The government of BC provides a checklist that can be a great help when you’ve decided to rent a property. No matter which province you’re in, this can be a helpful tool, acting as a reminder of important items to review with your landlord prior to completing a rental agreement. Some of the important topics covered in the checklist are described below.
The agreement should be as specific as possible when it comes to your responsibilities relating to rent.
- Rent amount and frequency of payment.
- When it’s due.
- How it’s collected.
- What happens if it’s not paid on time.
- When may it be increased and by how much.
Each province has rules regarding rent increases. For example, in BC, you can check the Residential Tenancy Branch website to see the maximum allowable rent increase for the current year (or you can visit a branch or call the information line). Your landlord then needs to give you notice of the increase using the Notice of Rent Increase – Residential Rental Units form to notify you of the increase. Your landlord must provide notice 3 whole months’ prior to the rent increase taking effect.
Beginning of tenancy
Next, it’s important to outline when the tenancy begins, any deposits that are required, etc.
- Term: Is tenancy for a fixed term, or will it be on a month to month basis? If it’s for a fixed term, it should state what will happen at the end of the term. For example, will the term change to periodic (month to month), or will new fixed term agreement be signed?
- Security deposit: Is one required and if so, how much? In BC, the security deposit cannot be more than half of one month’s rent. In Alberta, it cannot be more than the full amount of the first month’s rent. Be sure you know the rule in your province.
- Pet deposit: If pets are allowed, will a deposit be required in case of any damage? In BC, a pet deposit can be charged, up to half of the amount of the current month’s rent. This is over and above any security deposit, and can only be used to pay for damages caused by the pet. In Alberta, if this fee is refundable, it becomes part of the security deposit. The grand total cannot exceed the full amount of the first month’s rent. Be sure to check the rules in your province.
- Inspection: When will the landlord hold the condition inspection with you? In BC, the inspection should be done on the move-in day, and a copy must be provided to the tenant within 7 days. The move-out inspection should be done on the move-out day, but in any case, must be done before a new tenant moves in. For more details, see the BC Residential Tenancy Act. In Alberta, landlords and tenants must complete a move-in and move-out inspection report within one week of moving in or out.
- Tenancy agreement: What is included? This agreement outlines the terms of the relationship that will exist between the landlord and you. In BC, the Tenancy Agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties, and a copy must be provided to the tenant within 21 days. In Alberta, it can be written, oral, or even implied, but it is recommended to complete a written agreement.
- Parking: Is a parking space provided? If so, is there a fee or is it included in the rent? Is there parking set aside for guests?
- Secure storage: Is a storage area provided for you?
- Laundry: What sort of laundry facilities are provided?
- Utilities: Is the cost of utilities included in the rent, or will that be an additional expense for the tenant?
- Rules: Any specific building rules?
During the tenancy term
Listed below are things to discuss with the landlord that will apply during the term of the lease.
- Common areas: What are the common areas, if any?
- Access to the unit: When can the landlord enter the unit? Each province outlines specific rules with regard to when you can enter the rental unit, and what type of notice the landlord needs to provide to you. In most locations, the minimum notice is 24 hours, unless the tenant agrees to give you access sooner. There are exceptions, such as in the case of emergency.
- Emergency contact: Who can you call in case of any problem?
- Yard work: If there is a yard, whose responsibility is it to take care of things such as cutting the grass and snow removal?
- Repairs: Who is responsible for repairs?
- Occupancy: What if another person is to move in with you?
- Disputes: What is the first step to take, should there be a dispute between the landlord and you?
Ending the tenancy
As the lease comes to an end, or if either party is looking to end the lease early, it’s important to consider the following:
- Notice: What notice is required, and how should it be delivered? Refer to your local government website for specific rules for your province. For example, in BC, you can move out at the end of a fixed term agreement without notice, if the agreement stipulated they were to move out at the end of the term. If the agreement did not stipulate that you were to move out but you want to, then you must give one month’s notice. In Alberta, unless the 2 parties have made other arrangements, you are expected to move out at the end of the term of the tenancy.
- Change of use: What if your landlord decides to sell or change the use of the rental property? In BC, if your landlord sells the property or a member of the landlord’s family or the new owner’s family wants to move into the property, you must receive two months’ notice to end tenancy for landlord’s use of premises. If this is a fixed term agreement, the move out date cannot be prior to the end of the fixed term. Also, the landlord is required to give the tenant one month’s rent as compensation. Be sure you know the rules in your own province.
- Moving: What if you want to move out before the fixed term is over?
- Inspection: When will the final inspection take place?
- Return of deposit: Have you provided an address to which your landlord can send the return security deposit?
Listed below are the residential tenancy websites for each province.