Every tenant has a right to “quiet enjoyment”. This means that tenants are entitled to:
- reasonable privacy
- freedom from unreasonable disturbances
- exclusive use of their rental unit (unless the landlord is allowed to enter by law), and
- use of common areas for reasonable and lawful purposes
- Freedom to have guests visit under reasonable circumstances
- A safe and well-maintained property
In the same way that other tenants must respect your right to quiet enjoyment, so too must you respect their right to quiet enjoyment.
If one of your neighbouring tenants is violating your right to quiet enjoyment, it is not your responsibility to approach that neighbour and resolve the problem. It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure that all tenants are respecting each other’s quiet enjoyment. The best way to address the problem is to stay calm, and start keeping a written record of the date, time and nature of the disruptions. If possible, try to have someone witness these disruptions too.
You should also contact your landlord in writing. See TRAC’s template letter, Loss of Quiet Enjoyment. Once you have informed your landlord, they have a legal obligation to protect your right to quiet enjoyment. If your landlord does not respond to your complaint in a helpful way, you can apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch. Keep in mind that this dispute would be against your landlord for failing to resolve your complaint, not your neighbour. Through dispute resolution, you can ask for monetary compensation and an order that your quiet enjoyment no longer be violated. In cases where the breach was very serious, and caused intangible damage (i.e. damage that does not have a dollar value), such as emotional suffering, humiliation, or health problems, you can request to be awarded aggravated damages.
In order to legally enter a rental unit, landlords must provide tenants with written notice no less than 24 hours, and no more than 30 days, before entering. This notice must state the:
- the time (between 8am and 9pm), and
- a reasonable reason for entry, such as carrying out a monthly inspection or making repairs.
As long as a landlord has followed the law and given proper notice, they are allowed to enter, even if you are not home at that time. Landlords are allowed to inspect units once per month, if they provide proper notice.
If your landlord enters your unit illegally, you should request in writing that they follow the legal requirements. See TRAC’s template letter, Landlord’s Right to Enter a Rental Unit Restricted. If your landlord continues to enter your unit illegally, and you have enough evidence, you can apply for dispute resolution for an order allowing you to change the locks. You can also ask for monetary compensation for past illegal entries, and an order telling your landlord to follow the law in the future.
There are certain situations when a landlord is allowed to enter the unit without notice or consent:
- there is an emergency and entry is necessary to protect life or property
- they have obtained a Residential Tenancy Branch order granting permission
- the landlord needs to provide housekeeping services in accordance with the tenancy agreement
- you abandon the rental property (see our page on Abandonment of Property)
The right to quiet enjoyment does not mean freedom from all noise. You should expect to hear some noise from your neighbours, especially if you live in an older building without sound proofing. At the same time, you are allowed to have guests over, but always remember to be mindful that the noise you create travels to other units.
Frequent and excessive noise may be considered a loss of quiet enjoyment. If a landlord is renovating the building for an extended period of time or another tenant is having loud parties at night, these may be breaches of quiet enjoyment. A landlord can only be expected to intervene if notified about the problem, so it is important to inform your landlord in writing if you have any concerns.
If you receive a notice to end tenancy for disturbing other tenants, you have the right to dispute the notice through the Residential Tenancy Branch. Your landlord would need to prove that the disturbance was significant. Arbitrators will often cancel a notice to end tenancy for a first time offence, but not always. It is up to each arbitrator to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to uphold the notice to end tenancy
Keep in mind that in buildings with a “no-smoking” policy, some tenants may still be allowed to smoke if they lived in the building before the policy was introduced. If this is the case, remember that the smokers in your building are still not allowed to ruin your quiet enjoyment.
Quiet enjoyment is a very important principle in the Residential Tenancy Act that gives tenants the right to be free from unreasonable disturbances. If you are being bothered by second-hand smoke, tell your landlord in writing. Within a reasonable period of time, your landlord should take steps to minimize the disturbance. They may not be able to tell other tenants to stop smoking entirely, but they should try to ensure that your right to quiet enjoyment is no longer being violated. If you are a non-smoker and concerned about being exposed to second-hand smoke, make sure to find out the rules for not only your unit, but the entire building.
If you or your guests do smoke, it is equally important that you understand the rules about smoking. Are you allowed to smoke inside the rental unit? Can you only smoke on the balcony? Are there designated common areas for smoking? Remember, you are not allowed to ruin other tenants’ quiet enjoyment.
Whenever possible, eliminate the potential for future conflict. If you have to go to the street to smoke, consider whether this is realistic and safe for you or your guests. If you smoke, don’t rent in a non-smoking building, thinking it will pressure you to quit. Be realistic with yourself.
Your landlord is never allowed to intimidate, threaten or harass you. Just like how a doctor must act professionally about matters related to your health, your landlord should treat you professionally when dealing with your tenancy. Of course, you should also act in a professional and respectful manner when dealing with your landlord.
If your landlord’s behaviour interferes with your personal safety, you can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for monetary compensation, the right to change your locks, and an order telling your landlord to follow the law. Alternatively, you could consider ending your tenancy early for breach of a material term. See our page on Breaching Important Terms for more information.
If your landlord or another tenant ever physically hurts you, threatens to hurt you, forcibly enters your home, or puts you in danger, contact the police immediately.
Landlords are responsible for ensuring the rental property meets health, safety, and housing standards. If your unit has fallen into disrepair to a point where it is unsafe to occupy, this could constitute a breach of quiet enjoyment. See our page on Repairs and Maintenance for more information.
If the disturbance is so severe that you cannot continue to occupy the unit, you may be able to end your tenancy based on a breach of a material term. You would need to first inform the landlord in writing, and allow a reasonable amount of time for the problem to be fixed before giving notice. The test for breaching a material term is high, and if your landlord tries to seek compensation from you for leaving early, you will need to be able to prove that the disturbance was so significant that the tenancy could not continue. You may wish to speak to an RTB Information Officer before ending your tenancy for a breach of material term.
See our page on Breaching Important Terms for more information.