Greater Victoria has been facing a housing affordability crisis for years. Finding affordable housing both on and off-campus is becoming increasingly difficult for post-secondary students, leading to detrimental impacts on students’ studies, health, and wellbeing (VIPIRG, 2017).
Students who live on-campus are not protected by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), resulting in post-secondary institutions increasing housing costs beyond reasonable means. Between 2016 and 2020, UVic on-campus costs have increased nearly 20% — and student incomes have lagged behind. Annual increases in on-campus housing costs at UVic have exceeded the rate of inflation each year (including the CPI for housing cost increases), and have averaged an annual 4.6% over this period.
Securing off-campus housing in Greater Victoria is also increasingly challenging for students in terms of both availability and affordability. Rental vacancy rates in Victoria have been hovering at or below 1% for many years. The average cost of rent has been continually increasing as well, making Victoria one of the most expensive places to live in Canada (Depner, 2019). It is increasingly difficult to afford to live in Victoria, particularly as a student living on a low income.
- UVSS Director of Campaigns, Robin, spoke to CHEK news about how the housing crisis is impacting students as September looms
- Some important actions have come from the BC government to help protect renters: a rent freeze until the end of 2021, and some measures to prevent tenants being displaced from their homes due to illegal renovictions.
- Robin, has also been advocating to Oak Bay Council to increase the supply of housing options for students by legalizing secondary suites, and increasing the occupancy limit for the number of unrelated roommates (currently limited to three).
- Read the UVSS submission to Oak Bay Council re: secondary suites
- Read Robin’s letter to the editor in the Times Colonist (“Oak Bay should ease occupancy limits,” June 23, 2021)
Students living in UVic residence are not protected under the BC Residential Tenancy Act. The UVSS is working with BC student unions such as the AMS of UBC to fight for student housing legislation that effectively meets the needs of students.
The UVSS submitted a report to the BC Government in December 2020 recommending the Province take the following actions to address the lack of housing affordability that students face:
- Increase the supply of a variety of social and non-profit housing options, including co-ops;
- Offer rent-debt forgiveness for those who were unable to make rent due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Enact protections for students living in residence by capping student housing cost increases at the rate of inflation through 2021 onward; and
- As a short term goal, ensure that students living in residence are eligible for the income-tested $400.00 renter’s rebate program; and
- As a long term goal, increase the renters rebate to an amount that will ensure households are not required to spend more than the 30% threshold of their income on sheltering costs.
- The UVSS successfully advocated to change an outdated, discriminatory bylaw in the District of Saanich that prevented more than four unrelated people from living in the same dwelling. Roommate accommodations are one of the ways students try to make the cost of housing more affordable. Living with roommates should not be illegal. The UVSS was instrumental in advocating to change this bylaw in 2020.
- The UVSS submitted recommendations to the City of Victoria’s budget townhall, relating to affordable housing and more. Watch the video submission!
Become a housing advocate!
Community Residents Associations
Community Associations, sometimes called Residents Associations, are non-profit community organizations where residents of neighbourhoods can come together to make change. Renters, and especially students, are often underrepresented in these organizations. Email email@example.com to get involved in your local residents association!
With 13 different municipalities in Greater Victoria, and various neighbourhoods and Community Associations within each one of those, it can be hard to know which neighbourhood you’re in or how to get involved. The following will try to help guide you to figuring out your local Community Association. Please get in touch if you have any further questions!
District of Saanich Community Associations
More info on the District of Saanich website
Oak Bay Community Association
Victoria Neighbourhood Associations
More info on the City of Victoria website
Resources for Renters
- BC Residential Tenancy Act – legally regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants in BC
- BC Residential Tenancies Branch – formal dispute resolution
- Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) – plain language legal education and representation
- Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) – free legal advocacy and help navigating residential disputes
- Victoria Tenant Action Group (VTAG) – an organization for and by anyone that does not own their own home
- RentSmart shares information on how to maintain a good relationship with your landlord and community
Tenancy Rights FAQ
This FAQ page was developed with the help of law students from the UVic Law Centre. The UVSS thanks them for their support in providing this information.
