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ENDING A TENANCY

A tenancy begins when someone agrees to pay rent to occupy a property or unit owned by a landlord. Under the law, both tenants and landlords have specific rights and responsibilities in a tenancy. Make sure you’re renting the right way – access information and resources that will help you have a successful tenancy.

A tenancy ends when the:

  • Tenancy is for a fixed term that clearly states the tenant will move out at the end of the fixed term
  • Tenant or landlord gives legal notice to end the tenancy
  • Landlord and tenant mutually agree to end the tenancy
  • Tenancy agreement is frustrated by circumstances beyond the landlord or tenant’s control
  • Tenant abandons the rental unit
  • Landlord has an order of possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB)

Giving Notice

Landlords and tenants are responsible for ending the tenancy lawfully, ensuring both parties have an opportunity participate in condition inspections and agree on any deposit deductions that may be required. Landlords or tenants can be ordered to pay money to each other if they don’t follow the law.

Doing it Right

After notice has been given, both landlords and tenants have specific responsibilities in order to end a tenancy properly – the tenant must move out by 1 p.m. on the effective date of the notice – the last day of the tenancy. This means the unit must be cleaned and all keys given to the landlord by then, unless the landlord agrees in writing to a later time.

A tenant who doesn’t move out on the effective date of a notice to end tenancy is called an overholding tenant. In these situations, the landlord may apply for an Order of Possession to end the tenancy and money to cover expenses – like accommodation or storage costs for an incoming tenant.

Find out more about each step of the process:

Tenant Notice to End Tenancy

If a tenant doesn’t serve proper notice or leaves a tenancy early, they may be required to pay compensation if the landlord loses money.

Serving Notice Properly

A tenant must give a landlord written notice to end their tenancy – both parties should keep a copy. The notice needs to include the:

  • Tenant’s name
  • Date
  • Address of the rental unit
  • Date the tenant plans to leave
  • Tenant’s signature

There are rules about how and when a tenant can serve notice to a landlord.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

For a month-to-month, or periodic tenancy agreement, a tenant must serve written notice to end the tenancy so that it’s received:

  • At least one month before the effective date of the notice, and
  • Before the day that rent is due

In order for the tenancy to end the following month, the landlord has to receive the notice before the date the rent is normally paid. For example, if rent is due on the first day of the month, a notice given on March 15 would not take effect until the last day of April and the tenant would have to pay rent for the month of April.

Unless they have written permission from the landlord or the Residential Tenancy Branch, the tenant must pay the rent for the last month of the tenancy – even if they move out earlier.

To avoid disputes, both the landlord and tenant should be clear about when the tenant’s notice requires the tenant to move out. This is especially the case for tenancies where rent is due on a date other than the first of the month.

When a tenant has given written notice to the landlord, it cannot be cancelled or withdrawn unless the landlord agrees in writing.

Multiple tenants: If any one of the tenants on a month-to-month tenancy agreement serves the landlord notice to end the tenancy, the tenancy ends for all of the tenants in the rental unit on the effective date of the notice. A written agreement with the landlord is required for any tenants who want to continue renting the unit.

Fixed-Term Tenancies

If a fixed-term tenancy agreement (or a lease) has a move-out clause that requires the tenant to move out at the end of the term, the tenant can move at the end of the term without giving the landlord notice.

When a fixed-term agreement doesn’t require the tenant to move out at the end of the term, the tenant must serve written notice to end the tenancy so that it’s received:

  • At least one month before the effective date of the notice, and
  • Before the day that rent is due

The effective date of the notice cannot be earlier than the end of the fixed term.

A fixed-term tenancy agreement that doesn’t require the tenant to move out at the end of the term will continue as a month-to-month tenancy under the same tenancy agreement if the tenant doesn’t give notice to end the tenancy.

Leaving Before the End of a Fixed Term

Written agreement is required to end a fixed-term tenancy early – both parties need to sign the document and keep a copy.

