COLUMN: Renters have security rights

I wish I had a loonie for every time I’ve heard the most common landlord rant, “I would never have purchased this property if I’d known the laws were written for the tenants.”

After years of installing and repairing locks for landlords and tenants I have to admit, I’ve seen both sides of the loonie on this one.

 I know there are aggravating tenants out there who create havoc for pleasant law-abiding landlords – ones who fulfill the Residential Tenancy Act to the letter but still receive the short end of the stick. These cases usually involve disgruntled renters who seek gratification by making outrageous demands any time of the day or night – tenants who study the Residential Tenancy Act searching for loopholes in the hopes of getting what they want, usually something for nothing. You often see these tenants bartering their limited painting, plumbing or electrical skills in exchange for reduced rent.

On the other side of the coin there are “slumlords” who often take advantage of their tenants’ lack of knowledge. These chintzy, penny-pinching cheapskates can think of a million excuses why they shouldn’t spend money on their rental purchase. These security-deficient rental units are often unsafe for renters to occupy. I’m talking about outside doors with little more than weak worn out door knobs as a form of protection from the outside world.

A caring landlord doesn’t have to offer the deed to a tenant, however, common sense tells me security is a priority in the rental business. After all, the Residential Tenancy Act does require landlords to follow a few simple security demands.

For example, once the tenant agreement is signed and the tenant request for a key change is made, the landlord must pay for the re-keying or otherwise altering of the locks so that the previous keys will not access the rental unit. If the landlord changed the keys to the rental unit after the old tenant left, he or she is not expected to do it again when the new tenant moves in.

I hear stories all the time about landlords entering tenants’ units without warning. According to the Residential Tenancy Act, a landlord must not enter a rental unit that is subject to a tenancy agreement for any purpose unless otherwise stated in section 29 of the Act.

Did you know landlords cannot change tenants’ locks unless the tenant agrees to the change? And the same goes for tenants – they cannot change the locks to their rental unit unless the landlord agrees in writing. 

If you are renting a home and the access locks are not working properly or are damaged or defective, make a call to your landlord. This is considered an emergency and your landlord should act quickly to assure your safekeeping.

The landlord must post and maintain in a conspicuous place on their residential property, or give to a tenant in writing, the name and telephone number of a contact person to do the repairs in case of an emergency.

Only when the tenant has made at least two attempts to contact the designated repair person can they go ahead and make their own arrangements for repair. Keep in mind landlords may take over completion of emergency repairs at any time. Considering the tenant meets all the requirements for reimbursement of emergency services, the landlord has to fulfill their part of the agreement and pay the tenant for any out of pocket expenses.

For more information on the Residential Tenancy Act check out www.rto.gov.bc.ca

Frank Fourchalk is a home security consultant and writes occasionally for The Leader. 

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