SECURITY AND PET DAMAGE DEPOSITS
A security deposit (often called a damage deposit), is money that that the landlord collects at the start of the tenancy and holds on to until you move out. If your landlord requires a security deposit, you must pay it within 30 days of moving in.
Landlords are allowed to ask for up to half the monthly rent as a security deposit. In addition, they can ask for up to half the monthly rent as a pet damage deposit. Landlords can only require one of each, regardless of how many co-tenants or pets are moving in. If you have a dog that falls under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, your landlord must allow it and cannot charge a pet damage deposit. Unlike some other provinces in Canada, landlords cannot require you to pay the last month’s rent at the start of the tenancy.
Paying a security deposit secures the tenancy – for you and the landlord. Once you have paid your deposit, you can’t decide to move in somewhere else. At the same time, your landlord can’t decide to rent to someone else.
If you have paid a security deposit but then decide not to move in, the landlord may be allowed to keep your deposit. You may even have to pay additional money to cover the landlord’s cost of trying to re-rent the unit, or to cover rent if they are unable to find a new tenant.
In addition to securing the tenancy, the security deposit is also meant to cover any damage that you or your guests may cause. Similarly, the pet damage deposit is meant to cover any damage caused by your pets. If the landlord thinks you, your guests, or your pets are responsible for causing damage, they can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep your deposits at the end of your tenancy. As long as you have not caused damage and do not owe any money, your landlord is required to return your deposits after you move out.
If you paid too much for your deposit, you may be allowed to deduct the overpayment from your rent. If you decide to do this, make sure you clearly explain why you are withholding rent. See TRAC’s template letter, Notice to Deduct Overpayment from Rent. Alternatively, you can apply for a dispute resolution hearing in order to obtain permission to withhold rent.
First, provide your landlord with a forwarding address in writing for where your deposit can be sent. Make sure you have proof of how you gave your landlord your forwarding address, such as a witness or confirmation that it was delivered by registered mail. See TRAC’s template letter Request for Return of a Security / Pet Damage Deposit. You can also write your forwarding address on the condition inspection report form.
Once you have provided your forwarding address in writing and your tenancy has officially ended, your landlord has 15 days to do one of three things:
- Return your deposit
- Get your written consent to keep some or all of your deposit, or
- Apply for dispute resolution to keep some or all of your deposit
Your landlord can return your deposit by delivering it in person, mailing it, leaving it in your mailbox or mail slot, or sending it electronically. If your landlord returns your deposit by electronic means, they are not allowed to charge you a fee.
Your landlord cannot simply decide that they are going to keep your deposit. If they want it, they need to have written permission from you or the Residential Tenancy Branch.
After 15 days, if your landlord hasn’t returned your deposit, obtained your written consent, or applied for dispute resolution, the law allows you to take them to dispute resolution for double the amount of the deposit.
- Residential Tenancy Act Sections 17-21 – Rules About Security Deposits
- Residential Tenancy Act Sections 23-24 – Move-In Condition Inspection Report
- Residential Tenancy Act Sections 35-36 – Move-Out Condition Inspection Report
- Residential Tenancy Act Sections 38-39 – Return of Security Deposit
- Residential Tenancy Regulation Section 4 – Interest
- Policy Guideline # 17 – Security Deposit and Set Off
- RTB Policy Guideline #28 – Pet Clauses
- RTB Policy Guideline# 29 – Security Deposits
- RTB Policy Guideline #31 – Pet Damage Deposits
- RTB Policy Guideline #35 – Transition – Security Deposit
- Tenant Survival Guide Chapter 4 – Security Deposits and Additional Fees