If a tenant ends a fixed-term tenancy early without the landlord’s permission, the tenant may have to reimburse the landlord for costs of re-renting the unit – like advertising or lost rent. The landlord must do their best to limit these costs by trying to rent the unit as soon as possible. Sometimes a fixed-tenancy agreement includes a “liquidated damages” term that requires the tenant to pay to end the tenancy early.

A tenant may ask the landlord for written permission to sublet or assign the tenancy agreement to someone else.

Move Out Date

The tenant must move out by 1 p.m. on the effective date of the notice – the last day of the tenancy. This means the unit must be cleaned and all keys given to the landlord by then, unless the landlord agrees in writing to a later time.

A tenant who doesn’t move out on the effective date of a Notice to End Tenancy is called an overholding tenant. In these situations, the landlord may apply for an Order of Possession to end the tenancy and money to cover expenses – like accommodation or storage costs for an incoming tenant.

Landlord’s Breach of a Material Term

A tenancy agreement may be breached when someone goes against one of its terms. Material terms are considered so important that even the smallest breach gives the other party the right to end the tenancy. For example, a landlord refuses to make repairs or provide essential services such as heat, electricity or water.

If a landlord has breached a material term of the tenancy agreement, the tenant may be able to end the tenancy without giving the full months’ notice required to end a month-to-month tenancy.

Before ending a tenancy for breach of a material term, a tenant must provide a “breach letter” to the landlord that states:

  • What the problem is and why it’s a breach of a material term of the tenancy agreement
  • The reasonable deadline that the problem must be fixed by
  • If the problem isn’t fixed by the deadline, the tenant will end the tenancy

If the landlord has broken a material term and refuses to correct the problem within a reasonable period of time after receiving the “breach letter,” then the tenant can give the landlord written notice to end the tenancy and may apply for dispute resolution claiming compensation from the landlord. The tenant must be prepared to show evidence that supports their reasons for ending the tenancy.

Frustrated Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is frustrated when an unexpected event beyond anyone’s reasonable control occurs making it impossible to meet the original terms of a tenancy agreement, or the terms can only be met in a significantly different manner than what was intended. A tenancy agreement isn’t frustrated if the tenant or the landlord has been negligent and caused the problem.

For example, the tenancy agreement would end if an unexpected disaster damages the rental unit so that it cannot be occupied for an extended time period of time. Notice to end the tenancy is not required.

Landlord Notice to End Tenancy

Landlords must give proper notice to tenants if they plan to end a tenancy – there are different notice forms required for different situations:

By law, tenants must always be given the right amount of notice – even if the landlord uses an incorrect date. This correction can be made without having to go through the dispute resolution process.

Serving a Notice to End Tenancy

All Notices to End Tenancy have two pages – it’s only valid if the landlord serves both pages to the tenant. There are rules about how and when a landlord can serve notice – be sure to do it correctly:

Disputing a Notice to End Tenancy

Tenants who disagree with a notice need to apply for dispute resolution – writing a letter or talking to the landlord isn’t enough. Submit the Tenant’s Application for Dispute Resolution (PDF) along with a copy of the Notice to End Tenancy.

If a tenant submits an application for dispute resolution by the appropriate deadline, the notice is suspended until an Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator makes a decision. If not, the tenancy ends on the date stated in the notice.

Type of Notice Tenant must submit application for dispute resolution…
10 Day Notice to End Tenancy for Unpaid Rent or Utilities Within 5 days of receiving the notice
One Month Notice to End Tenancy Within 10 days of receiving the notice
Two Month Notice to End Tenancy Within 15 days of receiving the notice
12 Month Notice to End Tenancy Within 15 days of receiving the notice

When a Tenant Doesn’t Leave

The tenant is required to leave by the last day of tenancy – the effective date stated on a notice. The landlord should talk to the tenant to confirm the moving date. If the tenant doesn’t dispute the notice and does not leave by 1 p.m. on the effective date, then the landlord can apply for an Order of Possession – a legal document from an arbitrator that orders the tenant to leave.

