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5.2 Security Deposits or Damage Deposits

A security deposit (often called a damage deposit), is money that that the landlord collects at the start of the tenancy and holds on to until you move out.

Landlords are allowed to ask for up to half the monthly rent as a security deposit. In addition, they can ask for up to half the monthly rent as a pet damage deposit. Landlords can only require one of each, regardless of how many co-tenants or pets are moving in. Unlike some other provinces in Canada, landlords cannot require you to pay the last month’s rent at the start of the tenancy.

Earlier in this course you learned that signing a tenancy agreement is a legally binding commitment. Well, paying a security deposit is also a commitment. It secures the tenancy – for you and the landlord.  Once you have paid your deposit, you can’t decide to move in somewhere else.  At the same time, your landlord can’t decide to rent to someone else.

If you have paid a security deposit but then decide not to move in, the landlord may be allowed to keep your deposit.  You may even have to pay additional money to cover the landlord’s cost of trying to re-rent the unit, or to cover rent if they are unable to find a new tenant.

In addition to securing the tenancy, the security deposit is also meant to cover any damage that you or your guests may cause.  Similarly, the pet damage deposit is meant to cover any damage caused by your pets.  If the landlord thinks you, your guests, or your pets are responsible for causing damage, they can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to keep your deposits at the end of your tenancy.  As long as you have not caused damage and do not owe any money, your landlord is required to return your deposits after you move out.