Residential Tenancy Lawyers – What We Can Do to Help
At Pax Law Corporation, we are effective, client-centred, and top-rated. We will work with you to understand your case, identify the best path forward, and implement the best legal strategy to get the results you deserve. We will assist you in resolving your landlord-tenant disputes by negotiation if possible, and through litigation if needed.
For landlords, we can assist you with the following:
- Consultations about the rights and responsibilities of landlords;
- Consultations about resolving disputes during the tenancy;
- Assistance with preparing residential tenancy agreement;
- Issues with unpaid rent;
- Preparing and serving eviction notices;
- Representation during Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”) hearings;
- Enforcing your order of possession in the Supreme Court; and
- Defending you against Human Rights claims.
We assist tenants with the following:
- Consultations to explain their rights and responsibilities as a tenant;
- Assistance with resolving disputes during the tenancy;
- Reviewing a residential tenancy agreement or contract with them and explaining the contents;
- Reviewing your case and advising on dealing with your eviction notice;
- Representation during RTB hearings;
- Judicial review of RTB decisions in the Supreme Court; and
- Claims against landlords.
warning: The Information on This Page is Provided to Assist the Reader and Is Not a Replacement for Legal Advice from A Qualified Lawyer.
Residential Tenancy Act (the “RTA”) and Regulations
The Residential Tenancy Act, [SBC 2002] CHAPTER 78 is an act of the Legislative of Assembly of the province of British Columbia. Therefore, it applies to residential tenancies within British Columbia. The RTA is meant to regulate the landlord-tenant relationship. It is not an Act to exclusively protect landlords or tenants. Instead, it is a law meant to make it easier and more economically viable for landlords to enter into rental agreements in the province of British Columbia. Similarly, it is an Act to protect some rights of tenants while recognizing the valid property interest of landlords.
What Is a Residential Tenancy under the RTA?
Section 4 of the RTA defines a residential tenancy as:
2(1) Despite any other enactment but subject to section 4[what this Act does not apply to], this Act applies to tenancy agreements, rental units and other residential property.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in this Act, this Act applies to a tenancy agreement entered into before or after the date this Act comes into force.https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/02078_01#section2
However, section 4 of the RTA sets out some exceptions to section 2 and explains in what circumstances the landlord-tenant relationship will not be regulated by the Act:
4 This Act does not apply to
(a) living accommodation rented by a not for profit housing cooperative to a member of the cooperative,
(b) living accommodation owned or operated by an educational institution and provided by that institution to its students or employees,
(c) living accommodation in which the tenant shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner of that accommodation,
(d) living accommodation included with premises that
(i) are primarily occupied for business purposes, and
(ii) are rented under a single agreement,
(e) living accommodation occupied as vacation or travel accommodation,
(f) living accommodation provided for emergency shelter or transitional housing,
(g) living accommodation
(i) in a community care facility under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act,
(ii) in a continuing care facility under the Continuing Care Act,
(iii) in a public or private hospital under the Hospital Act,
(iv) if designated under the Mental Health Act, in a Provincial mental health facility, an observation unit or a psychiatric unit,
(v) in a housing based health facility that provides hospitality support services and personal health care, or
(vi) that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment or services,
(h) living accommodation in a correctional institution,
(i) living accommodation rented under a tenancy agreement that has a term longer than 20 years,
(j) tenancy agreements to which the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act applies, or
(k) prescribed tenancy agreements, rental units or residential property.https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/02078_01#section4
To summarize the RTA, some of the most important landlord-tenant relationships that are not regulated by the Act are:
|Non-profit cooperatives as the landlord||If your landlord is a non-profit cooperative and you are a member of that cooperative.|
|Dormitories and other student housing||If your landlord is your university, college, or another educational institution and you are a student or employee of that institution.|
|Boarding houses||If you share bathroom OR kitchen facilities with your landlord, AND your landlord owns the home you live in.|
|Emergency Shelters and Transitional Housing||If you live in an emergency shelter or transitional housing (such as a halfway house).|
If you have questions about whether or not your residential tenancy agreement is regulated by the RTA, you can get in touch with Pax Law’s Landlord-tenant lawyers to find out the answers to your questions.
The Residential Tenancy Act is Unavoidable
If the RTA applies to a tenancy, it cannot be avoided or contracted out of:
- If the landlord or the tenant did not know that the RTA applied to their tenancy contract, the RTA would still apply.
- If the landlord and the tenant agreed that the RTA would not apply to the tenancy, the RTA would still apply.