If the tenant still doesn’t leave after being served with an Order of Possession, the landlord must obtain a Writ of Possession from the Supreme Court of B.C. in order to hire a bailiff to remove a tenant or their belongings and, if desired, change the locks.

A landlord cannot physically remove a tenant, remove a tenant’s possessions or prevent a tenant from accessing a rental property without a Writ of Possession from the Supreme Court.

Moving Out

A tenant must move out by 1 p.m. on the last day of the tenancy (usually the last day of the month). A landlord and tenant may agree on another time or date – as long as it’s in writing and signed by both parties.

Clean the Unit

A tenant is expected to clean the inside of their rental unit – even if it wasn’t clean at the beginning of the tenancy:

  • Carpets must be steam cleaned or shampooed for tenancies that lasted longer than a year – tenants must pay any carpet cleaning costs
  • Appliances must be cleaned in the unit – including behind or under the fridge and stove, if they’re on wheels
  • Window coverings provided with the unit should be clean and in reasonable condition at the end of the tenancy
  • Windows, including the inside tracks, should be cleaned
  • Balcony doors, windows and tracks should be cleaned on the inside and outside
  • Walls must be washed so that there are no scuff marks or finger prints left behind, unless the texture of the walls doesn’t allow for this
  • Nail holes do not need to be filled if the landlord’s rules for hanging and removing pictures have been followed – however, tenants must pay to repair excessive nail holes or deliberate damage
  • Baseboard heaters should be vacuumed or wiped down
  • Fireplaces should be cleaned out, if they’ve been used
  • Light bulbs and fuses should all be working

Before the Move-Out Inspection

Tenants should make sure the unit is prepared for the final condition inspection – that means they must remove all belongings, clean the unit and fix any damage. Otherwise, the landlord may ask to keep some or all of a deposit to cover cleaning or repair costs.

Inspecting the Rental Unit

At the end of a tenancy, a landlord and tenant must inspect the rental unit together – this is sometimes called a “walk-through.” This should be done:

  • When the unit is empty
  • Once the tenant moves out and before the new tenant moves in

Comparing the move-in and move-out Condition Inspection Reports allows the landlord and tenant to see if the rental unit was damaged and who is responsible for paying for repairs. The tenant isn’t responsible for reasonable wear and tear of the rental unit.

STEP1: Schedule the InspectionIt’s the landlord’s responsibility to schedule the condition inspection (or “walk-through”). Both landlords and tenants should be flexible and reasonable when arranging a suitable time for the inspection together. It’s acceptable for a tenant to authorize another person to attend the inspection on their behalf – as long as they notify the landlord before the inspection.If the first attempt to schedule an inspection isn’t successful, the landlord must make an offer to schedule the inspection in writing:

If there’s no response to the final written notice, the landlord completes the inspection alone and gives the tenant a copy of the final inspection report. This means that the tenant may lose their rights to the security deposit.

Landlords must follow the inspection procedure closely in order to claim any deposit money for damage done to the rental unit.

STEP 2: Bring the Move-In Inspection ReportThe landlord should bring along a printed copy of the Condition Inspection Report (PDF, 1.6MB) that was completed at the start of the tenancy. That completed report will serve as an official record of the rental unit’s condition.
STEP 3: Conduct the InspectionWalk through the rental unit and write down any damages on the inspection report – this doesn’t include damages from normal wear and tear.Be sure all damages and concerns are noted in the report – it’s a good idea to take photos, if possible. These items can be submitted as evidence if there’s a dispute about the rental unit’s condition at the end of the tenancy.
STEP 4: Sign the Condition Inspection ReportThe landlord and tenant must sign and date the inspection report. If a tenant disagrees with the landlord’s assessment, they should note any concerns or comments on the report before signing it.
STEP 5: Distribute CopiesWithin 15 days of the inspection, the landlord must provide a copy of the completed Condition Inspection Report (PDF, 1.6MB) to the tenant(s). If there are more than two landlords or two tenants, the landlord should include the additional names on a separate form called the Schedule of Parties (PDF).

