Am I Covered By The Law?
Housing NOT covered by the Residential Tenancy Act
Housing COVERED by the Residential Tenancy Act
Most rental housing in BC is protected by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). Tenants most commonly live in apartment buildings or rented houses, including secondary suites, but the RTA can also apply to other types of housing. Manufactured home parks, hotels, illegal suites, strata properties, and subsidized housing are all covered, to varying degrees, by the RTA. When renting a home in BC, you want to be covered by the RTA. If the RTA does not apply to your living situation, you will still have certain rights under common law, but they will be less clear and harder to enforce.
Definition of “Landlord”
It is important to understand that a single tenant can have multiple landlords. All tenancies under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) involve an owner, who is automatically considered a landlord, but some also include “agents” acting on behalf of the owner. For example, if you move into an apartment building, there is a good chance the owner will have hired a property management company to manage the building. In this scenario, the owner and the property management company, acting as the owner’s agent, are both your landlords. See section 1 of the RTA for more information.
Housing NOT Covered by the Residential Tenancy Act
Section 4 of the RTA lists the types of living situations not covered by the RTA:
- accommodation where the tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the owner of the property;
- accommodation provided to a student or employee by their school;
- accommodation included with property occupied primarily for business purposes and rented under a single agreement;
- vacation or travel accommodation;
- emergency shelters and transitional housing;
- correctional institutions;
- rental agreements with terms of 20 years or longer;
- accommodation rented by a housing cooperative, or “co-op”, to a member of the cooperative;
- accommodation in a housing-based health facility that provides hospitality support services and personal health care;
- accommodation made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment or services;
- housing that falls under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, Continuing Care Act, or Hospital Act; and
- accommodation, if designated under the Mental Health Act, in a Provincial mental health facility, an observation unit, or a psychiatric unit.
Housing COVERED by the Residential Tenancy Act
The RTA does not apply to accommodation rented by a housing cooperative, or “co-op”, to a member of the cooperative. However, if you rent from a member of a co-op, and are not a member yourself, your living situation may be protected by the RTA.
Hotels and Single Room Occupancies (SROs):
Hotels are covered by the RTA, if a tenancy has been established and the property is the tenant’s primary and permanent home. You have probably heard of a specific type of hotel known as a Single Room Occupancy Hotel, or “SRO”. These are commonly found in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and provide short-term or long-term housing to low income tenants. Like standard hotels, SROs are covered under the RTA, if a tenancy has been established and the property is the tenant’s primary and permanent home. See RTB Policy Guideline 27 for more information.
A secondary suite can be a basement suite, laneway house, or another self-contained unit on the same property as a residential house. If a secondary suite does not comply with City zoning and bylaw requirements, or has not been registered with the City in which it is located, it may be considered an “illegal suite”. The most important thing to know about illegal suites is that, despite being illegal from a municipal standpoint, they are still covered by the provincial RTA.
When a City discovers an illegal suite, they may decide to shut it down. If you find yourself in this situation, you may receive a One Month Eviction Notice for Cause under section 47(1)(k) of the RTA, and your landlord will most likely not be responsible for paying any of your moving expenses. See RTB Policy Guideline 20 for more information.
Manufactured Home Park Tenancies
Manufactured home park tenancies, also known as mobile home tenancies, are sometimes covered by the RTA. If you own a mobile home and rent the land it sits on, your tenancy falls under the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA). However, if you rent both the mobile home and the land it sits on, your tenancy falls under the RTA. Regardless of whether you are protected by the RTA or MHPTA, you have the right to access the RTB’s resources and services, including dispute resolution.
Rentals on “Lands Reserved for Indians”
If you are renting a home on “lands reserved for Indians” (Reserve Lands) as defined by section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, the RTA may partially apply. Any disputes over use and possession of Reserve Lands, such as eviction, fall under the authority of the Federal Government – not the provincial RTB. However, the RTA may apply to a situation involving a monetary claim, such as the return of a security deposit, but only if the landlord is not an Indian or Indian Band, as defined by the Indian Act. See RTB Policy Guideline 27 for more information.
In strata properties, owners own individual units – typically condos or townhomes – but share ownership of the common space. When you rent a strata property from an owner, you are covered by both the RTA and Strata Property Act (SPA). In addition, all strata buildings have a set of bylaws and rules that owners and tenants must follow. When entering into a tenancy, your landlord should have you sign a “Form K”, which confirms that you have been notified of the current bylaws and rules. Even though you are not an owner, you may still be subject to fines or fees. For example, you might have to pay fees when moving in and moving out according to section 7(f) of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, or you may have to pay fines levied by the strata corporation if you disturb neighbours or damage property according to section 131 of the SPA.
A strata corporation can also try to evict a tenant under section 138 of the SPA by serving a One Month Eviction Notice for Cause under section 47 of the RTA. However, even though this section exists in the SPA, the Residential Tenancy Branch can deny jurisdiction in such cases on the basis that a strata corporation does not fit the definition of “landlord” in section 1 of the RTA. This is a grey area of the law where the SPA and RTA somewhat contradict each other. If you receive an eviction notice from a strata corporation, the safest action is to apply for dispute resolution and allow an arbitrator to rule on the matter.
The term “subsidized housing” generally applies to any housing where the government provides monetary assistance to lower the rent. Unless you are a member of a housing cooperative, subsidized housing is generally covered by the RTA. The most common types of subsidized housing include:
- public housing: a government department, BC Housing, manages rental units for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.
- non-profit housing: non-profit organizations receive government money to manage subsidized rental units for tenants throughout the province.
- market housing subsidized by rental supplements:
- Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) – cash assistance for BC residents who are 60 and over and pay rent for their homes.
- Rental Assistance Program (RAP) – cash assistance for rent for eligible low-income working families.
Although section 13 of the RTA requires landlords to prepare tenancy agreements in writing, it also says that a tenancy agreement can be “oral, express or implied”. This means that you and your landlord do not have to sign an agreement to establish a legal tenancy in BC. While verbal tenancies are covered by the RTA, it is still safest to have a written agreement with your landlord.
Previous Legal Decisions
- Jurisdiction approved – non-profit unit determined NOT to be:
- living accommodation provided for transitional housing;
- living accommodation in a housing based health facility that provides hospitality support services and personal health care; or
- living accommodation made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment or services.
- Jurisdiction denied (business)
- Jurisdiction denied (transitional housing)
- Jurisdiction denied (personal property not in unit)
- Length of stay does not determine whether there is a tenancy