Roommates

The Basics

There are benefits to living with a roommate: sharing accommodation can cut down your expenses, offer companionship, and provide a sense of security. At the same time, finding the wrong roommate could have a serious impact on your quality of life, so make sure you choose wisely.


 

Co-Tenants

“Co-tenants” are roommates who share a single tenancy agreement. Each pay period, co-tenants collectively pay rent to their landlord, and decide among themselves how to divide the cost. This is the most common type of roommate setup for couples, friends, and families. To ensure that you are considered a co-tenant rather than an “occupant/roommate”, make sure your name is clearly listed on your tenancy agreement.

Co-tenants are jointly responsible for everything related to their tenancy, which means they are all equally responsible for each other’s behaviour. If the full rent is not paid on time because of one co-tenant, the landlord could issue an eviction notice that applies to everyone. Similarly, if damage has been caused to the rental unit, the landlord could choose to seek monetary compensation from any roommate – even if it was not that person’s fault.

Disputes between co-tenants: Disputes between co-tenants are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) and cannot be resolved through the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB). A common dispute can arise when one roommate is late with their portion of the rent, and the other roommates are forced to pay the difference to avoid eviction. From a legal standpoint, this type of monetary dispute would have to be settled through Small Claims Court, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, or BC Supreme Court.

Problems can also arise when one co-tenant decides to move out, as that decision can affect the remaining co-tenants. Here are the two possible scenarios for when a co-tenant moves out:

  1. If the roommate leaving gives proper notice in writing to move out, the tenancy will end for the other co-tenants as well – even if they did not sign the notice. The remaining roommates will have to either move out or sign a brand-new tenancy agreement in order to stay.
  2. If the roommate leaving does not give proper notice in writing to move out, the tenancy will continue and all of the co-tenants will still be responsible for paying the full rent on time. The remaining co-tenants may wish to speak to the landlord about legally ending the tenancy or amending the agreement to add a replacement roommate.

See RTB Policy Guideline 13 for more information.

 


 

Tenants In Common

“Tenants in common” are tenants who live in the same rental unit but have separate tenancy agreements with the landlord. For example, a landlord may rent out individual rooms in a house under separate agreements. With this type of roommate setup, you are only responsible for your own behaviour. If another tenant fails to pay their rent on time or decides to move out, it will have no legal effect on your tenancy.

Sharing common space in this way can be an effective way to get cheaper rent without having to sign an agreement with another person. However, the disadvantage of this type of setup is that your landlord may not consult you when choosing your roommates.

Disputes between tenants in common: Disputes between tenants in common are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act and cannot be resolved through the Residential Tenancy Branch. If you and another tenant in common have a dispute relating to your tenancy that cannot be settled on your own, consider putting your concerns to your landlord in writing. Once notified, your landlord should attempt to intervene and correct the situation. Alternatively, some legal problems may have to be settled through Small Claims Court, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, or BC Supreme Court.

 


 

“Roommates / Occupants”

An “occupant/roommate” is a person who rents from a tenant with whom they live, rather than the landlord, and is therefore not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). This living situation is common in shared houses where a “head-tenant” rents out bedrooms to roommates. If you enter this kind of arrangement, you will not be protected by the RTA, and TRAC and the RTB will not be able to assist you. See RTB Policy Guideline 19 for more information.

Disputes between “occupants/roommates” and tenants/landlords: Occupants/roommates cannot use the RTB’s dispute resolution system to settle disputes with tenants, landlords, or other occupants/roommates. Instead, any legal problems would have to be settled through Small Claims Court, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, or BC Supreme Court.

 


 

Roommate Agreements

Having a roommate agreement between roommates, whether they are co-tenants, tenants-in-common, or occupants, can help reduce conflict and ensure a better, more stable tenancy. TRAC provides a Roommate Agreement Template to help roommates draft their own agreements.

 


 

Previous Legal Decisions

 

  • Co-tenant liable for full monetary order even when second co-tenant not served
  • Landlord and tenant must agree to add new person as co-tenant
  • Jurisdiction denied because roommates not governed by the RTA
  • Tenants in common will not have their applications heard together by an arbitrator
  • Landlord obligations for condition reports when tenants in common share space
  • Addition of roommate not a sublet