Moving Fees

A landlord can charge a fee for moving between units in a multi-tenanted building if the tenant requests the move. This must be stated in the tenancy agreement, and the fee cannot be more than $15 or 3% of the monthly rent – whichever is greater.

A landlord can also charge the tenant if a fee is required by a strata corporation for moving out of a strata building.

Returning Deposits

When a residential tenancy ends and after a tenant gives the landlord their forwarding address in writing, the landlord must return all of the deposits plus any interest unless the tenant agrees in writing to allow the landlord to keep all or part of the deposit or an arbitrator orders that the landlord may keep the deposit.

When a tenant moves out, they need to give the landlord their forwarding address in writing. The landlord is required to return to the tenant all of their deposits, plus any interest – except in a couple of situations:

  • If a tenant agrees in writing to allow the landlord to keep all or part of the deposit
  • An arbitrator decides that the landlord can keep the deposit

After a tenant has moved out and given the landlord a forwarding address in writing, the landlord has 15 days to:

  • Return the deposit(s) with any interest to the tenant
  • Ask the tenant to agree in writing to any deductions and return the difference to the tenant
  • Apply for dispute resolution asking to keep all or some of a deposit

If the landlord doesn’t take action within the 15-day timeline, the tenant can apply for dispute resolution requesting their deposit be returned. The landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit(s).

Issues with Deposits

If there’s a disagreement about deposit deductions, try to reach a solution by calmly discussing it with the other party.

A tenant can apply for dispute resolution if the landlord kept all or part of the deposit without the tenant’s written permission. An application can be made within one year of the end of tenancy – as long as the tenant gave the landlord their forwarding address in writing and the landlord did not return the deposit or apply for dispute resolution before the 15-day deadline.

Inspect the Rental Unit

A landlord and tenant must inspect the condition of the rental unit together at the end of the tenancy (a “walk through”) and complete a Condition Inspection Report. Comparing the move-in and move-out Condition Inspection Reports allows the landlord and tenant to determine if the rental unit was damaged and who is responsible for paying for repairs.

Interest on Deposit

The landlord must calculate the interest owing on the full amount of the security or pet damage deposit, before any deductions are made. The interest is calculated based on an interest rate set at the beginning of each year and is calculated from the date the tenant paid the deposit to the date it will be returned to the tenant.

Claims Against Deposits

Security deposits and pet damage deposits are not payments to the landlord – they’re a form of security that the landlord must be prepared to return at the end of the tenancy.

If a rental unit is damaged during the tenancy, the landlord can ask the tenant to allow the landlord to keep all or part of the deposit. Deposits cannot be used to cover normal wear and tear during the tenancy.

In order to keep some or all of a deposit, a landlord must have a completed Condition Inspection Report as well as one of the following:

  • The tenant’s written consent
  • An order from the Residential Tenancy Branch to keep all or part of the deposit
  • An order from a previous dispute resolution process which the tenant hasn’t yet paid

A landlord may ask to keep some of a deposit to cover:

  • Damage the tenant, guests or pets caused to the rental unit that is beyond normal wear and tear
  • Unpaid rent or bills
  • Changing the locks if the keys were not returned
  • Costs if the tenant moves out without giving proper notice

A landlord can keep all of a deposit if:

  • A tenant doesn’t provide a forwarding address in writing within one year of moving out
  • They have an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch that allows the landlord to keep the deposit

Manufactured Home Park Tenancies

Manufactured home (mobile home) park tenancies that began after December 31, 2003, do not require a tenant to pay a security or pet damage deposit. For deposits paid before December 31, 2003, the landlord has 15 days to do one of the following after a tenant has moved out and given the landlord a forwarding address in writing:

  • Return the deposit with any interest to the tenant
  • Get the tenant’s written consent for any deductions and return the difference to the tenant
  • Apply for dispute resolution asking to keep all or some of a deposit

Ending a Tenancy in Special Circumstances

Tenancies typically end when either the landlord or the tenant gives notice or when the tenancy term is finished. There are also some special circumstances that can cause a tenancy to end.

