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TipsBasic Terms to Know for Residential Tenancy Agreements in British Columbia

It’s a common occurrence in British Columbia for tenants to encounter the RTB-1 form, a template contract from the residential tenancy branch designed for tenancies. However, what many tenants and landlords might not realize is that the use of the RTB-1 form is not mandatory. Owners and property managers can opt to use their own agreements as long as they are compliant with the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). The information that follows will shed light on several significant terms in the residential tenancy agreement that you should be aware of, whether you’re using a custom contract or the RTB-1 form.

Default Terms in the RTB-1 Form

  1. Rent per period: This refers to the amount of rent due per period, which is usually monthly.
  2. Term of lease: The lease term should exceed 30 days to avoid any implications of a short-term rental. Although longer leases are common elsewhere, in BC, leases typically last for a year. As per the 2023 regulations, most tenancies transform into a ‘month to month’ contract after the fixed term ends.
  3. Inclusions in rent: The rent might include utilities, appliances, parking, among others.
  4. Security deposit: This amount is held for potential damages and cannot exceed half a month’s rent.
  5. Pet damage deposit: This deposit covers any potential damage caused by a pet, and similar to the security deposit, it cannot exceed half a month’s rent.

Additional Terms in an Addendum or Custom Form

  1. Additional occupant fee: This fee applies if more than the initially agreed number of occupants reside in the home long-term, excluding temporary visitors. This usually translates into a monthly increase in rent.
  2. Notices by email: A clause that allows both the tenant and the owner to send notices via email. These are typically considered received three days after sending, a convenient alternative to traditional mail.
  3. Restrictions on smoking and/or marijuana growth: The agreement might specify any prohibitions or restrictions regarding these activities.
  4. Requirement for tenant’s insurance: Tenant’s insurance protects the tenant’s property from damage and theft. Some property insurance policies necessitate that tenants also hold insurance, prompting landlords to require proof of tenant’s insurance. Tenant’s insurance is easy to purchase and usually can be done online in a matter of minutes.
  5. Late fee: If the rent payment is delayed, a late fee, currently capped at $25, can be charged.
  6. Bounced check fee: If a tenant’s check bounces, the landlord can charge a $25 administrative fee to the tenant to compensate for the bank charges.
  7. Responsibility for lawn and snow removal: For buildings that are not stratified and have lawns, pathways, or sidewalks, the agreement should specify who is responsible for their maintenance and snow removal.
  8. Liquidated damages: If a tenant breaches the lease terms, the landlord can recover liquidated damages from the tenant, which should reflect a genuine pre-estimate of damages due to the breach. This could cover administrative and re-leasing expenses that the landlord may incur.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, understanding the terms of a residential tenancy agreement is crucial. Always review your lease agreement carefully and consider consulting with a professional for further advice.