The Law Centre Clinical Program of the Faculty of Law provides free legal advice and assistance through law students enrolled in the program as part of their education. In many cases UVic students would be eligible for these services. You may make an appointment to talk with a law student by calling (250) 385-1221.
How do I know if I am a Tenant?
- A Tenant is a legal description of a specific kind of living situation.
- To be a tenant, you should have your own space separate from your landlord. It’s okay if you share laundry or parking with them, but generally speaking, a fully separate unit is important. Tenants most commonly live in apartment buildings, or rented houses, including secondary suites.
- Tenancies are protected under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) which you can find here.
What are my rights as a Tenant?
- You have the right to quiet enjoyment of the unit. Under this you have the rights to:
- Have guests
- Cook the foods of your choice
- Enjoy television and music at a reasonable noise level during acceptable hours
- Practice your religion
- Have the use of services and facilities as outlined in the tenancy agreement.
- Reasonable Privacy
- Freedom from unreasonable disturbances
- Exclusive possession of the unit
- You have the right to 24 hours notice from the landlord before they enter the unit.
- You have a right to have emergency repairs done without delay. Emergency repairs are those considered necessary if the health and safety of the tenant, property, or building are at risk.
- You have a right to live in a unit kept to a condition of repair that complies with health, housing and safety standards
- You have a right to have your security deposit returned within fifteen days of ending your tenancy. This only applies if you have provided a forwarding address to your landlord in writing.
What are examples of living situations NOT covered by the RTA?
- If you share a bathroom or a kitchen with the owner, you are NOT a tenant.
- If you live in accommodations provided by your school, you are not a tenant. This means living in residence is not covered by the RTA.
- Vacation or travel accommodations are not covered by the RTA.
- If you live with roommates, you may or may not be covered by the RTA. See below for more info.
I live with roommates. Am I a tenant covered by the RTA?
- Depending on your arrangement if you are living with roommates, you may or may not be covered by the RTA
- “Roommate / Occupant” – a person who rents from a tenant with whom they live, rather than the landlord, and is therefore not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). This living situation is common in shared houses where a “head-tenant” rents out bedrooms to roommates. If you enter this kind of arrangement, you will not be protected by the RTA
Are illegal suits covered by the RTA?
- Yes, illegal suites are still covered by the RTA. However if you live in an illegal suite you are not considered a Tenant.
What risks come with illegal suites?
- Your housing could be at risk if the city learns that your landlord is renting out an illegal secondary.
- If you are evicted because the city learns about your illegal suite and chooses to shut it down, you will have one month to leave the unit.
What are the requirements for suites to be legal?
- To be legal, the suite must comply with regulatory and zoning bylaws, and be registered with the city.
- City of Victoria Zoning Bylaws
- Saanich Zoning Bylaws
- Oak Bay Zoning Bylaws
- Note: in Oak Bay secondary suites are currently illegal. More information can be found here.
- Esquimalt Zoning Bylaws
- View Royal Zoning Bylaws
- Colwood Zoning Bylaws
- Langford Zoning Bylaws
What should I do before signing a lease?
- Know your rights as a tenant! See the above section on tenant rights for more info.
- Don’t pay a deposit before viewing the unit. If you pay a deposit, it needs to be paid in full to be valid. Paying a security deposit establishes a tenancy – even before you’ve signed the lease.
- Make sure you will qualify as a tenant
What must be included in a lease agreement?
- The agreement needs to clearly say who the agreement is between: the full names of the landlord(s) and tenant(s). Sometimes each tenant will sign a separate lease, but often all the tenants are included in one agreement. If you are all on one lease, you are jointly liable for the conduct of your roommates! This means you can be asked to pay for things that they damage, among other things.
- The agreement must lay out the length of the tenancy, and what happens when the tenancy term is up. For example, the length of tenancy can convert to month-to-month or can be at the end of a fixed term.
What information is a landlord NOT allowed to ask for a tenancy agreement?
- A landlord can’t ask for information that would be unreasonable to share, like your credit card number or a criminal record check! Landlords have to comply with the Personal Information Protection Act.
- A landlord must not, as a condition of your tenancy, require you to disclose personal information beyond what is required to provide that tenancy.
- It is generally seen as unreasonable for a landlord to collect personal information about you from your social media.
