An “occupant/roommate” is a person who rents from a tenant with whom they live, rather than the landlord, and is therefore not covered under the Residential Tenancy Act. This type of living situation is common in shared houses where a “head-tenant” rents out bedrooms to roommates. If you enter this type of roommate arrangement, you will not be protected by the RTA, which also means you will not be able to access the Residential Tenancy Branch’s (RTB) dispute resolution service. When searching for housing, always try to enter into a tenancy agreement with the landlord of the property – not just another tenant with whom you will be sharing the unit.
“Co-tenants” are roommates who share a single tenancy agreement. Each pay period, co-tenants are responsible for collectively paying rent to their landlord, and deciding among themselves how to divide that cost. This is the most common type of roommate arrangement for couples, friends, and families. To ensure that you are considered a co-tenant, rather than an occupant/roommate, make sure your name is clearly listed on the tenancy agreement.
Co-tenants are jointly responsible for everything related to their tenancy, which means everyone is equally responsible for each other’s behaviour. For example, if the full rent is not paid on time because of one co-tenant, the landlord can issue an eviction notice that applies to all the co-tenants. Similarly, if significant damage has been caused to the rental unit, the landlord can choose to seek monetary compensation from any co-tenant – even one who had no role in causing the damage.
Tenants in Common
“Tenants in Common” are tenants who live in the same rental unit but have separate tenancy agreements with the landlord. For example, a landlord may decide to rent out individual bedrooms in a house under separate agreements. With this type of roommate arrangement, each tenant is only responsible for their own behaviour. If one tenant fails to pay their rent on time, it will have no legal effect on the other tenancies.
Sharing a rental unit with tenants in common can be an effective way to get more affordable rent without having to sign an agreement with another person. However, if you enter this type of arrangement, be aware that you may have little or no control over the choosing of your roommates.
Here is a breakdown of the key legal considerations for each type of roommate arrangement:
|Roommate Arrangement||Tenancy Agreement||Responsibilities||RTA|
|Occupants/ Roommates||One roommate has a tenancy agreement with another “head-tenant” roommate.||Roommate is responsible for the tenancy agreement with their “head-tenant” roommate – not the landlord.||Not covered – legal disputes between the roommates must be resolved through the Civil Resolution Tribunal.|
|Co-tenants||Roommates share one tenancy agreement with the landlord.||Roommates are jointly responsible for the tenancy agreement with the landlord.||Covered – legal disputes between the co-tenants and landlord can be resolved through the RTB.|
|Tenants in Common||Roommates have separate tenancy agreements with the landlord.||Roommates are individually responsible for their own agreement with the landlord.||Covered – legal disputes between any of the tenants in common and the landlord can be resolved through the RTB.|
- TRAC Webpage – Roommates
- RTB Policy Guideline 13 – Rights and Responsibilities of Co-tenants
- RTB Policy Guideline 19 – Assignment or Sublet