Applying for Dispute Resolution
The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) offers a service called dispute resolution, which is essentially BC’s tenant-landlord “court”. When facing a legal problem with your landlord, you do not have to hire an expensive lawyer and go to Small Claims Court or BC Supreme Court. Instead, you can request that a RTB arbitrator look at your case and make a legally-binding decision. Almost all legal disputes between tenants and landlords must be resolved through the RTB dispute resolution system.
Types of orders
Arbitrators have the power to settle legal disputes on a range of topics. An arbitrator can:
- order your landlord to follow the law;
- order your landlord to pay you money, or “damages”;
- order your landlord to repair your rental unit;
- prevent your landlord from entering your rental unit;
- give you permission to change your locks;
- give you permission to withhold money from future rent payments; and
- cancel an eviction notice that your landlord has given you.
Aggravated Damages: RTB Policy Guideline 16 says the following:
“Aggravated damages” are for intangible damage or loss. Aggravated damages may be awarded in situations where the wronged party cannot be fully compensated by an award for damage or loss with respect to property, money or services. Aggravated damages may be awarded in situations where significant damage or loss has been caused either deliberately or through negligence. Aggravated damages are rarely awarded and must specifically be asked for in the application.
Rules of Procedure and Policy Guidelines
For more detailed information on dispute resolution, you can review the RTB’s Dispute Resolution Rules of Procedure – a comprehensive resource that covers topics such as filing an application, making a cross-application, exchanging evidence, amending an application, adjourning a hearing, etc.
When preparing for a dispute resolution hearing, you should also see if there are any RTB Policy Guidelines related to your dispute. These resources go into greater detail on certain topics compared to the Residential Tenancy Act, and are often referred to by arbitrators when making decisions.
You can submit hardcopy applications at any Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) office or Service BC Centre. The RTB has also improved their online application process. Compared to the hardcopy application process, the online system offers several benefits, including:
- the ability to upload evidence online;
- the ability to apply for fee waiver applications online;
- helpful email reminders and notifications;
- an intuitive design with step-by-step instructions;
- the ability to resume incomplete applications; and
- mobile-friendly functionality.
It costs $100 to apply for dispute resolution. However, if you win your hearing, the arbitrator can order your landlord to repay you the fee – as long as you have made that request as part of your application. Alternatively, if you have a low income, you can apply for a fee waiver application that cancels the fee entirely. To be successful, you may need to provide evidence of your income, such as an income assistance statement, employment insurance benefits statement, recent paystub from an employer, and/or recent bank statements.
There are varying deadlines for dispute resolution applications, depending on the nature of the dispute. For example, here are the time limits to dispute eviction notices:
- 5 days to dispute a 10 Day Eviction Notice;
- 10 days to dispute a One Month Eviction Notice;
- 15 days to dispute a Two Month Eviction Notice; and
- 30 days to dispute a Four Month Eviction Notice.
Name yourself as the “applicant” and your landlord(s) as the “respondent(s)”. Although tenants may sometimes only have one landlord – the owner of the rental unit – it is quite common for an owner to appoint an “agent”, such as a property management company, to act on their behalf as a secondary landlord. If this is the case, it can be wise to list both landlords on your application form.
If you are asking for money as part of your application, make sure to include the legal name and address of the owner. This will make it easier to enforce your monetary order through Small Claims Court if the owner refuses to pay. If you do not know who the owner of your rental unit is, you can complete a land title search through the Land Title Office. See TRAC’s webpage, Looking Up My Landlord, for more information.
Once your dispute resolution application has been accepted, the RTB will provide you with a package of hearing documents that lists the date and time of your hearing, instructions on how to prepare for your hearing, and copies of the application and submitted evidence. Hearing dates are set based on urgency, with the most serious applications receiving the highest priority, and monetary order applications receiving the lowest priority.
Once you have received your hearing documents, you have three days to serve them on the respondent(s) in one of the following ways:
- Delivering them in person to your landlord, and/or your landlord’s agent. If possible, bring a witness so you have proof that your documents were served properly.
- Sending them via registered mail. (Considering mailed documents are deemed received five days later, you are only required to mail your hearing documents within three days.) If you serve the documents via registered mail, make sure to keep the receipt and confirmation of delivery as evidence.
This section is currently being updated.
A group of tenants facing related issues can ask the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to join their applications together and hold one dispute resolution hearing for everyone. If the RTB agrees to this, the lead tenant will be required to attend the hearing, while the other tenants will have the option to attend. You can apply as a group using the RTB form, Tenant’s Request to Join Applications for Dispute Resolution.
This section is currently being updated.
- Successful claim for $500 aggravated damages