is not enforceable. A term is deemed unconscionable if it is oppressive or grossly unfair to one party. Finally, a tenancy agreement must not include an “acceleration clause” that would provide that all of the rent payable for the remainder of the term of the tenancy agreement becomes due if a term of the tenancy agreement is breached.
The fact that a tenant is a minor at the time that he or she enters into a tenancy agreement does not make the tenancy agreement unenforceable. Furthermore, the rights and obligations created by a tenancy agreement take effect from the date that the agreement is entered into regardless of whether or not the tenant ever occupies the rental unit.
The landlord must provide a copy of the tenancy agreement to the tenant within 21 days after both parties have signed it.
Last revised: October 13, 2018