When a tenant allows somebody to move in as a roommate, that new roommate has no rights under the existing lease. It’s a different story if the new roommate is added to the lease, or everyone signs a new lease. But absent either of those steps, it would be hard to prove you have any right to occupy the dwelling.
Practically, then, you might not be protected by BC’s residential tenancy laws, which include a moratorium on most evictions. A roommate may be able to take faster action to kick you out than a landlord could. They wouldn't have to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to evict you. If (for example) the roommate on the lease changes the locks, you would have to go to court to challenge their actions. But that will take time, the amount of money you may win is not assured, and you’ll still have to find a new place to live.
If you’re not able to pay rent, try to work something out with the roommate that is on the lease. Let them know when you’ll be able to pay rent (and let them know there’s a $300 to $500 rent subsidy available that can be paid directly to the landlord).
What else could you do?
- Understand the ways you can still be evicted, despite the moratorium. This includes reasons related to the health and safety of the landlord or another occupant.
- If you're worried something might happen, prepare for a conversation with your roommate. Know what you want to get out of it. Get your talking points ready.
- Talk to your roommate. Understand what concerns they may have. Listen. Try to come up with an action plan together.
- See if the landlord is willing to put you on the lease. With their backing, it may be easier to convince your roommate to allow you to stay.
- If they ask you to sign something, take your time and read it carefully. Perhaps ask a friend or lawyer to review it. You don't have to sign right away.
Trying to come up with a practical solution with your roommate, and possibly directly with the landlord, could be your best bet. But given you’re in a tough situation when it comes to your legal rights, you could consider trying to make alternative housing arrangements as soon as possible.