It is crucial for parties to a tenancy agreement to know whether or not the RTA applied to their contract.
5(1) Landlords and tenants may not avoid or contract out of this Act or the regulations.
(2) Any attempt to avoid or contract out of this Act or the regulations is of no effect.Residential Tenancy Act (gov.bc.ca)
Residential Tenancy Agreements
The RTA requires all landlords to comply with the following requirements:
12 (1) A landlord must ensure that a tenancy agreement is
(a) in writing,
(b) signed and dated by both the landlord and the tenant,
(c) in type no smaller than 8 point, and
(d) written so as to be easily read and understood by a reasonable person.
(2) A landlord must ensure that the terms of a tenancy agreement required under section 13 [requirements for a tenancy agreement] of the Act and section 13 [standard terms] of this regulation are set out in the tenancy agreement in a manner that makes them clearly distinguishable from terms that are not required under those sectionsResidential Tenancy Regulation (gov.bc.ca)
Therefore the landlord-tenant relationship must be started by the landlord by preparing a tenancy agreement in writing, typed in a font of at least size 8, and including all the required “standard terms” set out in section 13 of the Residential Tenancy Regulations.
The RTB has prepared a blank form residential tenancy agreement and has made it available for use by landlords and tenants on its website:
It is our recommendation that landlord and tenants use the form provided by RTB and consult a landlord-tenant lawyer before making any changes to the tenancy agreement they intend to sign.
What Tenants Need to Know About Their Rental Homes
What Renters Should Know Before Signing a Rental Agreement
There is a glut of renters and a low number of vacant units in the rental market of British Columbia and the Greater Vancouver Metropolitan Area. As a result, home-seekers often have to search for a property for a long time and may become subject to non-scrupulous individuals running various rental scams. Below is a list of some recommendations we have to avoid rental scams:
|Warning Sign||Why You Should Be Wary|
|Landlord Charging an Application Fee||Charging an application fee is illegal under the RTA. It is not a good sign if a potential landlord is breaking the law from the first moment.|
|Rent too Low||If it seems too good to be true, it probably is not true. The tight rental market in BC means landlords can often charge high rents, and you should be wary if rent is suspiciously low for a unit.|
|No in-person viewing||Scammers can always post a unit for rent on a website without being its owner. However, you should always check to the best of your ability that your landlord is the owner of the unit. Pax Law’s landlord-tenant lawyers can assist you with obtaining a State of the Title Certificate for a unit showing the name of the registered owner of the unit.|
|Early request for deposit||If the landlord requests a deposit (sent through mail or e-transfer) before showing you the unit, they will probably take the deposit and run.|
|Landlord too eager||If the landlord is in a hurry and pressuring you to make decisions, it is possible that they do not own the unit and only have temporary access, during which they must convince you to pay them some money. The scammer may have access to the unit as a short-term renter (for example, through AirBnB) or through some other method.|
Most legitimate landlords make one or more of the below inquiries prior to entering into a legal tenancy agreement:
|Reference Check||Landlords will often ask for references prior to agreeing to accept a rental application.|
|Credit Check||Landlords will often ask for credit reports of individuals to ensure that they are financially responsible and able to pay rent on time. If you do not want to provide personal information to landlords to authorize a credit check, you can obtain credit checks from TransUnion and Equifax yourself and provide copies to your landlord.|
|Rental Application||You may be expected to fill out a form and provide some information about yourself, your family situation, any pets, and so on.|
The Rental Agreement
The rental agreement provided to you by your landlord must include the statutorily required terms. However, a landlord can add additional terms to the lease agreement beyond those covered under the statute. For example, terms can be added to prohibit the tenant from having additional occupants living in the property.
Below are some of the most important terms to review in a tenancy contract:
- Time: Whether the tenancy is a fixed-length tenancy or a month-to-month tenancy. Fixed-length tenancies provide more protection to tenants during their term and automatically become a month-to-month tenancy after the end of the fixed term unless both the landlord and the tenant agree to end the tenancy or to enter into a new fixed-length tenancy agreement.
- Rent: The amount of the rent due, other amounts due for utilities, laundry, cable, or etc, and other refundable or non-refundable fees that may be payable. The landlord can require the tenant to pay separately for services such as electricity and hot water.
- Deposit: The landlord may request up to 50% of one month’s rent as a security deposit and another 50% of one month’s rent as a pet deposit.
- Pets: The landlord may place restrictions on the tenant’s ability to have and keep pets in the unit.
