PREPARING FOR A HEARING
Yes. You will need to submit relevant evidence to have success at dispute resolution. In addition to submitting evidence, it is a good idea to submit a written submission or statement (see section below).
Examples of evidence:
- Tenancy agreement
- Copies of written communication
- Video/audio recordings
- Witness statements
- Sworn affidavit
Deadlines to submit evidence
When possible, the person applying for dispute resolution is required to submit evidence with their application. If that is not possible, both the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) and the other party must receive the evidence at least 14 days before the hearing. If the last day to submit evidence to the RTB falls on a holiday or weekend, the deadline becomes the next day the office is open. Always submit evidence as soon as possible because the arbitrator may refuse to consider your evidence if the landlord can prove that you delayed submitting it.
The person responding to the original application must ensure that all of their evidence is received by the RTB and the other party at least 7 days before the hearing. Again, if the evidence is submitted late, the arbitrator will have to decide whether or not to consider it.
If your landlord brings up evidence during a dispute resolution hearing that you did not receive in time, you can ask the arbitrator not to consider it, or to adjourn (postpone) the hearing to a later date so that you can prepare a response.
The timelines listed above are for the date the other party and RTB receive the evidence. This means that you need to take into account the method you use for serving evidence on your landlord and submitting evidence to the RTB, because the day the documents are considered received by the other party is not always the same day that you serve them.
Timeline for receipt of documents
- In person – same day
- Leaving in a mail slot or mail box – 3 days later
- Fax – 3 days later
- Posting on a door or other obvious place – 3 days later
- Registered or regular mail – 5 days later
See our page on Serving Documents for more information.
The Residential Tenancy Branch Rules of Procedure for dispute resolution hearings require that all evidence be organized, clear, and legible. Everyone involved in the hearing must receive an identical evidence package, within the time limits discussed above. You should only submit evidence that is relevant to the issue being addressed in the hearing.
The first page of your evidence package should be an index, with a list of all the included evidence and page numbers. If an arbitrator thinks that your evidence is not organized, clear, or legible, or that it is not relevant to the issue being disputed, they may refuse to consider it.
There are special rules for digital evidence. First, you must ensure that both the RTB and your landlord will be able to play the digital evidence during the hearing. To do this, ask both your landlord and the RTB in writing to tell you if they have equipment available to play your evidence. They should respond as soon as possible, or at least in time to ensure that all parties can receive the digital evidence at least 7 days before the hearing.
When you submit your digital evidence, you must also submit the Digital Evidence Details Form. That form provides:
- A table of contents.
- Identification of photographs, such as a logical number system.
- A statement for each digital file describing its contents.
- A time code for the key point in each audio or video recording.
- A statement as to the significance of each digital file.
A written submission is a statement that includes details about what happened, and your argument for why you should win the hearing. If possible, type your submission instead of writing it by hand. It is important to submit a written argument for several reasons:
- It will help the arbitrator better understand your case, and allow them to review your argument before and after the hearing.
- If you forget to say something during the hearing, the arbitrator will still have the information in your written submission.
- It will help you present your case in an organized and clear way during the hearing.
- The RTB does not record dispute resolution hearings. This means that if you lose the hearing, and wish to file for a review consideration or judicial review of the decision, the new arbitrator or judge will not be able to listen to what you said during the hearing. They will, however, review a written submission.
What should the written submission say?
Your submission should contain the following sections:
- Introduction – In 2 or 3 sentences state what the dispute is about.
- Background / Facts – Describe the facts that led to the dispute. What happened? You may want to reference some of your evidence here. (For example, you might say “on April 1, 2014, I signed a tenancy agreement, which is attached here on page…”)
- Law / Policy – Cite relevant sections of the Residential Tenancy Act, other pieces of law, or RTB Policy Guidelines
- Argument – Explain why you should win the hearing. This might include a description of why your landlord’s evidence or argument is inaccurate or weak. Again, you may need to cite law / policy to strengthen your argument.
