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. The topic of roommates is one of the more complicated areas of residential tenancy law. Before deciding to live with others, it is important to understand the three main types of roommate setups:



Co-tenants” are roommates who share a single tenancy agreement. Each pay period, co-tenants are responsible for collectively paying rent to their landlord, and deciding among themselves how to divide that cost. This is the most common type of roommate arrangement 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 the tenancy agreement.

Co-tenants are jointly responsible for everything related to their tenancy, which means everyone is equally responsible for each other’s behaviour. For example, if the full rent is not paid on time because of one co-tenant, the landlord can issue an eviction notice that applies to all the co-tenants. Similarly, if significant damage has been caused to the rental unit, the landlord can choose to seek monetary compensation from any co-tenant – even one who had no role in causing the damage.

See Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 13 for more information.


Disputes Between Co-tenants

Disputes between co-tenants are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act and cannot be resolved through the 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, in more serious cases, BC Supreme Court. See TRAC’s webpage, Am I Covered by the Law?, for more information.

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.



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 decide to rent out individual bedrooms in a house under separate agreements. With this type of roommate arrangement, each tenant is only responsible for their own behaviour. If one tenant fails to pay their rent on time, it will have no legal effect on the other tenancies.

Sharing a rental unit with tenants in common can be an effective way to get more affordable rent without having to sign an agreement with another person. However, if you enter this type of arrangement, be aware that you may have little or no control over the choosing of your roommates.

See Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 13 for more information.


Disputes Between Tenants In Common

Disputes between tenants in common are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act and cannot be resolved through the RTB. If you and another tenant in common have a tenancy-related dispute that cannot be resolved on your own, contact your landlord in writing with your concerns. Once notified, your landlord should attempt to intervene and correct the situation.

Disputes between tenants in common can be settled through through Small Claims Court, the Civil Resolution Tribunal or, in more serious cases, even BC Supreme Court. But to clarify, a tenant in common does have the right to apply for a dispute resolution hearing against their landlord for failing to address an issue between two tenants in common.




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. This type of living situation is common in shared houses where a “head-tenant” rents out bedrooms to roommates. If you enter this type of roommate arrangement, you will not be protected by the RTA, which also means you will not be able to access the Residential Tenancy Branch’s (RTB) dispute resolution service. When searching for housing, always try to enter into a tenancy agreement with the landlord of the property – not just another tenant with whom you will be sharing the unit.

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. These types of legal problems would have to be settled through Small Claims Court, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, or BC Supreme Court.



RESOURCE: Roommate Agreement Template

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