How tenants can assert their rights in disputes with landlords
What to do if landlords won't make repairs, and other common questions
Tenants face a daunting task when they try to assert their rights or challenge a decision by their landlord. The rules around the obligations of tenants and landlords are complicated, and many tenants from marginalized backgrounds may find themselves at a disadvantage.
In an effort to help tenants understand their rights, CBC has compiled this reference guide with information on a few of the common questions renters have and the issues they face.
What if my landlord won't fix something?
Both tenants and landlords have a legal obligation to keep a rental unit in good shape. Landlords are required by law to make necessary repairs. Tenants must take "reasonable care" not to damage the unit — either willfully or through negligence — and repair any damage they cause. They also must let their landlord know if something needs fixing.
The law doesn't specify how long a landlord can take to make repairs. Government policy requires tenants to inform their landlord, preferably in writing, when a repair needs to be made.
If the landlord doesn't make the repairs within a reasonable amount of time, tenants can submit a request for repair form. If the landlord still doesn't make the repairs, the Residential Tenancies Branch can then issue an order to repair. If the landlord doesn't obey the order, the branch can redirect the tenant's rent and use it to hire someone to make the repairs.
What if my landlord wants to raise my rent?
A landlord can legally increase the rent every 12 months. Tenants must receive written notice of an increase at least three months before it takes effect.
Every year, the province sets the amount that a landlord can increase rent. In 2019, the rent increase guideline was set at 2.2 per cent.
A landlord can raise the rent higher than the guideline only if they apply for an above-guideline rent increase, and only if they can demonstrate that a standard increase won't cover costs that they've incurred, such as by making extensive renovations. Their application must include information on how much they spend to operate and maintain the building.
Only expenses the landlord has already paid for can be used to justify a rent increase. A landlord can't increase rent above the guideline for expenses it plans or expects to make.
Tenants can object to any rent increase, whether it is below, at, or above the guideline by writing a letter to the Residential Tenancies Branch explaining their concerns.
The branch must receive the letter at least 60 days before the increase takes effect. Tenants can see and make comments on the landlord's application, and the landlord can see and respond to the tenant's objection.
The branch will then meet with the tenant and landlord and issue an order setting the rent.
What if my landlord wants me to vacate my suite for renovations?
Landlords might require a tenant to vacate a suite in order to make significant renovations like new floors, plumbing, or replacing kitchen counters and cabinets. To terminate a tenant's lease for extensive renovations, landlords must give the tenant written notice with information on when they must move out. The form also tells the tenant they have right of first refusal on the unit once the renovations are complete and lists what the rent will be.
The province calculates the length of notice a landlord has to give before terminating a tenant's lease based on the vacancy rate. For fixed-term leases in Winnipeg, the length of notice is currently four months from the end of the lease. If a tenant has children who go to school nearby, they can stay until the end of the school year.
If a tenant doesn't think they need to move out, they can request a hearing with the Residential Tenancies Branch. Landlords can only force a tenant out of a suite by receiving an order of possession, and only after giving the tenant a valid notice of termination. Tenants can file an objection if they don't consider a termination notice valid.
What if I'm worried about safety in my building?
Landlords are responsible for the safety and security of their buildings. If someone in the building is endangering the safety of the tenants, the landlord has an obligation to investigate and try to remedy the situation.
If damage to the building is creating a security problem — such as broken doors or busted mail boxes — tenants can file requests for repairs with the Residential Tenancies Branch.
The landlord has to give tenants a chance to correct a problem within a reasonable amount of time. If the situation doesn't improve, the landlord can tell the tenant to leave with notice of one rental payment period.
That notice period can be shortened if the tenant's unit is so dirty it's a health hazard, they cause a lot of damage, risk the safety of others, or disturb other people in the building or nearby properties.
What if my landlord won't return my security deposit?
If a landlord refuses to return a tenant's security deposit, the tenant can file a claim with the Residential Tenancies Branch. Landlords must give tenants notice within 28 days of the end of their tenancy if they want to withhold all or part of a security deposit.
Landlords and tenants may agree on a claim against a deposit at the end of a tenancy, either by writing it down or by using the "end of tenancy" box on the standard rental unit condition report. These agreements signed at the end of a tenancy are usually binding.
Some landlords will have tenants sign an agreement about the return of a security deposit before the move-in date. Despite signing these agreements, they are not binding, and tenants can still ask the Residential Tenancies Branch for a decision on a claim against the deposit.
Tenants with questions about the rights of responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant can contact the Residential Tenancies Branch at 204-945-2476, toll free at 1-800-8403 or by email at email@example.com.