- Remedy Sought – Tell the arbitrator what you want the outcome of the hearing to be. For example, you want a Notice to End Tenancy to be cancelled, you want an order requiring the landlord to pay you money, or you want an order that your landlord make repairs, etc.
In some situations you may want to apply for an order that your landlord pay you money to compensate for an expense or loss that you have incurred. This is called a monetary order. You will need to complete and submit the Monetary Order Worksheet, which gives an explanation for how you calculated the amount of money you are seeking.
In order to be awarded damages you will need to provide evidence of the following:
- That the damage exists.
- That the damage or loss happened because of the actions or neglect of your landlord, in violation of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) or your tenancy agreement.
- Verification of the actual amount of money necessary to compensate you for your loss or rectify the damage.
- That you took steps to minimize your landlord’s loss.
If your landlord has applied for compensation against you, they will also need to submit evidence to satisfy the four-part test above. In preparing your response, think about how you can show that your landlord’s evidence does not satisfy the four-part test.
An arbitrator can award damages up to the amount that you request, but it is important to only ask for an accurate and reasonable amount of damages.
In some situations, tenants can request that their landlord be ordered to pay them aggravated damages. Aggravated damages is money that a landlord must pay to compensate for serious suffering, which might not have a dollar value. Examples include if a tenant has experienced physical injury or illness, mental suffering, humiliation, etc. due to a landlord not complying with the RTA or the tenancy agreement. You must specifically request a monetary order for aggravated damages.
It’s a good idea to practice presenting your case before the hearing. Do this with a friend, or someone who can give you feedback.
You may want to make notes to use during the hearing, or use your written submission as a guide. Write down the page numbers for any evidence you will ask the arbitrator to look at.
Some points to remember while practicing:
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Think about what the landlord might say, and prepare your response ahead of time.
- Anticipate difficult topics. It’s important to stay calm and respectful during the hearing; if you know that a particular subject will upset you, spend extra time practicing that part of your presentation.
- Prepare a shorter version of your presentation. Ideally, you will be given enough time to tell your side of the story; however, you may run out of time, or you may have an arbitrator that only lets you speak for a few minutes. You should be ready to quickly state your most important points, if necessary.
If another relevant issue comes up while you are waiting for your hearing, or you want to change the amount of money that you are asking for, you can amend your original application. To do this, complete the form Amendment to an Application for Dispute Resolution.
You must submit this form, along with any evidence to support why you are amending your application to the RTB at least 14 days before the hearing. The form can be submitted in person, by fax, or by mail.
Your landlord must also receive a copy of the Amendment to an Application for Dispute Resolution form, as well as all of your supporting evidence, at least 14 days before the hearing. Make sure to serve your landlord using one of the allowable methods of service, and keep proof of service.
The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) will reschedule a hearing if both the landlord and tenant agree in writing. If your landlord agrees, the RTB must receive written consent from both of you by 12:00pm at least 3 business days before the hearing.
If your landlord does not agree to reschedule the hearing, it will begin at the scheduled time but you can request that the arbitrator adjourn (postpone) the hearing. In this case, an arbitrator will only agree to adjourn a hearing if you are unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances that are beyond your control. An example of this could be if you are in the hospital.
There are 2 options for requesting that an arbitrator postpone the hearing:
- If you know ahead of time that you will be unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances, you can submit a written request to the RTB at least 3 business days before the hearing. Explain in your request why you will be unable to attend.
- You can have someone else attend the hearing for you to request that it be adjourned, and explain why you were unable to attend.
It will be up to the arbitrator to decide if the hearing should be adjourned. If the arbitrator does not agree to adjourn the hearing, it will proceed without you. If this happens, and your landlord wins the hearing, you can apply for a review consideration of the decision if you believe you were unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances.
See our page I Disagree with my Dispute Resolution Decision for more information.