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Landlord-Tenant Act gets overhaul

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The provincial government’s Residential Tenancy Act, which replaced the Landlord Tenant Act, came into effect on Jan. 1 and includes some significant changes for renters.

Although government is promoting the changes as a streamlined system making it easier for people to rent, the Tenant Rights Action Coalition has issued a warning to tenants that some of the changes are negative and is encouraging renters to learn their rights.

What tenants should know:

• The new law makes it easier for landlords to withdraw services and facilities included in a tenant’s rent. Tenants should have a written tenancy agreement that states that things like cable television and parking are material terms of the agreement.

• Tenants are now required to do mandatory move-in and move-out condition inspection reports with their landlords or risk losing their security deposits. Tenants have to participate, but do not have to agree with the landlord’s assessment and the condition inspection form should have a space for a tenant to disagree.

• Landlords can only ask for half of one month’s rent as a security deposit, but can also charge up to half a month’s rent for a pet damage deposit.

• If a landlord keeps a tenants security deposit for more than 15 days after a tenant vacates, the landlord owes the tenant double the amount of the security deposit. However, a landlord doesn’t have to return a security deposit to the tenant until the tenant provides a forwarding address.

• Rents can now be raised up to 4.6 per cent annually, but tenants still need three full month’s notice and can only be given one increase a year, and not in the first year of tenancy. Tenants can also sign their consent to increases above 4.6 per cent, so read the fine print.

• Tenants no longer have to sign leases that say they must move out or sign a new lease at the end of the fixed term, but have the option of doing so.

• Tenants can no longer apply to the Residential Tenancy Office for an extension of time to pay rent.

• It is now easier for landlords to evict tenants for illegal activities.

• Landlords can charge extra deposits for garage door openers and access cards if they are not the sole means of entry into the building.

• It is now illegal for landlords to ask prospective tenants to pay an application fee.

The Tenants Rights Action Coalition is most concerned with the change that allows landlords to raise rent by as much as 4.6 per cent annually – the Consumer Price Index plus two per cent. If the CPI increases, so will the maximum rent increase.

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