10/29/2014 09:00 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST

B.C. tenancy rules allow tenants to sublet for a profit

A Vancouver property manager is frustrated that one of his tenants is trying to sublet a high-end condo at a profit, and that there's nothing he can do about it.

David Wong says the condo, which is in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Coal Harbour, rents for $4,500 a month.

Wong met with the prospective tenant and checked his credit and references before signing the lease, which was set to begin in August.

"It was basically a very simple transaction," says Wong.

Tenant turning a profit

Before the tenant moved in, he asked to take some measurements of the suite, and Wong told him there was a key held by the building's concierge.

"I got alerted from the concierge that he was actually trying to re-rent this unit before moving in," Wong says.

Wong says he asked the tenant why he wasn't upfront about his plans to rent the unit to someone else.

"He basically said, 'Well, I'm telling you now,'" says Wong, who says he then refused to give the tenant keys to the condo.

But the tenant took Wong to arbitration—and won.

"What he's telling the residential tenancy office is that he will eventually move in," Wong says of the tenant. "But in the meantime he's never moved in and he still has the right to sublet."

Wong asked to see the sublet agreement his tenant had set up, but the copy he was shown had the rental amount blacked out. In arbitration, the tenant said he was charging $500 a month more than he was paying Wong.

Landlord 'losing control'

Wong says he is the one who is ultimately responsible for the unit, and he takes screening his tenants seriously.

"When things fall apart, the main tenant can easily just bail, and then the landlord is left dealing with the mess the subtenant has left behind. That could be damages, or fines, anything that is of a negative nature," says Wong.

Wong would like to see provisions in the Residential Tenancy Act to prevent tenants from making a profit from a sublet. He is also looking for a change in the act that would remove a tenant's right to assign a sublet.

"I've lost a lot of sleep over this, and this is going to happen again," he says.

Under B.C.'s tenancy laws, a tenant does have to get written approval from the landlord before assigning a sublet, but it's very difficult for the landlord to withhold that permission. The law states "a landlord can't unreasonably refuse a sublet or assignment of a fixed-term tenancy for a period of six months or more," and Wong says the word "unreasonable" is left too open to interpretation.

Wong does have the right to run a credit check on the person subletting the condo and a statement from B.C.'s housing ministry confirmed that should he have reason to believe that person could not meet the rent, he could at that point refuse the sublet.

The statement from the ministry also said that currently there are no plans to amend this section of the Residential Tenancy Act.

- Read the Residential Tenancy Branch decision on the condo sublet below. On mobile? Read it here.