Tenants vs landlords: know your rights

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Tenants in Vancouver have a lot more to deal with than just notoriously high rental prices.

Evictions, repairs and maintenance issues can be sources of conflict in any lease agreement. That’s why it’s important for tenants to know the responsibilities of the landlord before they move in, said Tom Durning, a spokesperson for the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre in Vancouver.

Security deposits can be tricky

For example, landlords are responsible for maintenance and for doing an inspection report before tenants move in, Durning said.

“If they don’t do [an inspection report] they’ve lost the right to [take] security deposits,” Durning said. Security deposits work like collateral.  Typically, a tenant pays an advance sum to the landlord in case of any damage beyond the normal wear and tear.  If everything is in good condition when the tenant’s lease expires, the landlord is supposed to return the security deposit plus interest.

Renters can protect themselves by knowing their responsibilities and rights before signing a lease. / ASHLEY LEGASSIC photo
Renters can protect themselves by knowing their responsibilities and rights before signing a lease.
/ ASHLEY LEGASSIC photo

But some landlords ask for deposits without upholding their end of the bargain. Other times, tenants have difficulty recovering their deposits once they move out.

“[Tenants] need to protect themselves because a lot of landlords will say, ‘Hey, they’re only a student, they’re not going to spend a lot of time coming after their security deposit,’” Durning said.

Langara students have seen the good, the bad and the ugly

The Langara Students’ Union held a workshop March 11 to help students navigate landlord-tenant relationships.

General arts student Liam Switzer found his basement suite through Craigslist and has had problems with repairs.  “There was a bit of tension because the sink was broken and they couldn’t find a handyman,” Switzer said. “The handyman they had fixed it, but he fixed it while he was drunk and it broke again.” 

But Studio 58 students and roommates Michael Chiem and Nathan Kay said their landlords are excellent. Chiem and Kay have shared a Commercial Street basement since August and haven’t had any landlord problems.

Know who you’re living with

Another tip Durning had for student renters is to know their roommate and share equal responsibility.

“Sit down with your roommate and say, ‘Here’s the deal, we all signed a lease. We’re all financially responsible.’ You can’t take off because you don’t get along or somebody’s boyfriend steals the beers.

“It’s the landlord’s house, but it’s the tenant’s home. You’re not just somebody to shuffle in and out.”

Reported by Ashley Legassic

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