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Residential Tenancies Branch

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Section 10

Deposits

Sub-Section 10.8

Deposit Claims - Guidelines for Decisions


Legislation


s. 1(1), 31.1, 55, 82(2) The Residential Tenancies Act
s. 21.1, 22, Residential Tenancies Regulation


Definitions

Security deposit: is money a tenant pays to a landlord before the start of a tenancy. A security deposit can’t be more than half of the first month’s rent. The landlord holds the money until the tenant moves out. When a tenancy ends, a landlord may claim the security deposit for unpaid rent, damage, extraordinary cleaning costs or other obligations of the tenant. Many people refer to this money as a damage deposit.

Pet damage deposit: is money a tenant pays to a landlord before bringing a pet into a rental unit.  A pet damage deposit collected between June 30, 2010 and July 31, 2014 can’t be more than half of a month’s rent.  A pet damage deposit collected on or after August 1, 2014 can be up to one month’s rent.  Existing tenants who have already paid a pet damage deposit cannot be asked to pay the increased amount. The landlord holds the money until the tenant moves out.  When a tenancy ends, a landlord may claim the pet damage deposit for damage or cleaning costs the landlord suffers because of the tenant’s pet. Landlords cannot charge a pet damage deposit for tenants who rely on a service animal.

Tenant services security deposit: is money a tenant pays to a landlord before entering into a tenancy agreement in a building that provides tenant services.  A tenant services security deposit can only be half of one month’s tenant services charge. The landlord holds the money until the tenant moves out. When a tenancy ends, a landlord may claim a tenant services security deposit for unpaid tenant services charges or other money owed that is related to a tenant service.


Policy

At the end of a tenancy, a landlord may make a claim against a deposit(s) if a tenant doesn’t meet their obligations under the Act or a tenancy agreement.

For a claim to succeed, the landlord must prove, at the very least:

  • that they had a financial loss;
  • that the loss took place during the tenancy;
  • that the tenant is responsible for the loss; and
  • the amount of the loss.

When a landlord makes a claim against a deposit or a claim for compensation, they must show what they did to keep their loss to a minimum.

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Here are some guidelines the Branch uses when making decisions on deposit claims and other claims for compensation:

Administration Fee

A landlord may make a claim for an administration fee of $75.00 if a tenant:

  • abandons a fixed term tenancy agreement without any notice;
  • gives notice that they plan to move, but does not assign the balance of the tenancy agreement to another tenant;
  • finds another tenant to move into the unit, but does not assign the unit because the landlord signs a new tenancy agreement with the new tenant.

A landlord may make a claim for an administration fee even if they do not suffer any loss of rent.

A landlord who needs to advertise to find a new tenant may also make a claim for advertising costs.

Advertising

If a tenant:

  • moves without proper notice or abandons a rental unit; or
  • doesn’t move in after being accepted for tenancy;

a landlord may claim the advertising cost to re-rent the unit. To claim an advertising cost, a landlord must be able to show that the cost is for a specific unit and not just a general advertisement they run regularly.

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Assignment /Sublet Fee

A landlord may charge the original tenant up to $75.00 for consenting to an assignment or sublet.

Cleaning

A landlord may claim the cost of extraordinary cleaning. The Branch may award up to $20.00 per hour for cleaning costs.

If a landlord claims less than the standard amount, for example: $12.00 per hour, the Branch will not award more than the landlord actually claims.

If a landlord pays more than $20.00 per hour, the Branch may ask the reason for the additional charge. There are circumstances where a landlord may have to pay more than the "going" rate. For example: A tenant moves out at midnight and doesn’t leave their suite clean. The landlord has a new tenant moving in at 9:00 a.m. and has to pay $30.00 an hour to get the suite cleaned on time. A landlord may also have to pay a higher rate if the unit needs extraordinary cleaning. For example: A tenant moves out, but leaves their dogs unattended in the unit. The landlord hires cleaners who charge a higher than usual rate because of the kind of cleaning they need to do.

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When moving, a tenant must leave the rental unit ordinarily clean. A tenant is responsible to:

  • wipe or vacuum air conditioners and baseboard heaters to remove dust and dirt;

  • clean all appliances; this includes cleaning the stove top, elements and oven, defrosting and cleaning the refrigerator and wiping the inside and outside of the dishwasher and any in-suite washer and dryer. If the refrigerator and stove are on rollers, the tenant is also responsible to pull them out and clean behind and underneath. If these appliances aren’t on rollers and the landlord expects the tenant to pull them out, they must tell the tenant how to move them without damaging the floor;

  • clean all fixtures in the bathroom;

  • wipe out cabinets and cupboards;

  • vacuum the carpets. A tenant is only responsible to shampoo or steam-clean a carpet if they stain it. For example: If the tenant spills food or drink on a carpet or walks on it with muddy shoes, they must clean it;

  • leave the drapes clean. A tenant is only responsible to wash or dry-clean drapes if they deliberately or carelessly stain them. If a tenant needs to clean drapes, they should ask the landlord if there are any special cleaning instructions. A tenant is not responsible to clean drapes that are water stained because of leaky windows.