- A landlord can’t require your banking information before establishing a tenancy. After you sign a lease, they must be able to collect rent, which may involve you sharing banking information.
I have a fixed term lease. Does that mean I have to leave at the end of that term?
- No, the landlord and the tenant can agree to another fixed term or change to month-to-month. Having a fixed term lease doesn’t mean you automatically have to move out at the end of the term.
How can my landlord evict me?
The full list of eviction rules can be found here but in general:
- Your landlord needs to use the proper format for an eviction to be legal
- The landlord must use the right form. These forms are created under the Residential Tenancy Act.
- The landlord needs to give the proper amount of notice. By law, tenants must always be given the right amount of notice, even if the landlord gets the date wrong on the eviction notice.
- The landlord needs to serve all of the pages of the notice to end tenancy for it to be valid.
- An eviction notice must be signed by the landlord or their agent to be valid.
- Types of / reasons for eviction & notice time:
- Not paying your rent on time –10 days notice.
- Reasons related to your conduct as a tenant of the conduct of a guest — one month notice
- Landlord use of the property–2 months notice
- Your landlord can seek to evict you because they, in good faith, plan to use the property.
- Major renovations that require the unit to be vacant–4 months notice.
- New Recoviction Legislation
- Effective July 1, 2021, under new legislation, if a landlord wants to end a tenancy for extensive renovations or repairs, they need to apply for an Order of Possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch. There will be a dispute resolution proceeding where an arbitrator will decide if ending the tenancy is the only way to complete this work.
- Any notice received on or after July 1, 2021 is invalid and the landlord must end the tenancy under the new process by applying to the Residential Tenancy Branch.
What can I do if I think my landlord might be breaking the rules?
- Make sure you look at the resources provided by the BC government on eviction rules and all other info they provide about landlords and tenants. All info can be found here
- Start collecting evidence – take photos with timestamps, take videos with time stamps, keep a log of when the behaviour you think might be wrong
- Communicate with your landlord in writing, so that you have a record of what you said and what they said.
- If you think your notice to end tenancy is illegal, you need to dispute it with the Residential Tenancy Board. There are time deadlines for filing the dispute, which are quite short. It is best to get advice or dispute it as soon as you are suspicious it may not be valid.
Can my landlord increase my rent?
- The landlord can only increase your rent up to a maximum prescribed amount, determined by the government of British Columbia. It’s called the allowable rent increase, and the amount may change each year but is normally between 1 and 3%.
- The 2022 maximum increase will be 1.5%
- Typically, your landlord can increase your rent once every 12 months. If you sign a one year lease, they have to wait the full twelve months to increase your rent. After they increase your rent, they must wait another 12 months before doing it again.
- Your landlord must provide 3 full months notice of a rent increase using the prescribed form from the Residential Tenancy Branch. They can provide this notice before the 12 month period is up, as long as the actual increase doesn’t take place before 12 months has passed.
My unit needs repairs! What do I do?
- Tenants should inform their landlord in writing as soon as possible of the necessary repair.
- Tenants should outline how the needed repair is impacting their usage of the unit and clearly outline the problem.
- Tenants should allow the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix it.
- If the landlord does not make the necessary repairs, a tenant can apply for dispute resolution at the RTB to request an order for the repairs be made, for money to compensate for the inconvenience, or both. Tenants cannot make the repairs then charge the landlord for reimbursement without written agreement of the landlord.
I am having problems with my roommate. What can I do?
- It’s a good idea to sign a roommate agreement before beginning a tenancy with another person. An example template can be found here.
- Know that roommate disputes are not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act because they do not constitute a tenant-landlord relationship.
- It is a good idea for all tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities at the start of the tenancy, so that all tenants can be reminded of them in case there is a dispute.
- Do not be afraid of having open and honest discussions with your roommate about any issues such as finances, household responsibilities, and expectations around noise, guests, and amenities access.
- Consider setting a time to have a conversation so all parties can feel prepared and heard.
- If you have concerns about financial damage and compensation, such as unpaid rent or property damage, consider seeking outside legal advice. The Civil Resolution Tribunal handles civil claims under $5000, and Provincial Small Claims Court handles claims over $5000 up to $35,000.