I got another question today from a landlord in the fine province of British Columbia. This one is about damage deposits. I’m no expert on B.C. law and how it is applied there. I looked it up and I’m giving it my best shot. The law is really clear and detailed on the issue of how to treat damage deposits.
I was wondering if you could give me some advice on a tenant who is taking me to mediation for not returning her damage deposit. The tenant failed to clean the apartment and secondly she damaged the walls and paint by putting up pictures and hangings all over the place without the proper hanging mechanisms. She had agreed to clean the place properly but when she failed to do so I cancelled the cheque for the damage deposit. It took many hours of work with several people to get the place properly cleaned, which has all been documented. The one mistake I made was to not advise the tenancy board that she would not receive her damage deposit back. Now when I have the mediation what would be my best strategy in this situation. Thank you for any help you can offer.
First of all I don’t work in B.C. and Landlord & Tenant law in Canada is regional. It sounds like you may have got yourself in a bit of trouble.
I went over to the BC Residential Tenancy Branch to investigate the proper procedures in B.C. for claiming a tenants’ deposit. They have it pretty well outlined there.
The first step is when the tenant moves in to fill out the Condition Inspection Report found at at the bottom of this page.You must then give a copy of the Report to the tenant within 7 days.
If you fail to fill out the Unit Condition Report you can lose the right to claim any of the damage deposit. If you don’t give a copy to the tenant.
The second step occur when the tenant moves out. You take the Unit Condition Report and try to inspect the unit twice. If the tenant does not allow you an inspection you must give them a Notice of Final Opportunity to Schedule a Unit Inspection If the unit is not clean or damaged you can get the tenant to agree to give up their deposit and sign the Unit Condition Report or file a dispute resolution against the tenant.You also have to give them a copy of the Report within 15 days.
I don’t have enough information to tell if the questioner’s claim is valid. Here in Ontario we NEVER get to keep the last month’s rent deposit for any damages. We can only use it for last month’s rent. We’d be really happy if all we had to deal with when a tenant leaves is nail holes. I don’t know if nail holes and paint are considered wear and tear or not in B.C.
I have never been to dispute resolution in British Columbia so I don’t know which parts of the law they apply strictly and which they are forgiving about.
The really interesting part I find is that if the landlord claims the deposit and has no right to do so they have to pay double the damage deposit to the tenant.
This is why I say that landlords need to learn the law as it applies to their area. They need to spend a day or two going over the basics to keep themselves safe.
Regardless these are my suggestions for attending any Hearing like this one.
Wear appropriate clothing
Bring Evidence – Photos and Unit Condition Report and receipts
Stay Calm – The winner is likely the one appears more reasonable
Listen to what you’re told – if the dispute resolution officer says they can’t use that information, don’t bring it up again.
In your case even if you have not properly done the procedures, the tenant may not show up, or you could end up getting a fair shake. For instance in Ontario, you cannot have any mistakes on the Non Payment of rent form but your application can be amended. I’ve seen major errors changed with not a problem. It even depends on the adjudicator and their mood.
B.C. like Ontario has what they call a quasi-judicial system for dealing with this kind of issue. It’s not black and white. Before and After Photos would be great for a case like this.
That double or nothing provision with the security deposit sure is an expensive lesson if you haven’t followed the rules. Do your best that’s all you can do.
Best of Luck to You