SECURITY AND PET DAMAGE DEPOSITS
A security deposit – often referred to as a “damage deposit” – is money that a landlord collects at the start of a tenancy and holds until the end of the tenancy. According to section 19(1) of the Residential Tenancy Act, 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 the date it is required to be paid.
A security deposit secures the tenancy for you and your landlord. Once you have paid your deposit, you cannot decide to move in somewhere else, and your landlord cannot decide to rent to someone else. If you pay a security deposit but do not move in, your landlord may be allowed to keep your deposit. You may even have to pay additional money to cover the cost associated with re-renting your unit, or to cover your landlord’s lost rental income if they cannot find a replacement tenant.
Security deposits also cover damage. If your landlord believes you are responsible for damage beyond reasonable wear and tear, they can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep your security deposit.
If you are allowed to have a pet, your landlord can require a pet damage deposit of up to half the monthly rent. This is the maximum amount a landlord can charge for a pet damage deposit, regardless of how many pets you have. You will have to pay this deposit either at the start of your tenancy, or when you get a pet at any point during your tenancy. If your pet causes extraordinary damage or unreasonably disturbs others, your landlord may try to evict you and keep your pet damage deposit. See TRAC’s webpage, Pets, and Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 31 for more information.
Guide dogs: If you have a dog that falls under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, your landlord must allow it and cannot require a pet damage deposit.
According to section 21 of the Residential Tenancy Act, you are not allowed to apply your security deposit towards rent without your landlord’s permission. For example, you cannot pay only half of your last month’s rent and tell your landlord to cover the remaining half with your security deposit, unless you have their written consent.
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, section 19(2) of the Residential Tenancy Act allows you to deduct the overpayment from your next month’s rent. Some landlords may not know that tenants have this right, so make sure to clearly communicate with your landlord if you decide to deduct rent for this reason. If you are not comfortable withholding rent, you can apply for dispute resolution to recover the overpayment.
If you would like to have your deposit returned, the first step is to provide your landlord with a forwarding address in writing indicating where your deposit can be sent. Make sure to have evidence that you provided your forwarding address, such as a witness or registered mail confirmation. You should also have the option to list your forwarding address on the move-out condition inspection report.
Once you have provided your forwarding address in writing and your tenancy has officially ended, your landlord has 15 days to take one of the following three actions:
- return your deposit;
- get your written permission 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 a fee.
Your landlord cannot simply decide on their own to keep your deposit. If they want it, they need written permission from either you or the Residential Tenancy Branch. After 15 days, if your landlord has not returned your deposit, obtained your written consent, or applied for dispute resolution, section 38 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) gives you the right to go after your landlord through dispute resolution for double the amount of your deposit.
Condition inspection reports: If your landlord does not give you a chance to participate in a move-in or move-out condition inspection, or does not provide you with a copy of either report within the required timelines, they lose the right to claim against your security or pet damage deposit for damage to the rental unit. Conversely, if you fail to participate in an inspection after receiving two opportunities, you may lose the right to have your deposit(s) returned. See sections 24 and 36 of the RTA for more information.
- RTA Sections 19 – Limits on amount of deposits
- RTA Sections 21 – Tenant prohibition respecting deposits
- RTA Sections 24 – Consequences for tenant and landlord if report requirements not met
- RTA Sections 36 – Consequences for tenant and landlord if report requirements not met
- RTA Sections 38 – Return of security deposit and pet damage deposit
- RTR Section 4 – Interest