Metro Vancouver renters face some of the highest average monthly prices in Canada — but steep costs aren't the only consideration for locals looking for new housing.
A quick browse through the disputes listed on the online list of B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) decisions shows numerous, and often heated, exchanges between landlords and tenants.
According to Section 32 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining their residential properties in a state that complies with the health, safety, and housing standards required by law. In other words, they need to keep your pad pest-free or deal with pest issues as they arise.
But as many of the board's decisions show, some Metro Vancouver tenants live under poor conditions for months, if not years.
What to consider when looking for apartments for rent
Rob Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), says there are some issues that might come up during a rental interview.
"There are questions that are always okay to ask, questions that are sometimes okay to ask, [and] questions that are almost never okay to ask," Patterson tells V.I.A, adding that what is "reasonably necessary" to ask is dependent on each specific case to create or maintain a tenancy.
Prospective tenants who aren't sure if the questions they've been asked are appropriate should consult the Private Sector Landlords and Tenants guidance document from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C.
Locals may also want to do a little digging before signing a lease — particularly if they have a reason to be concerned.
What information is available about a B.C. landlord?
While the RTB typically redacts the names of individuals in tenancy decisions, management companies aren't removed from the published documents. As such, people can search for these names to see if there have been past issues.
One or two issues over several years may not warrant concern, but a landlord with a sizable history of tenancy problems might be a red flag, notes Patterson. This is especially true if these issues are disturbing.
Landlord BC also provides landlords who have completed its I Rent It Right e-learning program with a certificate and digital sticker that demonstrates their "commitment to providing secure, professional rental housing," according to the website.
Renters who want to see first-hand accounts and reviews can visit a site like ratemylandlord.com's Vancouver section or search for their prospective new address on Craigslist. People will often share experiences they had in rental units as a warning to housing hunters.
Multiple considerations using online search for renting in Vancouver
While these online tools are useful, they should all be taken with a grain of salt, Patterson cautions. A disgruntled former tenant could share a poor review of a landlord who isn't at fault, or they could exaggerate an issue.
Regardless, It is still a good idea to use the tools that are available online. Simply searching someone's name can unearth a great deal of pertinent information, particularly if a case made its way to the Human Rights Tribunal. All of the decisions are published online.