The landlord-tenant relationship is like any other in that disputes can arise. For example, a landlord may claim that a tenant owes them money for damages or unpaid rent, while a tenant insists that their landlord is illegally raising the rent while failing to make necessary repairs. These disagreements can cost both sides a lot in terms of time, money, and frustration.
In British Columbia, these and similar situations are investigated and resolved by the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), which handles practically all disputes between the province’s landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act. Some of the biggest sources of conflict are examined at length below.
In British Columbia, a landlord can evict a tenant for reasons like the following, with the required notice period depending on why the eviction notice is being served.
Material breach of the rental agreement
Non-payment of rent
Cause or conduct
Landlord’s use of property
Tenants may apply to the RTB for dispute resolution in eviction cases. When the RTB issues a decision, it is considered both final and legally binding, unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:
Evidence not available during the original hearing comes to light
One party was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances
The original decision was made by fraudulent means
Both the landlord and the tenant have the right to petition the British Columbia Supreme Court for a judicial review if the original decision contains an error in procedure or law.
Tenants are required to pay each month’s rent in full on the day it comes due, but provincial law permits them to deduct money from the amount owed when one of these five circumstances apply:
An arbitrator’s ruling permits the withholding
The landlord has illegally increased the rent
The tenant has been overcharged for a pet damage or security deposit
The landlord denies a written request from the tenant for reimbursement of emergency repairs
Under no circumstances can a tenant simply stop paying at all, no matter how justified they may feel in doing so. Doing so gives the landlord a legal right to issue an eviction notice.
Violations of Privacy
Landlords are required to give tenants 24 hours’ notice before they enter the premises, unless emergency circumstances apply. If a tenant can prove that their landlord violated their privacy by entering the property illegally, they can apply to the RTB for an order for a lock change. The landlord may not have a new key and can only access the unit according to the terms of the order.
As per the British Columbia Residential Tenancy Guide, landlords and tenants should try to resolve their differences before the issue escalates. Should this prove impossible, the RTB will attempt to reach a dispute resolution that is as fair as possible to both sides while remaining in accord with provincial law.