Frustrated Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is frustrated when an unexpected event beyond anyone’s reasonable control occurs making it impossible to meet the original terms of a tenancy agreement, or the terms can only be met in a significantly different manner than what was intended.

For example, if an earthquake damaged the rental unit so that it couldn’t be occupied for an extended period of time, the tenancy becomes frustrated.

In these cases, neither the landlord nor the tenant has to give notice to end the tenancy. Also, the tenant is not required to pay rent for the time after the unexpected event occurred and if rent for that period had already been paid, the landlord should reimburse the tenant.

Sometimes landlords and tenants don’t agree that the event has frustrated the tenancy. These situations can be especially challenging – for example, if a fire damages a unit extensively, but the tenant refuses to leave and holds up the restoration process.

A party who doesn’t agree that the tenancy was frustrated can apply for dispute resolution for an Order of Possession.

Death

If a landlord or tenant dies, the executor or administrator of their estate is responsible for any rights and obligations under the original tenancy agreement – they must follow the same steps for ending a tenancy as anyone else.

Find out how to end a tenancy properly:

If a tenant dies and there’s another tenant on the tenancy agreement, the tenancy continues. Otherwise, the estate of the tenant is responsible for the tenancy agreement. The executor or administrator can choose to pay the rent, give notice to end the tenancy or ask for the landlord’s permission to assign the tenancy to someone else.

When there is a death of a tenant and no action is taken by an administrator or by the estate of the deceased, and the rent hasn’t been paid for at least one month, the landlord may view the unit as abandoned.

When a landlord dies, the tenant continues to be responsible for paying the rent.

Abandonment

A tenancy may be considered abandoned when a tenant gives up the tenancy and possession of the rental unit without properly giving notice to the landlord. It’s not abandoned if the rent has been paid.

The landlord could consider a rental unit abandoned if the rent has not been paid for at least one month and one of the following conditions applies:

  • The tenant removed their possessions from the building
  • The tenant has told the landlord that they don’t intend to return
  • The tenant isn’t expected to return – for example, the tenant has moved into a care home

Tenants should let their landlord know if they plan to be away for a long time and make arrangements to pay the rent. If the rent is not paid and they’re away, the landlord may think they’ve abandoned their possessions and the tenancy.

When a tenant abandons the unit, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution to request compensation for unpaid rent and utilities or other expenses, such as cleaning.

Sublet or Assign Tenancy

Some tenancy agreements allow tenants to have someone else complete all or part of the term of their tenancy agreement (or take over their lease). Written permission from the landlord is required to sublet a rental unit or assign a tenancy agreement.

Foreclosure

Foreclosure is a legal process that allows a lender, like a bank or mortgage company, to repossess and resell property if a borrower hasn’t kept up with their payments. This process affects the rights of the landlord, and may also affect the tenant. Find more information at TRAC (Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre).

Ending a Tenancy Early

There are some circumstances when it’s necessary to end a tenancy as soon as possible – when waiting for a regular notice to take effect would be unreasonable or unfair. Applying for dispute resolution to end the tenancy early is required in these situations.

A landlord can apply for an order to end a tenancy without the usual notice if a tenant, (including their pets or guests) have done one of the following:

  • Significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another resident or the landlord
  • Seriously endangered the safety, rights or interests of the landlord or another resident
  • Engaged in illegal activity that has caused or could cause damage to the property, disturbed or threatened the security, safety or physical well-being of another resident, or endangered a lawful right or interest of another resident or the landlord
  • Caused major damage to the property or put the landlord’s property at considerable risk

A tenant can apply when a landlord has breached a material term of a tenancy agreement. Material terms are considered very important – in fact, even the smallest breach of a material term gives the other party the right to end the tenancy. An example of a material term breach could be if a landlord fails to provide a service or facility included in the agreement like heat, electricity or water.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: April 21, 2015.