  • wipe or vacuum fans and vents to remove dust and dirt;

  • wash or damp-mop floors;

  • wash scuff marks, fingerprints, food and tar build-up from smoking off walls;

  • remove and clean the tracks and inside panes of sliding windows. A tenant living above the main floor of a building doesn’t have to clean the outside panes and screens unless they can do it from the balcony. If the windows aren’t sliders, the tenant is responsible to clean only the inside of the window.

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A tenant must leave a unit ordinarily clean. However, if a landlord files a claim for cleaning costs and the tenant can provide evidence to show that the unit was not clean when they moved in, the Branch might not award the landlord compensation for cleaning.

A tenant is entitled to move into a clean rental unit. If a tenant suffers a loss because the unit was not clean at the beginning of their tenancy, they may choose to file a claim against the landlord. If a tenant wants to claim compensation, they should file their claim as soon as possible after moving into a unit.

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Late payment fees

A landlord may claim late payment fees against a security deposit as allowed by the regulations and Branch policy see Late Payment Fees in Section 2).

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Light bulbs

A tenant is responsible to replace any missing or burnt out light bulbs at the end of the tenancy.

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Rent

When a landlord makes a claim for loss of rent, they must show what they did to try to re-rent the unit. The landlord is expected to get the unit ready and show it to prospective tenants as soon as practicable. The landlord must try to keep their loss of rent to a minimum. When determining if the landlord met their obligation to minimize their loss of rent, the Branch may consider:

  • when the landlord started the repairs or cleaning needed to prepare the unit for a new tenant;

  • the advertising the landlord did to try to re-rent the unit;

  • the landlord’s efforts to show the unit to prospective tenants before showing them other units; and

  • the vacancy rate for the area where the rental unit is located.

A landlord may make a claim for rent if a tenant:

  • owes rent when they move out; if a landlord gave a tenant a notice of termination and the tenant:

    • moved on or before the date on the notice, the Branch usually awards rent for the current month on a daily or per diem basis.

      For example: On April 10, a landlord gave a tenant notice to move on or before April 16 for non-payment of rent. The monthly rent was $500.00 and was due on the first of each month. The tenant moved on April 16. The landlord is entitled to $263.04 for April rent (16 x $16.44).

      If the tenant moved on April 13, the landlord would be entitled to 13 days rent.

    • moves without giving proper notice and the landlord loses rent. If a tenant, on a month-to-month tenancy, moves without notice and the landlord isn’t able to re-rent the unit, the landlord can claim the next month’s rent. For example: A tenant moves without notice on October 18. The landlord isn’t able to rent the unit until December 1. The landlord can claim for November’s rent. If a tenant, on a fixed-term tenancy agreement, moves without assigning their agreement, the landlord may claim rent until the end of the agreement or the date they re-rent the unit, whichever comes first. For example: A tenant has a one year agreement from January 1 to December 31. In mid-August, the tenant moves and doesn’t assign the agreement. The landlord isn’t able to re-rent the unit until November 1. The landlord can claim the rent for September and October.
    • abandons the rental unit and the landlord loses rent;
    • deliberately breaks a term of the tenancy agreement with the intention of forcing the landlord to give them notice to move. For example: The tenant wants to move, but doesn’t want to assign their lease. They have a huge party and disturb the other tenants in the hope that the landlord will give them notice to move. It’s up to the landlord to prove that this was the case.
    • interferes with the landlord’s ability to re-rent the suite by refusing to let the landlord show the unit to prospective tenants after giving or receiving a notice to move; or

    • decides not to move into a rental unit after the landlord accepts them for tenancy and the landlord loses rent; the amount of rent the landlord can claim depends on the type of tenancy agreement the landlord and tenant agreed to sign. For example: On September 10, the tenant signs a fixed-term agreement for October 1 to September 30. On September 25, the tenant tells the landlord they’re not going to move in. The landlord is able to re-rent the unit for December 1. The landlord may claim rent for October and November.

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    When a tenant moves without giving proper notice, or abandons a unit, a landlord may rent the unit to another tenant from one of their buildings and still claim a loss of rent. The landlord may only make a claim for the amount of rent the original tenant was responsible to pay. For example: A tenant moves out of their one-bedroom unit on the third floor without notice. A tenant, living in a one-bedroom unit on the main floor in the same building, asks to move into the third floor unit. The landlord allows the second tenant to move. The rent on both units is $450.00. The landlord may claim $450.00 per month. Or, a tenant, living in a two-bedroom unit, asks to move in to the smaller unit. The landlord allows the tenant to move. The rent on the two-bedroom unit is $525.00, but the landlord may only claim $450.00 a month from the original tenant.

