Your first time is usually rough, but as a renter you’ve got plenty of rights and responsibilities
Finding a good place to rent for the first time can be incredibly intimidating, and it’s likely one of the first legally binding contracts young students sign on their own.
Places4Students is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about student housing options and the rights of the individuals involved. Zach Pajtasz, Places4Students Marketing and Social Media Specialist, explains that the group provides “a third party off-campus housing platform for students and landlords in the community” to find accommodations or list housing options.
The organization currently works with over 140 post-secondary campuses across North America, including Simon Fraser University.
“I do know that we are actually in discussion with [KPU],” says Pajtasz. “I don’t know where those stand exactly but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future we begin working with [KPU] as well.”
The British Columbia Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is a lengthy, jargon-heavy document which outlines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. To help students understand their rights, Places4Students have highlighted a few key points from the RTA for first time or young renters to be aware of when entering into a rental agreement.
“In British Columbia there’s a lot of markets, particularly in the Vancouver area, that are really highly competitive rental markets and in many cases, for a lot of these renters, it’s their first time going out into the rental market on their own,” says Pajtasz. “Some things you just want to pay attention to—knowing the maximum amount that [landlords] can charge for things like a security deposit or a pet damage deposit—things like that.”
According to section (19) 1 of the RTA, the total security and/or pet deposit cannot amount to more than half of one month of rent. It’s difficult enough renting in the Lower Mainland, but throw a pet into the mix and you’re basically out of luck. However, if you do find a place that’ll accept your pet, be aware that a landlord cannot legally charge you an exorbitant fee to bring your furry friends with you to your new home.
“Students should know the tenancy rights,” says Caitlin McCutchen, Kwantlen Student Association VP External Affairs and Chairperson for the Alliance of B.C. Students. “It’s the law. It’s how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. It’s also to know the rights that landlords have as well.”
A contract between a landlord and tenant that specifies terms and conditions, which is known as a tenancy agreement, is the first point of contact to ensure that you and your landlord are on the same page and in compliance with the RTA.
“It’s a legally binding contract,” says McCutchen. “You can’t make changes and your landlord can’t make changes without written consent.”
Violation of the agreement from either party can result in a trip to small claims court to settle the dispute, which is typically a pricey and time consuming process. Not only can that process be intimidating, but also, the amount to dispute often isn’t enough to warrant the struggle. This leaves renters and landlords in an uncomfortable position.
Understanding the process and rights of both parties can prevent contentious issues, such as security deposit returns, from becoming a bigger problem.
“One thing that we always kind of stress is that, at the very least, make sure you read your lease agreement and understand it,” says Pajtasz. “Those are the terms and conditions that you’re agreeing to. Make sure that those terms and conditions are also in compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act.”