While landlords have many areas of responsibility, you, as a tenant, also have areas of responsibility in order to maintain a clean, quiet home and a good working relationship with your landlord and neighbours. Click to jump to a section to read more about a topic, or scroll down for a list of some areas that fall under ‘tenant responsibilities’.
Some noise must be expected with every home. It may come from outside, from the creakiness of the building, or from neighbours. In some cases, however, you may experience an unreasonable level of disturbance, such as loud music being played late at night. You could try talking to your neighbour about the noise, asking that it be limited at night. If the neighbour is also a tenant of your landlord, you can write a letter to your landlord about the problem. The landlord has a responsibility to investigate the situation and take action if necessary.
You are responsible for making sure that you, and any pets and visitors, keep noise to a reasonable level and do not disturb your neighbours.
- If you’re wondering what kind of noise is considered reasonable in your area, find out if there is a noise bylaw where you live
You have the right to have visitors, and they can stay overnight. The landlord should not interfere and cannot charge a fee or extra rent for guests.
However, if a visitor stays for a long time, the landlord may be concerned that this person is actually living with you. This could be a violation of your rental agreement. If more people appear to be living in the housing unit than the rental agreement allows, then your landlord may warn you about the situation or serve you an eviction notice.
Remember that you are responsible for noise or damage caused by guests.
- The law doesn’t state how long is too long for a visitor to stay, but decisions made by the Residential Tenancy Branch indicate that two weeks or three weeks out of a year is reasonable.
Smoking (tobacco and cannabis)
The landlord gets to decide whether smoking is allowed. If it is, it may be allowed only in certain areas. This information should be written into the rental agreement.
Information on cannabis and tenancies can be found here. You are not allowed to grow cannabis in your housing unit unless your landlord has given you permission or you are legally allowed to grow medical cannabis. If your landlord provides permission, get it in writing.
When it comes to cannabis and tenancy law, there are some considerations for people living with HIV.
On the one hand, Section 10 of BC’s Human Rights Code says that landlords must not discriminate against people with disabilities (which includes people living with HIV). Landlords have a duty to accommodate tenants with disabilities to a certain extent. There are some indications that evicting people with disabilities who use or grow medical cannabis to help manage their disability is a violation of the Human Rights Code.
On the other hand, tenants have responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act. These include not disturbing neighbouring tenants through excessive second-hand smoke and not causing damage to the rental property. So, for example, if a person creates lots of moisture while growing cannabis, and mold appears on the walls, that person could be at risk of eviction.
- When you are applying for housing, a landlord should not ask you whether you smoke. This is because the answer does not provide information about what kind of tenant you will be. For example, someone who smokes and lives in a non-smoking building may always be careful to go outside away from the property in order to smoke.
- If you are affected by excessive second-hand smoke coming from a neighbouring tenant, you can report the problem in a letter to your landlord, even if smoking is allowed.
The landlord gets to decide whether pets are allowed in the housing unit. The rules should be stated in the rental agreement. The landlord may set rules about the kinds of pets allowed (e.g., two dogs and one cat; one dog 30 pounds or less; up to two cats but no dogs). These rules do not apply to certified guide and service dogs, which the landlord must permit and cannot require a pet deposit for.
If you have a pet or plan to get one, the landlord will likely require a pet deposit of up to half of your monthly rent.
If your rental agreement says pets are not allowed, but later your landlord says that it is okay to get one, you will need to update your rental agreement. Be sure to have the new rule about pets put in writing so it can be attached to the original rental agreement.
If your rental agreement says pets are not allowed, and you get one anyway, your landlord can order you to get rid of the pet. If you do not, the landlord can serve you an eviction notice.
- In BC, landlords have the right to restrict pets, so it can be very difficult to find rental housing that allows pets. When applying for housing, some people provide landlords with a résumé for their pet. It can include the pet’s physical description, history of good behaviour, and health status, as well as references. See here for an example.
All roommates listed on a rental agreement are officially co-tenants. This means that all of you share tenant responsibilities, such as making sure that the full rent is paid on time. If one person does not pay their share of the rent, the other roommates may have to cover it or deal with an eviction notice.
The Residential Tenancy Branch does not deal with conflicts between roommates, so you cannot apply for dispute resolution to solve these problems. The Civil Resolution Tribunal provides services to deal with roommate disputes.
If you wish to add a roommate, check your rental agreement first and get permission from your landlord. Your rental agreement may include a limit on the number of people allowed to live in the unit. It may also state that the rent will increase by a certain amount if another person moves in.
- It can be useful to make a roommate agreement that includes house rules and how the rent will be paid to make sure you’re all on the same page. See here for examples of roommate agreement forms