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    When a tenant moves without giving proper notice or abandons a unit, a landlord can’t claim loss of rent if they choose to move into the unit or sell it.

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    Some tenancy agreements may state that a tenant is entitled to a rent discount only if they live in the rental unit for a specific period of time. For example: The tenant is entitled to a rent discount of $50.00 per month as long as they live in the rental unit from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002. If the tenant doesn’t fulfill their obligation to stay in the unit for the specified time, the landlord may want to make a claim against the tenant for the amount of the discount for the months the tenant lived in the unit.

    For example: The tenant receives a discount of $50.00 per month on the condition they live in the unit for 12 months. The tenant leaves after four months. The landlord wants the tenant to pay back $200.00 (4 x $50.00). To make a claim like this, a landlord must be able to show that the tenant knew they would have to pay back their rent discount if they didn’t live up to the agreement. If a tenancy agreement or discount agreement is conditional, it must be very clear what will happen if the tenant breaches the agreement. For example: The tenant is entitled to a rent discount of $50.00 per month. To be entitled to this discount, the tenant agrees to live in the rental unit from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002. The tenant understands that if they move out of the rental unit before September 30, 2002, they must pay back the discount they received for the months they occupy the unit.

    In some cases, if a tenant fails to comply with a condition to pay rent on time, the landlord intends that the tenant shall lose the discount not only for the current month, but for all the previous months of the agreement. In other words, the tenant has to pay back all previous discounts received from the start of that agreement. To enforce such a condition, the landlord's discount agreement must show clearly that the tenant will be responsible to pay the landlord back for all discounts received since the start of the current discount agreement. Here is some sample wording:

    The tenant is entitled to a rent discount of $50.00 per month. To be eligible for this discount, the tenant must pay their rent on or before the first day of each month. The tenant understands that if they pay their rent after the first day of the month, they:

    will lose the rent discount for that month; and

    must pay back, to the landlord, all discounts receivedsince the start of this agreement.

    When making a determination on a claim by a landlord for the return of a discount, the Branch may consider:

    • the wording of the landlord's agreement relating to the discount;
    • the date the tenant paid the rent, if the first of the month falls on a day the landlord's office was not open for business;
    • any arrangements the landlord and tenant may have for the collection/payment of rent.

    If the Branch determines that the tenant must pay the landlord back for previous months' discounts, it will only include the discounts the tenant received under the most recent agreement.

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    Repairing damage or replacing items

    A landlord may claim the cost to repair damage the tenant caused to the unit or complex, if it’s more than "ordinary wear and tear". A landlord may also claim the cost of replacing items that can’t be repaired or are missing. For example: If a tenant doesn’t return all the keys they received when they moved in, the landlord can claim the cost of re-keying the locks. Or, if the tenant removes light bulbs, the landlord can charge to replace them.

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    When a tenant causes damage, a landlord may:

    • hire someone to repair the damage and claim the cost of the repair; or
    • do their own repairs and claim their expenses for material and labour

    In either case, the Branch will decide whether the amount the landlord is claiming is reasonable for the type of repair needed. Although a landlord may do their own repairs, the Branch will not award more than the "going rate" for the work. If a landlord does their own repairs, they must make sure that the work meets health, building and maintenance and occupancy standards.

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    When a landlord needs to replace an item a tenant damaged, the Branch may not award the full replacement cost. The Branch awards the landlord compensation for the loss of value, not the cost of the replacement item.

    When determining the loss of value, the Branch considers:

    • the age of the item;
    • the condition of the item at the beginning of the tenancy;
    • the useful life of the item; and
    • the replacement cost.

    For example: A tenant puts several cigarette burns in a living room carpet. The landlord says it will cost $1,000.00 to replace the carpet. The landlord provides evidence to show the carpet is 10 years old and was in very good condition when the tenant moved in. The landlord also provides evidence to show that the useful life of the particular carpet is 14 years. The tenant agrees with the landlord’s information. The Branch awards the landlord $285.72 for the carpet. $1,000.00 (replacement cost) ÷ 14 (years of useful life) = $71.43 (annual value). $71.43 x 4 (remaining years of useful life) = $285.72 (loss of value).

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    If there is a dispute over the useful life of an item, the Branch decides the issue. The Branch may do a survey to get the information necessary to make the decision.

