“Serving” a document means formally delivering a legal document to someone. When you need to serve your landlord with a legal document, you must use one of the allowed methods of service. Depending on the method of service, there are different timelines for when your landlord is considered to have received the document.
Your landlord must also comply with service requirements when serving you with legal documents, such as an eviction notice or notice of rent increase.
Any legal document relating to the tenancy, a dispute resolution hearing or decision, or court proceeding must be served on the other party. The following are examples of legal documents that need to be served in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act:
- Tenancy agreements
- Condition inspection reports
- Tenant’s notice to end tenancy
- Landlord’s notice to end tenancy
- Landlord’s notice of a rent increase
- Landlord’s notice to terminate or restrict a service or facility
- Notice of dispute resolution and hearing documents
- Evidence that will be used during a dispute resolution hearing
- Summons to testify as a witness
- An arbitrator’s decision and order
- Notice of a court proceeding to enforce an arbitrator’s decision
Most documents can be served in any of the following ways:
- leaving a copy directly with the person
- leaving a copy at the person’s residence with an adult who appears to live there
- leaving a copy with the landlord’s agent
- sending a copy via regular or registered mail to the person’s residence, or landlord’s business address
- leaving a copy in the person’s mail box or mail slot (slipping a document under a door is not allowed)
- attaching a copy to the door or other obvious space at the person’s residence, or a landlord’s business
Some documents are considered special documents and can only be served in particular ways.
A notice of dispute resolution or notice of a review consideration must be served in one of the following ways:
- leaving a copy with the person
- leaving a copy with the landlord’s agent
- registered mail to the person’s address, or if for a landlord, to their business address
When a landlord has an Order of Possession or applies to end a tenancy early, they must serve the notice in one of the following ways:
- leaving a copy with the tenant or an adult who apparently lives with the tenant
- sending a copy via registered mail to the tenant’s address
- attaching a copy to the door or other obvious place at the tenant’s address
- any other way ordered by the RTB
If you or your landlord is legally required to put something in writing, such as an official Residential Tenancy Branch form, it is best to avoid email, text messaging and social media, since those are not accepted methods of giving or serving documents according to the Residential Tenancy Act. For example, a landlord is not allowed to attach an eviction notice to an email. That would not be accepted as evidence at dispute resolution.
There may be other times when something is not required to be put in writing by law – for example, a request that your landlord make repairs. In these instances, emails, texts and social media messages may be considered acceptable evidence for dispute resolution. The important thing to remember is to have proof that your electronic communication was actually delivered. If your landlord acknowledges your emails, texts or social media messages by responding, then that is good evidence that they received your communication.
If you and your landlord both agree to communicate using email, text messaging or social media, you may want to include a term in your tenancy agreement stating your mutual willingness to use those methods of communication.
When serving a document on your landlord it is important to have proof of the date and method of service.
If you are delivering the notice in person, in a mail slot, or posting on the door, for example, you should bring a witness with you. If you send a document by mail, you should keep a copy of the receipt. If you fax a document, make sure to print a confirmation that the fax was sent.
During a dispute you may need to prove that you served your landlord by a required deadline using one of the accepted methods.
The day someone serves a document is not necessarily the day that the other person receives it. There are varying timelines for when a person is legally considered to have received a document, depending on the method of service:
- In person by giving it to your landlord – same day
- In person by giving it to adult who lives with them – same day
- In person by giving it to the landlord’s agent – same day
- Posting the notice on the landlords door – 3 days later
- Leaving the notice in the mailbox – 3 days later
- Faxing the notice – 3 days later
- Mailing the notice using regular or registered mail – 5 days later
It is important to know that these “deemed received” provisions only apply when there isn’t evidence showing that a document was actually received earlier. For example, if a notice is posted on a tenant’s door, and the landlord has evidence that the tenant saw it and took it down that same day, the landlord can assume that it has been received that same day, rather than three days later.
To be safe, always remember the following:
- When receiving documents, consider them received the day you actually receive them.
- When serving documents, consider them received based on the “deemed received” provisions listed above, unless you have proof that they were received earlier
I don’t have my landlord’s address
Your landlord is required to provide you with their legal name and an address for service in the tenancy agreement. If they did not do this, you can call and insist that they provide you with this information. If you normally deal with the landlord’s agent, such as a building manager, you can ask them.
If your landlord refuses to tell you their address, or you do not have their phone number, you can also consider a land title search (if the landlord is the legal owner of the property). See our page Finding Out Who My Landlord Is for more information.
I can’t serve my landlord using one of the allowable methods
If you are having trouble serving your landlord in one of the allowable methods – for example, if they live in another country and you can’t send them documents by registered mail – you can file an application for substituted service at the RTB. An arbitrator will decide whether to give you permission to use a different method of service. You will need to prove that you have made reasonable efforts to serve the documents in one of the allowable methods, and explain why you think a different method will work. There is a fee of $25, unless you are eligible for a fee waiver based on low-income.