Alternatives to Dispute Resolution



The Basics

The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) adjudicates most rental disputes in BC, but there are some exceptions. If your tenancy is not covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) – or if it is covered, but the type of dispute falls outside the jurisdiction of the RTB – you may have to access a different tribunal or court. Here are the most common examples:

  • Civil Resolution Tribunal. The RTB adjudicates disputes between tenants and landlords. If you have an issue with another tenant or occupant with whom you live, you can apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) for assistance. For example, one common living situation that is not covered under the jurisdiction of the RTB is where a “head-tenant” rents out bedrooms to their roommates. The CRT can handle monetary claims up to $5,000.
  • Small Claims Court. For disputes that fall outside the jurisdiction of the RTB, but also exceed the limit at the CRT, Small Claims Court can handle claims between $5,001 and $35,000. In addition, if you are awarded monetary compensation through the RTB but your landlord refuses to pay, you will have to apply to Small Claims Court to enforce your monetary order.
  • BC Supreme Court. Tenants and landlords are generally not allowed to bypass the RTB and ask the BC Supreme Court to adjudicate rental disputes. The RTB is considered an expert tribunal, which means the court shows a high level of deference in allowing it to resolve residential tenancy law matters. The BC Supreme Court only handles monetary claims over the RTB’s limit of $35,000. (There is one exception to this rule: if you are claiming 12 months’ rent as compensation under section 51(2) or 51.3 of the RTA, you can apply to the RTB even if the total compensation exceeds $35,000.)
  • BC Human Rights Tribunal: The BC Human Rights Tribunal is responsible for accepting, screening, mediating, and adjudicating human rights complaints. If you have faced discrimination under section 10 of the BC Human Rights Code, you can contact the BC Human Rights Tribunal for assistance.
  • Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC (OIPC BC): The OIPC BC provides independent oversight and enforcement of BC’s access and privacy laws. They also offer a series of guidance documents, including one titled, Private Sector Landlords and Tenants. If you have any concerns about your landlord’s collection of personal information, you can contact the OIPC BC for assistance.


Settlement Negotiations

Section 63 of the Residential Tenancy Act says that arbitrators can, “assist the parties, or offer the parties an opportunity, to settle their dispute.” While this can sometimes be useful, you are under no obligation to negotiate a settlement during your hearing. If you feel that an arbitrator is trying to unreasonably pressure you into settling, respectfully decline and request that they instead adjudicate the matter based on the law and evidence presented.



Compliance and Enforcement Unit

The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) has a Compliance and Enforcement Unit (CEU) that can intervene in situations involving serious and repeated non-compliance of the Residential Tenancy Act and/or dispute resolution orders. The CEU has the authority to conduct investigations, issue official warnings and, if necessary, levy administrative penalties of up to $5,000 per day.

Almost all applications submitted to the RTB are adjudicated through the normal dispute resolution process, so you should only make a complaint to the CEU when faced with urgent situations involving egregious landlord behaviour. For example, if your landlord has changed the locks and/or thrown your possessions on the street, the CEU might be able to provide assistance.



Administrative Penalties

The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) has the power to order tenants and landlords to pay monetary penalties in situations where it can be shown on a balance of probabilities that someone has:

  • contravened a provision of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), Residential Tenancy Regulation, or Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act;
  • failed to comply with a RTB decision or order; or
  • given false or misleading information in a dispute resolution proceeding or Compliance and Enforcement Unit investigation.

See part 5.1 of the RTA and RTB Policy Guideline 41 for more information.

To review the list published administrative penalties, visit the RTB’s webpage, Enforcement Process.



Office of the Ombudsperson

You can file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsperson if you think that the Residential Tenancy Branch has treated you unfairly. The Ombudsperson investigates provincial government ministries and agencies to ensure fairness. Filing a complaint will not change the outcome of your hearing, but may help future tenants avoid unfair treatment.

Key Resource: The Office of the Ombudsperson – How to make a complaint

Key Resource: Community Legal Assistance Society – Residential Tenancy Branch Ombudsperson Complaint Kit