Being a tenant is often stressful when it comes to the nitty gritty rules and regulations. In many cases, your rights as a tenant may not be properly addressed or is disregarded completely. It is important that you are aware of any changes that may arise that could affect your tenancy agreement. These include rent increases, repairs and maintenance, and services and facilities.
As you may already know, rent is set at the mutually agreed upon amount stated on your tenancy agreement. However, according to section 22 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, your landlord can raise your rent once every twelve months. This increase is limited to the inflation rate and thus changes every year. To find out what the rate is for this year, be sure to check the Residential Tenancy Branch or TRAC website. For 2019, the allowable rent increase is 2.5%.
Note that under section 42 of the Residential Tenancy Act, your landlord must first provide an approved “Notice of Rent Increase” form at least three full months before the raise takes place. In the event that you are not given the three full months notice, you can continue paying your current rent until the proper amount of time as elapsed. Keep in mind that proper communication is key. Have a discussion with your landlord to ensure that you are both on the same page and that your relationship remain civil.
What happens if your landlord gave you an illegal rent increase which made you overpay rent? You have two options to remedy this situation:
- Use dispute resolution and apply for a monetary order.
- Deduct the overpaid amount from the following month’s rent.
Again, it is crucial that you explain to your landlord the steps that you will be taking. If you opt for the second option and face backlash from your landlord, let them know that you have the right to withhold rent according to the Residential Tenancy Act, specifically section 43.
What if you are unable to afford the increase in rent? The answer to this question varies with each case. If you properly explain your financial constraints with your landlord and he/she enjoys you being his/her tenant, they may disregard the rent increase. Remember that the increase is not mandatory. However, on the other hand, the landlord may not be as lenient and you will therefore have to find another place to rent.
Repairs and Maintenance
With regards to repairs and maintenance, both landlords and tenants have responsibilities to act upon. As a general rule of thumb and absolute minimum requirement, landlords must provide rental spaces that comply with the health, safety, and housing standards required by law. The following include some repair and maintenance issues that landlords are liable for:
- Light fixtures in common areas
- Smoke detectors
- Pest infestations
- Anything else as indicated in your tenancy agreement, such as appliances and furniture.
If you request for a repair, you must do so in a timely manner. If there are any delays and the issue gets worse, you may be held liable for some of the associated repair costs.
What happens if your landlord refuses to complete repairs? You have two options to deal with this situation:
- Apply for a dispute resolution, including evidence of the problem and you notifying your landlord of it.
- Apply for monetary compensation in addition to a lowered rental amount until the issue has been resolved.
Conversely, you, as the tenant, have responsibilities as well. Again, at the very least, you must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness, and sanitary standards in the rental space. More specifically, some of your responsibilities include:
- Maintenance of carpets
- Cleaning marks and scuffs off of walls
- Replacing light bulbs
- Removing garbage from the space
- Replacing windows that broke due to your actions
Services and Facilities
Your landlord cannot reduce or restrict services or facilities that are deemed essential or necessary. Necessity is defined as services or facilities that, if removed, make the rental space impractical to live in. If you are in a situation where it is impossible to live in the rental space and your landlord fails to act on your complaint, you have two options:
- Apply for a dispute resolution that requires your landlord to provide the service and/or facility.
- Apply for monetary compensation and rent reduction until the service and/or facility is given.