Written By Danelle (Community Legal Education Coordinator, CCAP)
Tenants’ Rights Under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA)
As one of our most popular legal education workshops so far, CCAP’s workshop on the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) garnered interest within our local DTES community and elsewhere. Danielle Sabelli and Angela Emam from Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) delivered a dynamic and engaging presentation to a room of about 40, mostly tenant renters, and some who are involved in tenant housing organizing themselves.
A Summary of the RTA
What is a typical tenancy agreement supposed to cover under the RTA?
- Security and pet damage deposits
- Condition inspection reports
- Pet policies
- Rent payment and rent increases
- Subletting policies
- Occupant and guest policies
- Landlord entry into units
- Dispute resolution
- Ending a tenancy
Transitional and Supportive Housing Policies: The Differences
There are some tenancy situations that have a different set of regulations and do not fall under the RTA, including:
- Cooperative housing
- An accommodation where the tenant shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner of the home
- Emergency shelters
- Transitional housing (a government designated temporary living accommodation for those transitioning to “independent living”
- A housing-based health facility where someone is receiving health care treatment
Supportive housing providers cannot contract out of the RTA and all supportive housing policies must be in accordance with the Act. Transitional housing is temporary and provided for the purpose of moving someone from a certain situation such as homelessness or incarceration, to permanent housing and independent living accommodations. Supportive housing is considered long-term or permanent (not temporary, like transitional housing) for people who require ongoing support services in their housing. Transitional housing and housing-based health facilities where ongoing health treatment is given are intended to be temporary, and therefore are not included under the RTA, which regulates permanent or long-term housing. Being aware of the RTA can help residents of supportive housing protect themselves from unfair and illegal policies imposed by supportive housing providers.
Guest policies come up a lot during discussions on supportive housing and Single Room Occupancy (SRO) accommodations. A landlord cannot unreasonably prohibit guests from visiting tenants who have invited them. Landlords cannot charge people for staying overnight in a tenant’s unit, either. However, a landlord can restrict guests’ use of common areas. They can also end a tenancy if there is an unreasonable number of people living in a unit. The RTA also covers the process for disputing issues like this and others.
Courts have found that the restrictive guest policies of Atira and Portland Hotel Society (PHS), both supportive housing providers, violated the RTA. In the case with PHSS in 2018, the court stated that there is no reason why those living in below market-rate housing for the purposes of stabilizing their living situations must be given fewer rights than those paying market rates for commercial housing.
When Can a Landlord Enter a Unit?
All tenants have the right to enjoy reasonable privacy and peace in their homes, and can use common areas for reasonable and lawful purposes without interference. Landlords can enter a tenant’s unit (if they have given at least 24 hours notice, unless there’s an emergency) for reasonable purposes, including: checking the unit for damage, providing repairs in the unit, showing the tenant to potential tenants, collecting rent, and serving documents. If a landlord enters a unit illegally, a tenant can apply to the Residential Tenancy Board (RTB) to have their locks changed.
What Should I Do if My Landlord Violates My Tenancy Rights?
If your landlord is not complying with the RTA, apply to the RTB for damages. People may also contact the RTB for advice or information regarding the Act. Serious yor repeat violations of the Act may also be brought to the RTB’s Compliance and Enforcement Unit.
It is important for renters to know their rights as tenants, as well as their responsibilities. Being aware of and understanding the RTA equips tenants with the knowledge to recognize when their rights are being violated by a landlord or housing provider and how to take action about it.
Discussion during the workshop was animated and lively. Many questions were brought up regarding specific (and sometimes personal) issues with one’s tenancy agreement and relationship with their landlord. The presenters were comfortable adapting to the flow of the discussion, and this dynamic between the presenters and attendees was exactly what we were hoping for in organizing these workshops. We want to bridge the gaps between law professionals and people in the DTES in order to foster a community that can protect itself with a knowledge of their rights under the law.
Another valuable lesson that was brought up during the discussion was the need for tenants, who are aware of their rights under the RTA, to organize for housing issues in their communities. An understanding of tenant rights and responsibilities under the law is hugely important for holding landlords and housing providers accountable for violations, and organizations of tenants with common goals are necessary to provide support and provide political direction.
CCAP’s free and public legal education workshops are funded by the Law Foundation of BC.