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    When a landlord claims the cost of replacing an item, the Branch also considers whether the replacement is comparable to the original item. For example: A tenant damages a stove. The stove can’t be repaired. The landlord decides to upgrade the stove to one with a self-cleaning oven. The Branch uses the replacement cost of a stove without a self-cleaning oven to determine the award to the landlord.

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    A landlord doesn’t actually have to repair damage to be able to claim for it. A landlord may choose to do a repair after the Branch issues a decision. Or, a landlord may say that a tenant caused damage that reduced the value of an item. The landlord may claim the loss of value.

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    Most tenants will put up pictures in their rental units. A landlord may set some rules, in writing, on how to hang pictures. For example: A landlord may say that a tenant can’t use adhesive hangers or unnecessarily large nails. As long as the tenant acted reasonably, it’s not considered damage. As a rule, a tenant should not fill nail holes at the end of a tenancy. If a tenant does fill holes and doesn’t do it properly, it may create work for the landlord. A landlord may be able to claim the cost of the unnecessary patching and painting. If a tenant hangs an excessive number of pictures or hangs items which need larger nails or screws, they may be responsible for the cost of repairing the walls.

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    A tenant is responsible to repair any walls that they deliberately or carelessly damage.

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    A tenant should only paint or put up wallpaper with the landlord’s written permission. A landlord may set some rules on how and where the tenant may decorate. Before moving out, the tenant should check with the landlord to find out if they should remove the paper or re-paint. The landlord may allow the tenant to leave the wallpaper if the incoming tenant likes it. In some cases, the landlord may ask the new tenant to sign a form saying that they agree to be responsible for the cost of removing the wallpaper at the end of their tenancy. If the landlord doesn’t discuss the wallpaper with the new tenant at move-in, then it’s considered to be part of the landlord’s rental unit. In this case, the landlord could only make a claim against the new tenant if they actually damage the wallpaper.

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    Returned cheque charge

    A landlord may claim compensation for any cheque a financial institution refuses to cash. The most common reasons for a bank or credit union to return a tenant’s cheque to a landlord are:

    • there isn’t enough money in the account to cover the cheque;
    • the tenant put a stop payment on the cheque; or
    • the cheque was written on a closed account.

    A landlord must provide evidence to show that a financial institution refused to cash a cheque. Evidence could include the actual returned cheque or the landlord’s bank statement.

    A landlord may claim up to $60.00 for each cheque returned to them. A landlord may claim accumulated returned cheque charges during or at the end of a tenancy if the claim is made in a timely manner. For example: During a one-year tenancy agreement, the bank returns three of the tenant’s rent cheques. After the tenant moves, the landlord files a claim against the tenant for compensation. The claim includes a $180.00 charge for the returned cheques.

    This policy also applies if a financial institution advises a landlord that they cannot process an automatic debit to the tenant’s account.

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    Utility bills

    A landlord may make a claim for utilities against a security deposit.

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    If a tenant doesn’t pay their water bill, the city or municipality may apply the bill to the landlord’s property taxes. The landlord can claim the amount of the outstanding bill. The landlord then becomes responsible to pay the bill.

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    Other utility companies don’t have the authority to apply outstanding bills to property taxes. But, if a landlord can show that they suffered a loss because they had to pay a bill, they may claim the amount of the unpaid bill.

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    A landlord may also make a claim if they believe a tenant did something which caused an increase in their utility bill. To support such a claim, the landlord needs to show an increase from their normal billing. For example: A tenant is responsible to let a landlord know about necessary repairs. The tenant doesn’t tell the landlord that the toilet is running constantly. The landlord receives their water bill for a higher amount than usual. Since the tenant didn’t give the landlord an opportunity to fix the toilet, the landlord may claim the difference between the normal bill and the higher bill.

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    If a tenant is responsible to pay for utilities under a tenancy agreement, a landlord may also claim utility costs if a tenant moves without proper notice or abandons a rental unit. For example: Under the tenancy agreement, the tenant is responsible to pay for gas. The tenancy agreement runs from October 1 to September 30. At the end of January, the tenant moves and closes their account with the gas company. The landlord has to open an account to ensure there’s heat in the rental unit so the pipes won’t freeze. The landlord is able to re-rent the unit for April 1. The landlord may claim rent for February and March and the gas bill for those months too.

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    A landlord may not claim against a security deposit for personal loans, like money for groceries.



Procedure

Overview

Either a tenant or landlord may ask the Branch to make a decision on a claim against a deposit. When making a decision, an officer uses the guidelines set out in this policy.


Steps ▼

See Procedures for Claim by Landlord - More Than Deposit and Claim by Landlord - Deposit or Less in this section.


Forms & Form Letters


X-Referencing

For information on late payment fees, see Section 2.
For details on claims, see Section 9.


Policy Developed

September, 1992


Last Revision

août 2015

Other Resources

None


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