SECURITY AND PET DAMAGE DEPOSITS
A security deposit – often called a “damage deposit” – is money that your landlord collects at the start of the tenancy and holds on to until you move out. The maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit is half the monthly rent. If your landlord requires a security deposit, you must pay it within 30 days of moving in.
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 pay 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 cost associated with re-renting the unit, or to cover lost rental income 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 you cause. If the landlord thinks you are responsible for causing damage, they can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep your security deposit at the end of your tenancy.
BC landlords can decide whether pets are allowed on their property. They can prohibit them entirely, or set limits on the number, size or type of pets that are allowed. If your landlord allows you to have a pet, it is important to document that permission in your tenancy agreement. Don’t rely on verbal permission alone – make sure it is in writing.
If your tenancy agreement has a term about pets, your landlord may require a pet damage deposit of up to half the monthly rent. You will have to pay this either at the start of the tenancy, or at any point during your tenancy when you get a pet.
You are responsible for the behaviour of your pets. If your pet causes extraordinary damage or unreasonably disturbs others, you may be given an eviction notice. In addition, your landlord may also try to keep some or all of your pet damage deposit.
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.
The maximum amount you can be charged for a security deposit or pet damage deposit is half the monthly rent. If you have been overcharged for either, the Residential Tenancy Act allows you to deduct the overpayment from next month’s rent. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you clearly explain to your landlord the reason you are withholding rent. See TRAC’s template letter, Notice to Deduct Overpayment of Deposit from Rent. Alternatively, you can apply for dispute resolution to obtain permission to withhold rent.
You cannot apply your deposits towards your rent unless your landlord agrees in writing. For example, you cannot pay only half of your last month’s rent and tell your landlord to cover the rest with the security deposit. If you do this, your landlord could evict you for non-payment of rent, which means you would have to be out in 10 days, and you would still owe rent for the entire month.
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 the Return of a Security and or 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