Pets

A landlord may take action if a tenant gets a pet and their tenancy agreement does not allow it or if a tenant’s pet causes problems.

No Pets Allowed

Some tenancy agreements include a no-pets clause – a term that says the tenant cannot have pets. Getting a pet without permission may be grounds for a landlord to issue a notice to end the tenancy.

Damage from Pets

Tenants must repair any damage caused by a pet before they move out. If not, the landlord may ask the tenant to agree to allow the landlord to keep all or part of their pet damage deposit, or the landlord may apply for dispute resolution to keep all or part of the deposit. A landlord can request an order for the tenant to pay additional costs if the amount of the pet damage deposit isn’t enough to cover the damage.

The landlord and tenant must inspect the rental unit at the end of the tenancy to check for damage – including damage caused by pets.

Other Problems Caused by Pets

Tenants are responsible for their pet at all times – it’s not acceptable for pets to disturb others, cause damage or threaten safety. Some problems with pets are grounds for a landlord to issue a notice to end the tenancy.

Disputing a Notice to End Tenancy

A tenant can dispute the notice by applying to the Residential Tenancy Branch for dispute resolution within ten days of receiving the notice.

It’s important to take the correct steps by completing a Tenant’s Application for Dispute Resolution asking to cancel the notice to end tenancy – writing a letter or talking to the landlord isn’t enough. The tenant should include a copy of the Notice to End Tenancy with the application for dispute resolution.

If a tenant disputes a notice, the notice is suspended until an arbitrator makes a decision.

Items Left Behind

If a tenant leaves items behind after moving out, the landlord might consider the items abandoned.

Abandonment

The law says landlords are responsible for dealing with abandoned property. If the value of the items left behind is worth $500 or more, specific rules must be followed for storing, selling or getting rid of it.

Items are considered abandoned if they are left behind after a tenancy has ended. Also, if the tenant hasn’t occupied the rental property for one month and hasn’t paid rent for that month, the landlord could consider items left behind to be abandoned after 30 days if:

  • The tenant left items behind without making arrangements with the landlord to store them
  • The tenant has told the landlord that they don’t intend to return
  • Circumstances are such that the tenant isn’t expected to return

Depending on the total value of the abandoned property, the landlord may need to store the items in a safe place for 60 days to allow the tenant a chance to claim them.

Dealing with Abandoned Items

The landlord is required to give proper notice before getting rid of a tenant’s personal items if the value of the items is worth $500 or more. Reasonable care should be taken to ensure the items are not damaged, lost or stolen when they are removed and stored.

Step 1: Complete an inventory

The landlord must make a written inventory of property abandoned by their tenant. It’s a good idea to take photos of the items while packing them as the photos will help to show the condition of the property when it was left behind.

Step 2: Storing abandoned items

Generally, the landlord must store the items in a safe place for 60 days to allow the tenant a chance to claim them. However, the landlord can choose to get rid of the items in an appropriate manner if the:

  • Items are worth less than $500
  • Cost of removing or storing the items is more than the items are worth
  • Storage of the items would be unsanitary or unsafe

If a tenant doesn’t claim their items from the landlord within 60 days, the landlord must follow a specific process for getting rid of abandoned items.

Step 3: Give notice

The landlord must provide notice that they are planning to sell or get rid of abandoned items. Notice must be given in accordance with the Personal Property Security Act and can be done any time after the items are abandoned (i.e. during the 60-day storage period), but at least 30 days before they are sold. This step includes:

  • Notifying anyone claiming rights to the items through the Personal Property Registry – search the registry using the name of the tenant or serial number of the items
  • Notifying anyone who says they should have the items
  • Posting a notice about the disposal of items in a local newspaper that covers the area where the rental unit is located

The notice must include:

  • The name of the tenant
  • The address of the rental unit
  • The name and address of the landlord
  • A description of the items to be sold or disposed of
  • The following statement: “The items will be disposed of after 30 days of the notice being served or posted, unless the person being notified takes the items, or establishes a right to the items, or makes a dispute resolution application with the Residential Tenancy Branch, or makes an application in Supreme Court to establish their rights to the items.”

