One of your most important obligations as a tenant is to pay your full rent on time. Your tenancy agreement should establish the amount of rent, when rent is due, and what forms of payment are accepted. You are still required to pay rent on time even if the day it is due falls on a holiday or your bank is closed.
There should be a section in your tenancy agreement about when you are expected to pay rent. Your full rent must be paid on or before the date it is due (usually the 1st of the month), and you are required to pay rent on that day even if your bank is closed. Be sure to plan ahead.
If you are even one day late paying rent, your landlord may issue you an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. This notice will be cancelled if you pay your full rent within five days of receiving the eviction notice. If you repeatedly pay rent late, however, your landlord is allowed to issue a one month eviction notice. Generally, paying rent late three times in an unreasonably short period of time is reason enough for your landlord to issue you a one month notice for repeated late payment of rent. The late payments do not need to be consecutive, but if they are far apart an arbitrator at the Residential Tenancy Branch could rule that your landlord is not allowed to evict you. See the RTB Policy Guideline #38 – Repeated Late Payment of Rent.
You should also see what your tenancy agreement says about fees for late rent. Your landlord may be able to charge you a non-refundable fee of up to $25 for late rent, but only if your tenancy agreement clearly states that rule.
Tenants and landlords usually arrange for rent to be paid by cash, cheque, or direct deposit. If you pay by cash, your landlord has a legal obligation to give you dated receipts. If you have not been provided with receipts in the past, you can ask for them by sending your landlord a letter. See TRAC’s template letter, Request for Rent Receipt. When paying rent in the future, you may want to consider bringing a witness with you, as well as your own rent receipt.
If you pay rent by direct deposit, it is your responsibility to make sure that the deposit is successful each month, even when it is made by the government. If you have any concerns about your rent being deposited, try to investigate before it is due. If you are even one day late paying, your landlord may try to evict you. If you receive Income Assistance, you may agree to have your rent deposited directly into your landlord’s bank account each month. This option can be discussed with your landlord and with the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.
If you pay with cheques, your landlord may require postdated cheques for a certain number of months. When you move out they must return all postdated cheques on or before the last day of the tenancy. See TRAC’s template letter, Request for Return of Post Dated Cheques.
When you know that you will be unable to pay your full rent on time, communicate with your landlord as soon as possible. If you are unable to pay your rent on time due to an unexpected situation, your landlord may agree to let you pay your rent late. If your landlord does agree, make sure to get their permission in writing.
You can also try requesting a short term loan from a friend, family member, or one of BC’s Rent Banks (Vancouver, Surrey, Kamloops). If this is not possible, there may be ways to prioritize your rental payment. Telephone or internet providers are unlikely to shut off your service for one late payment; however, your landlord can quickly evict you for not paying your full rent on time. As a result, it may be best to prioritize your rent over other bills.
If you are on income assistance and facing an unexpected emergency, you may want to speak to a legal advocate in your community about applying for a crisis supplement through the provincial government.
In most cases, no, you are not allowed to stop paying rent. Even when your landlord breaks the law, you will most likely have to resolve the problem through communication or dispute resolution. There are, however, five situations where you may be allowed to withhold rent:
- you overpaid your security deposit or pet damage deposit
- you paid for emergency repairs after carefully following the proper emergency repair procedures
- you overpaid on rent because of an illegal rent increase
- you received a Two Month Eviction Notice for Landlord Use of Property, which entitles you to one month’s rent as compensation, and you are applying that compensation towards the last month’s rent
- you have an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch allowing you to withhold rent.
If you decide to withhold rent for an allowable reason, clearly communicate to your landlord that you have the right to do this. If your landlord disagrees and gives you an eviction notice, you should be prepared to apply for dispute resolution to show that you had the right to withhold rent.
Here are some examples of times when you are not allowed to withhold or deduct rent without your landlord’s written consent or an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch if:
- your landlord refuses to make a non-emergency repair
- you discover bed bugs or mold
- your landlord or neighbours are disturbing you.
- your landlord has restricted a service or facility
- your personal situation makes it difficult to pay rent. The Residential Tenancy Act is not sympathetic to personal hardship, such as illness, loss of a job, or unexpected expenses.
- you can’t find your landlord. Continue trying to contact them, and keep a written record of all of your attempts.
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 19 – Limits on Amount of Deposit
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 33 – Emergency Repairs
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 43 – Amount of Rent Increase
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 26 – Rules About Payment and Non-Payment of Rent
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 46 – Landlord’s Notice: Non-Payment of Rent
- Residential Tenancy Act Section 51 – Tenant’s Compensation: Section 49 Notice
- Residential Tenancy Act Schedule Section 5 – Payment of Rent