According to the Residential Tenancies Act, How many tenants are too many tenants in one property?
As landlords who’ve been in the property management landlord tenant business for many years, we noticed common tenant patterns.
- Renting properties to several unrelated single occupants (friends), brings a predictable risk of bringing in additional “friends” to reduce costs.
- Certain cultures consider it socially unacceptable to refuse to allow people from within their community a place to stay.
- Many newcomers to Canada have large families and low incomes and come from countries where living in cramped spaces is the norm.
- Some tenants who believe once they move in, the property is theirs to do with as they please, regardless of the lease. They see the Minimum Housing and Health Residential Tenancy laws as a nuisance, not laws.
Years ago, I rented my 600-square-foot basement suite to a couple. In passing one day, the lady told me her son and his friend (who were looking for work) would join them until they got on their feet financially. She also mentioned that her mother would visit for a few months, maybe longer. When I sat them down and showed them how the lease stated that I only allowed two people in the small suite and that no one else was allowed to move in without my knowledge or consent, she was stunned. Luckily, a month later, they gave their notice.
Does the RTA allow people to live in your property without your knowledge or consent?
No. According to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), as a landlord, you have the right to know who lives in your property and how many people live there. You can specify in your lease that tenants must have your approval before allowing someone to move in. If someone moves into your property without your approval, you can give them a 14-day notice to vacate. If the tenant abandons the property and the unauthorized guest stays, they can be given a 48-hour notice to end the tenancy and can take the unauthorized guest to the tenancy board.
Property insurance providers also limit the number of unrelated people per property. With too many tenants, landlords run the risk of being uninsurable.
How many tenants are too many tenants according to the RTA?
I have a friend who grew up in Asia. He and his family of 10 shared a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. Space was limited, and most people didn’t have the money to rent/buy a bigger space. Living in cramped quarters was the norm, as it is in many cultures. Newcomers to Canada with large families and low incomes have difficulty finding affordable rentals and come from countries that don’t have minimum housing and health standards.
According to the Minimum Housing and Health Standards published by the Government of Alberta1, rental housing must meet certain conditions to ensure the health and safety of the occupants and the neighbours. Some of these conditions are:
- All rental housing must have adequate washroom facilities, heat, water that is safe to drink, space for sleeping and utilities23.
- The housing premises must be structurally sound, waterproof, windproof, weatherproof, free of insect and rodent infestations, and free from physical hazards23.
- The Housing Regulation and corresponding Minimum Housing and Health Standards govern the conditions and maintenance, the supplied utilities, and the use and occupancy of housing. They are enforced by inspections of housing premises by public health inspectors/executive officers of Regional Health Authorities14.
The Minimum Housing and Health Standards do not specify a maximum number of people per house, but they do require that each bedroom must have at least 3.5 square meters of floor area per occupant1. This means that the number of people per house depends on the size and layout of the bedrooms. For example, a bedroom that is 10 square meters can accommodate up to 2 people, while a bedroom that is 20 square meters can accommodate up to 5 people.
Can the RTA fine landlords for overoccupancy?
Overoccupancy fines may vary depending on the severity of the violation and the discretion of the public health inspector or executive officer. According to the Rental Housing and Health in Alberta document by Alberta Health Services, if a violation is found, the inspector or officer may issue an order to remedy the situation within a specified time frame. If the order is not complied with, the inspector or officer may take further action, such as:
- Issuing a ticket with a specified penalty
- Applying for a court order to enforce compliance
- Revoking or suspending a permit or licence
- Closing down the premises
The document does not specify the amount of the penalty for overoccupancy. Still, it states that it is an offence under the Public Health Act to contravene an order issued by an inspector or officer. The maximum penalty for such an offence is $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for a subsequent offence.
According to the RTA, can you limit the number of tenants in your rental property? Yes.
Should you? Yes. In addition to the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, the more people in your property, the more wear and tear to your property.
To take advantage of a proven tenant screening process – take the Find the Best Tenants masterclass. To save time and grief wondering if you’ve had your tenants complete the right legal documents buy the 10 Essential Editable Landlord Forms.
To have access to all the resources in one place – buy my book! Canadian Landlords Handbook.
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