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.
Here are some best practices to follow when problems occur during a tenancy.
Know Your Stuff
Do a bit of research to find out about decisions the Residential Tenancy Branch has already made for claims that are similar to your issue. This will help you understand what arbitrators consider when making decisions and what evidence is important to submit.
Landlords and tenants can apply for dispute resolution if they can’t resolve a problem related to their tenancy. The decision made after a dispute resolution hearing is final and binding.
Find out what you need to know about:
The Dispute Resolution Process
Dispute resolution is the formal process used for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants – it’s similar to a court proceeding. Both landlords and tenants can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for dispute resolution when they can’t resolve a problem related to a tenancy.
Most hearings are held over the phone. Hearings are held in person in limited situations when there’s a strong need for doing so, for example, to accommodate someone with a documented hearing loss or disability that would prevent them from participating in a teleconference hearing.
Apply for Dispute Resolution
Before applying for dispute resolution:
If you’re certain that dispute resolution is necessary, you will need to submit an application:
The Residential Tenancy Branch
The Residential Tenancy Branch is the authority for hearing all disputes between landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act and the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act. The branch schedules hearings and maintains all documents related to each case.
The Residential Tenancy Branch handles money claims that are $25,000 or less. Claims larger than that must be made through the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
An arbitrator conducts dispute resolution hearings – they’re responsible for:
- Managing time and communication used during the hearing
- Listening to testimony from all parties involved and considering evidence
- Making an impartial decision
Decisions are given within 30 days of the hearing date. All decisions are final and binding.
An arbitrator may make minor corrections or clarify a decision; however, no one can change the outcome of an original decision – not even an arbitrator. Decisions can only be overturned:
- If a review hearing is granted and a new arbitrator reaches a different conclusion
- By a judicial review conducted by the Supreme Court of British Columbia
Prepare for Your Hearing
Dispute resolution is a formal process for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants – similar to a court proceeding. It’s important to prepare well to present your case.
Once your application is processed, the next important step is serving the Notice of Hearing Package to each respondent.
Make Your Case
Evidence should be well-organized and put into the order that it will be presented at the hearing. Submit evidence along with your application or as soon as possible afterwards. Provide copies of evidence to the other party as soon as possible.
Parties to a dispute should prepare their presentation before the hearing. They should make notes about how they will tell their story and the order in which they will present evidence. For example:
- “The tenant had loud parties January 10, 17, 18 and 23. I gave written warnings on January 11, 18 and 19. On January 21, I gave an eviction notice. I have copies of the documents and witnesses to describe the disruptive parties.”
- “The security door was damaged on March 5. I gave three notes to the landlord asking him to fix it. I have a witness to confirm that the door is damaged and has not been fixed. I also have photographs of the damage.”
Witnesses must have first-hand information about the dispute – not just opinions or what someone else has told them. Witnesses should be prepared – make sure to discuss with them the points they will make when giving evidence. For example, other tenants may be invited to testify about the dates and times of loud and disruptive parties or their concern about an unsafe building.
Make sure witnesses know the date and time of the hearing and ask them to be available to testify. If a witness can’t be available for the hearing they can provide a written statement or an affidavit that has been sworn before a notary, a lawyer, or a commissioner of oaths
Witnesses will only participate in the hearing when they’re called upon to provide evidence. In a conference call hearing, they cannot be within hearing range of the call until they’re invited to give evidence.
Agents, Advocates and Assistants
Either party may have an agent or lawyer to represent them or an advocate to assist them. Parties may also use translators or any other person whose assistance they require in the hearing.
Parties using agents, lawyers, advocates, assistants or translators are responsible for any related fees. The Residential Tenancy Branch will provide reimbursement of fees for accredited American Sign Language interpreters used by parties who are deaf or hard of hearing. Parties who are represented by an advocate or agent, or require an assistant or translator, must ensure they are available for the date and time of the dispute resolution hearing. The arbitrator will not necessarily adjourn the hearing if a representative or translator is not in attendance.
Agent: Someone who appears at a hearing on behalf of a landlord or tenant – often a friend, family member, property manager or a member of the landlord’s staff. They have permission to speak, act and settle a claim on behalf of the tenant or landlord. Written permission from the party they’re representing is required if the party is not present at the hearing.
Advocate: A person who supports the landlord or tenant by offering advice, attending the hearing and providing assistance with presenting their case. Generally, an advocate is not named as a party to the hearing and an order is not made against the advocate. Some advocates are community-based legal advocates who have specific training in residential tenancy laws and procedures. Written permission from the party they’re representing is required if the party is not present at the hearing.
Assistant: Someone who provides help during the hearing – usually someone like a translator, interpreter, helper or family member. This role is not intended to speak on behalf of a party, though, they can repeat statements made by the person they’re assisting to help make them understood. For example, an assistant may help by translating the proceedings into another language, or they may help a person with disabilities better understand what’s happening. Wherever possible, assistants should not also be a witness at the hearing.
|If an agent, advocate or assistant needs to give testimony as a witness at the hearing, please let the arbitrator know this at the beginning of the hearing. They will be called before other witnesses so that their evidence is not influenced by the other testimony.|
It’s not common for parties to be represented by lawyers because the dispute resolution process is designed so that people can represent themselves.
You are allowed to have a lawyer if you want one. Coordination with a lawyer needs to be done before your hearing and you are responsible for paying any fees charged. Legal fees cannot be claimed as part of an application for dispute resolution.
A summons is an official order from an arbitrator that requires a person to attend a hearing to give evidence. A summons will only be considered if the information cannot be obtained in any other way. It’s a good idea to ask the person who has the evidence for it, before asking for a summons.
Either party can request a summons in writing and submit it with their application or as soon as possible afterwards.
The person requesting the summons must pay the costs of the party summoned to appear. The Dispute Resolution Rules of Procedureinclude guidelines for compensating the person summoned to appear.
After the Hearing
The arbitrator will make a decision and copies will be mailed to all parties within 30 days of the hearing – this decision is final and binding.
An arbitrator bases their decision on the:
- Facts specific to each case
- Information presented by both the landlord and tenant
- Law and legal precedent
Each hearing has a unique set of testimony and evidence. That means each hearing will have its own outcome – the arbitrator might not make a decision that’s similar to other decisions made in the past.
An arbitrator may make minor corrections or may clarify the decision. An arbitrator’s decision can only be overturned if a review hearing has been granted and the new arbitrator comes to a different conclusion or on judicial review by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Evidence should not be sent in after the hearing unless the arbitrator has specifically requested it. The arbitrator can’t consider evidence submitted after the hearing is over.
After a hearing decision is made, the Residential Tenancy Branch will provide enough copies of signed, original orders to the successful party – they are enforceable in the Provincial Court of British Columbia (Small Claims) or the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The Residential Tenancy Branch does not enforce orders.
The Residential Tenancy Branch will only consider imposing an administrative penalty in the most serious, repeated cases where a landlord or tenant:
- Has not obeyed arbitration orders
- Has acted against the Residential Tenancy Act or the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act
The Residential Tenancy Branch will consider the seriousness of the matter, how often it happened, what efforts were made to correct it and any financial benefit gained from the disobedience. Those facing administrative penalties will have an opportunity to review evidence against them and respond before a decision is made.