Here at CPLEA, we have been getting more questions lately about shared accommodation problems. There are two living arrangements that typically fall under the term shared accommodation: roommates living together in a rental property and a landlord and tenant(s) sharing living space (for example, a kitchen, bathroom or living room). We regularly receive questions about the following issues:
- I share a house with my landlord but I can’t stand living with him/her anymore! How do I break my lease?
- I’m renting out a room in my home to a tenant and he/she is not paying rent! What can I do?
- My roommate is constantly throwing crazy parties at our place. Can I evict him/her?
Unfortunately, tenants living in a shared accommodation situation fall into a grey area of the law. Let me explain.
In Alberta, the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) applies to most landlords and tenants in Alberta. Under the RTA, landlords and tenants have certain rights and responsibilities (http://www.landlordandtenant.org/responsibilities/). The RTA also outlines the basic rules for things like security deposits, evictions, and ending leases. Under the RTA, landlords and tenants can turn to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS) when they have a problem (http://www.landlordandtenant.org/dispute-resolution/).
However, the RTA does not apply to shared accommodation situations where the landlord and tenant are living together. For example, under the RTA, if a landlord serves an eviction order to a tenant for non-payment of rent, the landlord must give the tenant at least 14-day written notice. On the other hand, if a tenant is living with their landlord and did not pay rent, the landlord does not have a legal obligation under the RTA to give 14-day notice. That said, it is good practice for the landlord to provide reasonable written notice to evict a tenant in a shared accommodation situation.
If a dispute arises in a shared accommodation situation, the first step should be to communicate concerns to the other side and to try to reach a resolution.The RTA also does not cover issues that arise between roommates. For example, there is no legislated eviction procedure through which one roommate could evict the other. For some more examples of other problems that may arise in shared accommodation situations, you should check out our “Living with your Landlord” article (http://www.lawnow.org/living-with-your-landlord/).
There is a common impression that the Innkeepers Act applies to a shared accommodation situation. The Innkeepers Act only applies to hotels, motels, and other places that provide lodging to guests (for example, a bed and breakfast). The Innkeepers Act does not apply to tenants renting a room in a landlord’s home – unless the landlord meets all of the rules under the Act (for example, posting liability signs in the office and in every bedroom).
Since landlords and tenants living in shared accommodation are not covered by the RTA, they do not have the option of resolving their dispute through RTDRS. So, what can you do as a tenant living in shared accommodation if you are having problems with your landlord or other roommates?
You can minimize disputes in the first place by having a written agreement outlining rights and responsibilities with your landlord (see our Sample Living with Your Landlord Agreement ) or with your roommate (see our Sample Roommate Agreement). For more information, go to our website: http://www.landlordandtenant.org/roommates-and-subletting/.
If a dispute arises in a shared accommodation situation, the first step should be to communicate concerns to the other side and to try to reach a resolution. It is a good idea to write down your concerns and give it to the other side in writing in case there are problems in the future. If an agreement is reached to resolve a dispute, make sure it is in writing and signed by everyone.
If you cannot resolve a dispute, then you may wish to go to mediation or Provincial Court.
Mediation is an informal, confidential, and private process that helps people work out their problems and come to a solution with the help of a neutral third party (the mediator).
Provincial Court is available for tenants to apply for a remedy of up to $50,000. You must fill out certain forms, file them, and serve them on the other side. The other side then has a chance to respond, and a trial date will be set. Sometimes the Court will schedule a mediation session with a mediator or a pre-trial conference with a judge so that you can have a chance to reach a resolution before trial.
While mediation and Provincial Court do not require a lawyer, you should consider seeking legal advice before proceeding with either option.
For more information on dispute resolution, go to our website: http://www.landlordandtenant.org/dispute-resolution/
For more information on where to get legal advice, go to our website: http://www.landlordandtenant.org/resources/
For more information on Mediation or Provincial Court:
Provincial Court: https://albertacourts.ca/provincial-court/civil-small-claims-court