During the Tenancy
The landlord has ongoing responsibilities to the tenant throughout the length of their tenancy. For example, the landlord must:
- Repair and maintain the rental property to the standards required by law and the rental agreement.
- Provide emergency repair for situations such as major leaks, damaged plumbing, dysfunctional primary heating or electrical systems, and damaged locks.
- Provide regular repairs if the damage was not caused by the tenant or the tenant’s family or guests.
The landlord has the right to inspect the rental unit upon notice to the tenant during the course of the tenancy. However, the landlord does not have the right to harass the tenant or unreasonably disturb the tenant’s quite use and enjoyment of the rental unit.
What Landlords Need to Know About Their Property
Before Signing a Rental Agreement
We recommend that you do a thorough investigation of your potential tenants and only enter into a tenancy agreement with those individuals who are likely to abide by the terms of the agreement, respect your property, and reside in your unit without causing undue problems for you or your neighbours.
If your tenant does not have good credit or a track record of paying their financial obligations promptly and regularly, you can ask that another individual guarantee their obligations on the tenancy agreement. The landlord-tenant lawyers at Pax Law can assist you by drafting a Guarantee and Financial Indemnity addendum to the standard rental agreement terms.
The Rental Agreement
You are responsible for preparing a rental agreement with all the required terms to protect your rights. The residential tenancy lawyers at Pax Law Corporation can assist you with preparing your rental agreement, including any terms that are additional to the standard terms provided by the RTB. You must ensure you and the tenant both sign and date the tenancy agreement. We recommend that this signing be done in the presence of at least one witness, who should also put their name on the agreement as a witness. Once the tenancy agreement is signed, you must provide a copy of it to the tenant.
During the Tenancy
At the beginning of the tenancy, a Condition Inspection of the unit must be performed in the presence of the landlord and the tenant. If the Condition Inspection is not performed at the beginning and the end of the tenancy, the landlord will not have the right to deduct any amount from the security deposit. The RTB provides a form to assist landlords and tenants with the Condition Inspection process.
You must bring a copy of the above form to the Condition Inspection (“walkthrough”) and fill it out with the tenant. Once the form is filled out, both parties must sign it. You should provide a copy of this document to the tenant for their records.
Pax Law’s residential tenancy lawyers can assist you with any other issues that may arise during the term of your agreement, including but not limited to:
- Issues with damage to the property;
- Complaints against the tenant;
- Breaches of the terms of the tenancy agreement; and
- Eviction for any legal reason, such as the landlord’s use of the property, repeated late payment of rent, or unpaid rent.
Eviction Notices and What Landlords and Tenants Need to Know
A landlord can end a tenancy by giving a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy. Some of the legal reasons for giving a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy to a tenant are:
- Unpaid rent or utilities;
- For Cause;
- Landlord’s use of property; and
- Demolition or conversion of rental property to another use.
The procedure and legal steps to evict a tenant depend on the reasons for the eviction. However, a quick summary is provided below:
How a landlord can legally evict a tenant:
- Prepare a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy:
You must give appropriate notice to the tenant. Appropriate notice means a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy in the form approved by RTB, which gives the tenant the required amount of time before they must vacate the property. The approved form and required amount of time will be different depending on the reason to end the tenancy.
- Serve the Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy
You must serve the Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy on the tenant. The RTB has strict requirements about how service is to be performed and when a document is considered “served.”
- Obtain Order of Possession
If the tenant does not leave the rental unit by 1:00 P.M. on the date stated on the Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy, the landlord has the right to apply to the RTB for an order of possession. An order of possession is an order of the RTB arbitrator telling the tenant to leave the property.
- Obtain Writ of Possession
If the tenant disobeys the RTB order of possession and does not leave the unit, you must apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to obtain a writ of possession. You can hire a bailiff to remove a tenant and their belongings once you have received a writ of possession.
- Hire Bailiff
You can hire a bailiff to remove the tenant and their possessions.
Tenants also have the option to end their tenancy early by giving the landlord a Tenant’s Notice to End Tenancy.
Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”)
The RTB is an administrative tribunal, which means that it is an organization empowered by the government to resolve certain disputes instead of the courts.
In Landlord-Tenant disputes that fall under the purview of the Residential Tenancy Act, the RTB often has jurisdiction to make a decision regarding the conflict. RTB is intended to be an accessible, easy-to-use avenue for addressing and resolving conflicts between landlords and tenants. Unfortunately, landlord-tenant disputes are often complicated, and as a result, the rules and procedures for resolving those disputes have also become complicated.
