Renting in BC is fairly straightforward, as the Residential Tenancy Act protects both the tenant and the landlord, and ensures that landlords don’t take advantage of unsuspecting out-of-town tenants. The law also protects landlords from tenants who don’t pay rent or uphold their end of the bargain.
Refer to the Finding a Home subsection in this same section for tips and methods of finding prospective rental properties. Once you have a list of prospective properties, you will want to make an appointment for viewing. Some rentals, particularly those in Kits, will have an “open house” day for showing, and everyone interested in the seeing the place will come on the same day. Often times, in this case, the viewings are staggered; still though, it is not uncommon to have lots of different people seeing the property all at the same time, much like a true open house for a property that is being sold. An important point to keep in mind is that good rentals go very quickly in Vancouver, particularly those on the Westside and in the West End of the downtown.
Once you find a prospective rental you like, call about it right away, try to see it as soon as possible, and if you decide it’s the place you want to call home, put in an application on it straight away (usually applications are available at showings). You will need to list income and employment information, plus provide former addresses/landlords and references. You do NOT have to provide any type of Social Insurance or Social Security Number. If asked for this, decline politely. Landlords can ask, but they cannot demand you provide this information, and it isn’t really needed, in any case. If provided with it, some landlords will use it to run a credit check on you, as the prospective tenant, but this sort of thing is really very rarely done in Canada.
Once you’ve put in your application, understand that the landlord (or agent representing the landlord) may have lots of applications to choose from, all for the same property (particularly true for Kits/Westside or West End), so you may or may not be selected to be the new tenant. If you don’t succeed, don’t take it personally, and move on. Many times landlords are looking for specific types of people, particularly if they are renting out a suite in their private home. You might have to repeat this process several times before you obtain a rental, but don’t give up, you will succeed, eventually.
Signing the Lease Agreement
Although the landlord can use any form, the standard and official form is the Residential Tenancy Agreement ( http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/RTB-1.pdf ) published by the Residential Tenancy Branch of the Office of Housing and Construction Standards, and available for free to anyone. This form includes all the necessary information to make a legal and binding contract between you and the landlord. The landlord can also include an “Addendum” which is usually one page in length and contains additional conditions set by the landlord (such as, backing out of the rental agreement will mean the landlord keeps your security deposit, etc.). You will agree (or not agree) to the terms (they are sometimes negotiable), and initial and sign, same as you will with the lease agreement. The landlord must provide you with a copy of both, and most landlords will bring along two copies to sign so you will each get one.
Upon signing the lease agreement, you will be required to pay the first month’s rent + the security deposit, which is typically either a half-month’s rent, or a full-month’s rent. Half is standard, but if you have pets, you may be required to pay another half (thus making a full-month) in damage deposit for the pet. Landlords can legally ask for a half-month’s rent for security deposit, but some will ask for a full-month’s rent, even if you don’t have pets, if the property is well-appointed. Once the rent and deposit are paid (usually cash or local cheque), the landlord should provide you with a receipt of payment, and this can be as simple as writing a receipt or acknowledgment out by hand at the bottom of the lease (good place to put it as this is a document you will both keep), on both copies. That way there is no way the landlord can say you did not pay (each one signs both copies and it is dated), or vice versa. At the time of signing and paying, the tenant receives the keys and can move in from that day forward.
Generally speaking, the landlord is responsible to make repairs when the problem is NOT caused by the tenant (through carelessness, neglect, or willful damage). If the problem IS caused by the tenant, then the tenant is responsible to pay for the cost of the repair (the tenant should contact the landlord for arranging the repair). The landlord is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property (see the Residential Tenancy Agreement).
Returning the Security Deposit/Pet or Damage Deposit
When the lease term comes to an end, your landlord must return the security/pet/damage deposit to you IF there are no problems with the property, and the amount returned must be the full amount paid + interest (see this document: http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/Fact%20Sheets/RTB-120%20security%20deposits%20and%20pet%20damage%20deposits.pdf). The interest is usually a minute amount and if your lease term is less than one year, the deposit will accrue no interest at all.
Average Metro Vancouver Prices 2011
Although difficult to provide an average price, as there is no standard for this and price is determined by the landlord, it is still possible to obtain a rough idea of current prices by browsing the rental websites provided in the Finding a Home subsection. Here are a few rough prices from Vancouver, Burnaby/New West, and Richmond:
- One Bedroom—$700 to $2500
- Two Bedroom—$800 to $3800
- Three Bedroom (harder to find)—$1200 to $3900
- One Bedroom—$620 to $1600
- Two Bedroom—$800 to $2500
- Three Bedroom—$1500 to $1850
- One Bedroom—$580 to $1600
- Two Bedroom—$900 to $1700
- Three Bedroom—$1300 to $2150
As you can see, prices are all over the map (literally).