British Columbia·Roomies

Welcoming young tenants into your home? Make sure you're legally protected

Lisa Mackie, a Vancouver lawyer specialising in insurance and real estate practices, says there are ways to legally avoid the possible pitfalls of inter-generational living.

'Even if somebody is a friend of yours ... they could be a terrible tenant' says senior

Lawyer Lisa Mackie says a handshake will not suffice and rental agreements should always be put in writing. (Shutterstock /

Some B.C. seniors are opening their homes to young people looking for affordable housing, but there are legal issues they should be mindful of before they commit to sharing their homes.

Lisa Mackie, a Vancouver lawyer specializing in insurance and real estate practices says there are ways to legally avoid the possible pitfalls of intergenerational living by setting rules at the outset.

"Even if somebody is a friend of yours, even if they're a colleague, an employee.... they could be a terrible tenant," said Mackie.

Mackie recommends putting every agreement in writing, including a rental agreement, to formalize all tenant and landlord obligations.

"The handshake is only as good as that... a handshake," said Mackie.

Cory Susser sitting in her apartment. At age 71, this is the first home she’s lived in without roommates. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Cory Susser, 71, said her name was on a lease when she was renting a house in Vancouver with several young people. She sought out the living arrangement after her children were grown and her husband died.

But toward the end of the lease, Susser said, she was stuck paying the full rent for three months after people moved out without giving her proper notice.

"That was brutal for someone in my financial position... it was a risk that I knowingly took on .. I couldn't blame anybody," Susser said.

"Would I have liked there to be follow through on the verbal agreement that everybody gives two months notice? You betcha," Susser said.

Now, Susser lives in an apartment solo for the first time in her life.

How to protect yourself

The B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch covers most tenant and landlord relationships, and Mackie points to it as an important resource for anyone looking for more clarity. The branch also offers a sample of a residential tenant agreement, for those looking for a template.

"The responsibilities and remedies will be clearer if the relationship goes south," said Mackie.

Mackie says landlords must be cautious about the tenants they allow, and vice versa; tenants must be careful about the landlords they choose.

The Human Rights Tribunal website has guidelines for tenants and landlords on what to ask before jumping into an agreement.

Roomies is a week-long radio series exploring intergenerational living.The series runs Aug. 12-16 on CBC Radio One's morning shows in B.C.

with files from Amanda Poole


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