The RTB operates based on its rules of procedure, which are available online. If you are involved in a RTB dispute, it is imperative that you learn about the RTB’s rules of procedure and follow those rules to the best of you ability. Many RTB cases have been won or lost due to one party’s failure to follow the rules.
If you need help with an RTB case, Pax Law’s landlord-tenant lawyers have the experience and knowledge to assist you with your RTB dispute case. Get in touch with us today.
Human Rights Tribunal (“HRT”) Disputes Related to Residential Tenancies
Residential Tenancies are one aspect of your daily lives where the Human Rights Act of British Columbia applies to protect every person’s basic rights and dignity. The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of the prohibited grounds (including age, sex, ethnicity, religion, and disability) in relation to certain aspects of our day-to-day lives, including:
- Housing; and
- Provision of goods and services.
If you are involved in a human rights claims in relation to a residential tenancy, Pax Law can assist you in resolving your matter by negotiation, at mediation, or at the hearing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Your landlord can access the property after giving your proper notice. To give you notice, the landlord must inform you 24 hours in advance of the visit about the time of entry, the purpose of entry, and the date of entry in writing.
A landlord can only enter a rental unit for reasonable purposes, including:
1. To protect life or property during an emergency.
2. The tenant is at home and agrees to allows the landlord to enter.
3. The tenant agreed to allow landlord entry no more than 30 days before the time of access.
4. The rental unit has been abandoned by the tenant.
5. The landlord has an arbitrator’s order or court order to enter the rental unit
Based on the reason for eviction and the parties involved, an eviction can take as few as 10 days or months. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
Your landlord must serve you with a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy to start the process of eviction. Your first, very time-sensitive, step is to dispute the Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy with the Residential Tenancy Branch. You will then have to gather evidence and prepare for your dispute hearing. If you are successful at the hearing, the notice to end tenancy will be cancelled by order of the Arbitrator at the RTB. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
The notice period required depends on the reason for eviction. A 10-day notice to end tenancy is required if the reason for the eviction is unpaid rent. A 1-month notice is required to evict a tenant for cause. A two-month notice is required to evict a tenant for the landlord’s use of the property. Other notice amounts are required for other reasons for eviction. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
You must start a dispute with the Residential Tenancy Branch to obtain an order of possession. Subsequently, you can go to the Supreme Court to obtain a writ of possession. A writ of possession allows you to hire a bailiff to remove the tenant from the property. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
You can dispute an eviction notice by filing a dispute with the residential tenancy branch. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
Yes. You can sue your landlord in the Residential Tenancy Branch, the Small Claims court, or the Supreme Court. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case, especially regarding how to sue your landlord.
No. A landlord must give the tenant the proper notice to end tenancy and follow the legally required steps. A landlord is not permitted to physically remove the tenant or the tenant’s property from the unit without a writ of possession from the Supreme Court.
A landlord can serve their tenant with a 10-day notice of end of tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities.
Yes. A residential lease agreement can be ended by the landlord if they have proper reasons. The landlord must serve a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy on the tenant.
An illegal eviction is an eviction for improper reasons or an eviction that does not follow the legal steps set out in the Residential Tenancy Act or other applicable legislation.
A bailiff can cost the landlord from $1,000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the work that has to be performed.
The Residential Tenancy Act sets out the required notice periods that landlords must give their tenants if the landlord intends to end the tenancy. We recommend speaking with a qualified lawyer for specific advice on your case.
If a tenant receives a landlord’s notice to end tenancy, they must either dispute the notice or move out by 1 P.M. on the date set out on the notice.
The tenant must also move out if the landlord has obtained an order of possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch.
On the date the tenancy ends, a tenant has to move out by 1 P.M.
The least notice a landlord can give a tenant is a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities, which is a 10-day notice.
Yes. Non-payment of rent or repeated late payments of rent are both reasons for eviction.
Yes. There are no restrictions on evicting a person in winter in BC. However, the eviction process can take many months to bear fruit. So if you have been served a Landlord’s Notice to End Tenancy in winter, you can stretch out the process by filing a dispute at the RTB.
The only way to evict a tenant without going to court is to convince the tenant to agree to a mutual end to tenancy.
If your landlord has not followed the laws set out in the Residential Tenancy Act, you can file a claim against them at the Residential Tenancy Branch.
According to CBC News, an emergency dispute hearing took approximately 4 weeks to be heard in September 2022. A regular dispute hearing took approximately 14 weeks.
No. A tenant can only withhold rent under very specific conditions, such as when they have an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch permitting them to withhold rent.