According to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Guide, all disagreements present between a landlord and tenant should be acknowledged during its early stages. It is important that both parties attempt to resolve them before they develop into larger issues. In turn, whether you are the landlord or the tenant, it is crucial that you know your rights and responsibilities under the law and the terms of your tenancy agreement. However, in the event that an agreement cannot be arrived at, the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) can be contacted for assistance.
The RTB is a department under the provincial government that is in charge of residential tenancy law. It predominantly handles dispute resolution and is thus often referred to as B.C.’s tenant-landlord “court”. Hearings are scheduled and evidence pertaining to the dispute is documented. Essentially, tenants and landlords can apply to have an arbitrator make a legally-binding decision to resolve their issues. Arbitrators are responsible for the following:
- Listening to testimonies given by all parties.
- Evaluating evidence provided by all parties.
- Remaining impartial during the decision process.
- Conducting hearings.
It is important to note that as of June 1, 2017, the RTB only handles money claims that are no more than $35,000. Those larger must be made through the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Why do Tenants Apply for Dispute Resolution?
- Dispute a Notice to End Tenancy.
- Question any additional rent increases.
- Settle money owed by the landlord.
- Request that a landlord make reasonable repairs to the property.
Why do Landlords Apply for Dispute Resolution?
- Apply for an Order of Possession when a tenant has not moved out on an agreed upon date.
- Settle money owed by the tenant, including unpaid rent and property damages.
- As aforementioned, prior to applying for dispute resolution, try to fix the problem by communicating and researching past arbitration decisions. When doing so, make sure that both parties have a clear understanding of the issue. Sufficient time must be given in order to evaluate potential solutions. It may be a good idea to document the happenings during these tenant-landlord meetings.
- If a dispute resolution is absolutely necessary, an online application can be submitted.
- Note that applications must be made within two years of ending tenancy. Claims can only be made after the two-year deadline if one of the parties had already filed a claim within that period. However, the latter claim must be made before the first is heard.
- After your application has been accepted, you will be given a package of hearing documents including instructions on how to prepare for your hearing. You will have three days to provide these documents to the respondent.
- The RTB will provide a decision within 30 days of the hearing date. These decisions are final and binding. They can only be reversed given that:
- a new arbitrator reaches a different conclusion if a review hearing is granted; or
- the Supreme Court of British Columbia provides a judicial review.