If you are unsure about how to give notice, please contact BC Registry Services at 1-877-526-1526.

Step 4: Sell or dispose of the abandoned items

After giving proper notice, the landlord can choose to dispose of or sell the items. The landlord can keep any money made from the sale of items to cover the costs of:

  • Storing and disposing of items
  • Unpaid rent or utilities
  • Other money owing to the landlord

Under the Unclaimed Property Act, any leftover money must be forwarded to the administrator – the BC Unclaimed Property Society.

Step 5: Document everything

The landlord should keep all documents related to this process – like receipts for moving or storage and proof of how much the items were sold for.

The landlord must keep a written record of the entire disposal process for two years after getting rid of the items.

Claims for Damages or Loss

Landlords and tenants may ask the other person to pay money for damage or loss resulting from problems during the tenancy. If necessary, dispute resolution can help resolve any claims made.

The term “damage” has two meanings in the law:

  • Things that need to be physically repaired or replaced
  • The amount of money an arbitrator may consider for losses when it’s not clear how much compensation is required

Examples of the second type of damage can include such things as a tenant who has lost the use of their living room because of water damage from a leaking roof, or a landlord who has lost potential rent because the tenant left earlier than allowed by their tenancy agreement.

Claims for damage or loss may include claims by either party for the costs of repairs, claims by the tenant for loss of use of a part of the rental unit or loss of something that was promised by the landlord, or claims by the landlord for the cost of cleaning or re-renting the rental unit.

Usually claims can be settled between the landlord and tenant directly. When the two parties are unable to resolve the issue on their own, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to have a claim for compensation heard. They must be prepared to prove:

  • That the damage or loss they are claiming is real
  • That this damage or loss happened because of the actions or neglect of the other person in violation of the Act, the regulations or the tenancy agreement
  • The amount required to compensate for the claimed loss or to repair the damage
  • That they took reasonable steps to minimize the damage and keep their losses as small as possible

The right to claim compensation doesn’t end with the tenancy. Claims may be filed within two years after the tenancy ends – sooner is always better because things will be easier to remember. If one of the parties files a claim within that period, the other party can make a separate claim even if it falls outside the two year period, as long as they do so before the first claim is heard.

Minimizing Loss

When a problem occurs, it’s important to do whatever is reasonable to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse or become more expensive – regardless of who caused it.

If a landlord or tenant suffers a loss because the other party broke a term of the tenancy agreement or didn’t meet their responsibilities, they must take reasonable steps to minimize loss. Here are some examples:

  • Tenant leaves without notice: The landlord tries their best to re-rent the unit as soon as they know the tenant has left
  • Tenant discovers a leaking pipe in their unit: The tenant reports the problem to the landlord right away and then does all that they can to protect the rental unit and their personal property from water damage

Property Damaged by Tenants

A tenant isn’t responsible for reasonable wear and tear to a rental unit from normal usage over time. They are responsible for repairing substantial damage that they, their guests or pets cause. The tenant must also maintain a reasonable standard of health and cleanliness throughout the rental unit, common areas or manufactured home site (mobile home).

If a tenant doesn’t repair damage that they caused, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution asking that the tenant pay money for the damage. The landlord should submit evidence along with their application to support their claim for compensation.

Tenants Leaving without Proper Notice

If a tenant ends a tenancy early without proper notice or ends a fixed-term tenancy without the landlord’s written permission, the landlord may file a claim for compensation for loss of rent. Before making a claim, the landlord needs to take reasonable steps to re-rent the property like advertising for a new tenant right away and considering suitable applications for tenancy.

Ending a fixed-term tenancy without written permission is a breach of the tenancy agreement.

Sometimes a fixed-term tenancy agreement includes a clause that requires a tenant who ends the tenancy early to reimburse the landlord for costs of re-renting the unit – like advertising or lost rent. This is called a “liquidated damages” clause. The landlord must do their best to limit these costs by trying to rent the unit as soon as possible.

