UVic doesn’t have enough dorm buildings to accommodate all of its students. And combined with the ever-increasing fees for a dorm room, more and more students are choosing to live off campus in rented or shared homes. However, living off campus also has its problems; sometimes they can even be legal ones. I’ve lived in off-campus housing and recently found myself in a conflict with my landlord regarding a number of problems with the home and the landlord’s behaviour.
Here are some examples of tenancy issues faced by UVic students I’ve spoken with:
- Landlords demanding payment for items already paid.
- Ridiculous contracts. For example, you usually need to inform your landlord a month prior to moving out. However, some contracts will require you to inform the landlord two or three months before moving.
- Landlords refusing to pay back damage deposits. It has even occurred that when the student did ask for a receipt they still deny the existence of this payment.
- Female students have been harassed by their landlords and host families. And usually, it’s extremely difficult to provide hard evidence to the police.
- Landlords or roommates have entered tenant’s rooms without their permission.
- Landlords wanting to sell their houses and demanding tenants move out immediately before they can find a new place.
- Unreasonable living require-ments and house rules. One female student was told that she couldn’t apply makeup or perfume in the house.
Now you might say, “there aren’t many nasty people like that.” No, there aren’t many, but these things really do happen to students. But with proper caution and care, you can prevent things like this from happening to you. Students are in a rather vulnerable situation as we are often away from our families and have to study and work part-time. Some landlords guilty of these offenses understand this and take advantage of it.
So what can we, as tenants, do about it? There’s a few places to start. When you first visit a potential home, inspect everything; ensure that all appliances are functioning and that all the furniture is intact. If you will be living with other people, make sure your bedroom door has a keyed lock. Naturally, you should also see how you get along with the other people potentially living with you.
Then, document everything. Always double-check contracts before you sign, and make sure you receive a copy along with a receipt for every payment you make. Keep a copy of any advertisements and take photographs of the living space before you move in. If you have issues with your roommate upon moving in, discuss it with that person reasonably. If it persists, speak with your landlord.
Finally, if you have a conflict with your landlord you can always call the Residential Tenancy Branch or your bylaw office if it’s severe. In the most extreme cases, do not be afraid to contact the police to help you out.