PARTICIPATING IN A HEARING
Dispute resolution hearings are almost always held over the phone. When you apply for dispute resolution, you will be given a hearing package with instructions on how to connect to the conference call. Make sure to keep these instructions in a safe place and have them ready for the start of your hearing. It is always a good idea to connect to the conference call early, so that you have time to address any potential technical issues before the hearing starts. If you are unable to connect to the conference call due to matters outside of your control, you may have to submit an Application for Review Consideration.
The arbitrator will explain how the hearing will proceed and address any preliminary matters. This is the time to mention anything that needs to be dealt with before the hearing starts. For example, you may have to mention that an advocate will be representing you, a witness will be providing evidence, or that you need to amend your application.
Requesting an adjournment: You may need to request that your hearing be adjourned (rescheduled). For example, this could happen if you did not receive your landlord’s evidence in time to prepare a response. The decision to adjourn the hearing or proceed with the hearing will be up to the arbitrator handling your case.
You should be given a fair chance to argue your case, ask questions, and share evidence, including witness testimonies. Make sure to present your evidence clearly and concisely, and avoid raising issues that are irrelevant to your application. It is important to guide the arbitrator through your evidence; do not assume that they will understand everything on their own.
The applicant generally presents their evidence first, followed by the respondent. One exception to this rule is when a tenant is disputing an eviction notice. For those hearings, the respondent landlord must present their evidence first and explain why the eviction notice should be upheld. The tenant will then be given a chance to present their own evidence and defend their housing.
Negotiating a settlement: The arbitrator may suggest that you and your landlord negotiate a settlement during the hearing. Do not feel pressured to agree to a settlement unless you are completely satisfied with the terms.
Behaviour: Participating in a dispute resolution hearing can be an emotional experience, but it is important to always act in a professional manner and not interrupt anyone while they are speaking. Instead, write down your questions or concerns so that you can address them later. Speak clearly and respectfully to both the arbitrator and your landlord, and never raise your voice or use inappropriate language. Bad behaviour could hurt your credibility and, in turn, your chances of winning your hearing. If you believe it will be difficult to remain professional at your hearing, consider asking a friend, family member, or legal advocate to help you present your case.
At the end of the hearing, the arbitrator may inform you of their decision or they may decide to take more time to review the evidence. According to section 77 of the Residential Tenancy Act, arbitrators are required to reach a decision within 30 days. For hearings about eviction notices and other urgent matters, arbitrators will usually make their decision within a few days.