Claims against Security and Pet Damage Deposits

If a tenant doesn’t repair damage that they, their guests or pets caused to the rental property, the landlord may ask the tenant in writing to agree to allow the landlord to keep all or part of the deposit.

If a tenant doesn’t agree to allow the landlord to keep all or some of the deposit, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution to request permission to keep all or some of the deposit. If the landlord is successful in the hearing, the tenant may have to pay the landlord’s filing fee for the application as well.

If the tenant doesn’t give the landlord their forwarding address in writing within one year after the tenancy ends, the landlord can keep the security deposit and pet damage deposit.

Tenant’s Claims

A tenant may claim compensation:

  • When the value of their rental unit goes down because the landlord does not repair or maintain it – for example, if a landlord refuses to repair or replace a broken appliance after a tenant has notified them in writing, or if a tenant lost the use of their balcony for an excessive period of time
  • If a landlord fails to provide services or facilities that were terms of the tenancy agreement or required by law – this could include things like electricity, cable, laundry facilities or use of an elevator
  • For the loss of quiet enjoyment of their rental unit
  • Tenant’s Application for Dispute Resolution (PDF)

Changing Your Mind about Ending a Tenancy

It’s okay if a landlord and tenant change their minds about ending a tenancy – as long as they agree to it in writing. The tenancy then continues under the same terms.

A landlord who has given a tenant notice to end a tenancy must communicate their intentions clearly if they accept rent but don’t want the tenancy to continue.

Ending a Tenancy for Unpaid Rent or Utilities

A landlord may serve a 10 Day Notice to End Tenancy if a tenant doesn’t pay rent or utilities on time.

If the tenant pays all outstanding rent or utilities within five days of receiving the notice, the tenancy continues. However, if the tenant does not pay the outstanding rent or utilities within the five-day deadline, they must move out.

The landlord and tenant can still choose to continue the tenancy in this situation – both parties must sign a written agreement to reinstate the tenancy and keep a personal copy of it.

The landlord should be clear if they don’t want the tenancy to continue.If the tenant pays the overdue rent or utilities after the five day deadline, the landlord should clearly tell the tenant in writing that:

  • The payment for rent or utilities is being accepted for use and occupancy only – it does not cancel the 10 Day Notice to End Tenancy
  • The tenant must still move out

Note: The “use and occupancy” arrangement is very short-term – it allows a tenant to stay only for the rest of the month in which they received the Notice to End Tenancy and made a payment. A landlord should not continue accepting rent or utility payments under this arrangement otherwise they run the risk of reinstating the tenancy.

Ending a Tenancy for Other Reasons

When a landlord issues a Notice to End Tenancy, the tenancy will end on the effective date of the notice unless the tenant applies for dispute resolution to cancel it within the time frame indicated on the notice. After that, if an arbitrator dismisses the tenant’s application, the tenancy will end on the effective date of the notice.

If the tenancy is to continue, the landlord and tenant must put their agreement to reinstate the tenancy in writing. Both parties should sign the agreement and keep a personal copy of it.

The landlord should be clear if they don’t want the tenancy to continue. If the tenant doesn’t move out and continues paying rent, the landlord should clearly tell the tenant in writing that:

  • The payment for rent or utilities is being accepted for use and occupancy only – it does not cancel the Notice to End Tenancy
  • The tenant must still move out

Note: The “use and occupancy” arrangement is very short-term – it allows a tenant to stay only for the rest of the month in which they received the Notice to End Tenancy and made a payment. A landlord should not continue accepting rent or utility payments under this arrangement otherwise they run the risk of reinstating the tenancy.

When a Tenant Doesn’t Leave

If a tenancy is not reinstated and the tenant does not leave by the end date on the notice served or it seems like the tenant won’t leave, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution requesting an Order of Possession – a legal document that orders the tenant to leave.

If a tenant disputes a Notice to End Tenancy, a landlord may request an Order of Possession from the arbitrator during the hearing.

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