According to Section 28 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), the principle of “quiet enjoyment” ensures that every BC tenant has the right to:
- reasonable privacy;
- freedom from unreasonable disturbances;
- exclusive use of their rental unit (except in situations where the RTA allows a landlord to enter); and
- use of common areas for reasonable purposes, free from significant interference.
A violation or “breach” of quiet enjoyment is most commonly associated with unreasonable noise, but can also include other disturbances such as excessive smoke, intimidation and harassment from the landlord or another tenant, and even repair work that takes away part of a rental unit for an extended period. According to Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) Policy Guideline 6: “A breach of the entitlement to quiet enjoyment means substantial interference with the ordinary and lawful enjoyment of the premises…Temporary discomfort or inconvenience does not constitute a basis for a breach of the entitlement to quiet enjoyment.”
Quiet enjoyment gives you the right to be free from unreasonable disturbances – not all disturbances. For example, if you moved into an older apartment building, it would be reasonable to hear some noise from a child in the unit above you during the day, but unreasonable for the tenant next door to be regularly playing loud music past midnight.
See Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 6 for more information.
Correcting a Breach
If you feel that your right to quiet enjoyment has been breached, contact your landlord in writing and give them a reasonable amount of time to correct the situation going forward. See TRAC’s template letter, Loss of Quiet Enjoyment. If the problem continues, you can apply for dispute resolution through the RTB to request an order that your landlord follow the law. Depending on the nature, length, and severity of the breach, you may also be entitled to monetary compensation. Claims about quiet enjoyment can be difficult to prove at dispute resolution, so do your best to gather clear and relevant evidence such as photos, videos, complaint letters, witness statements, and affidavit.
To legally enter a rental unit, landlords must provide tenants with written notice at least 24 hours – but not more than 30 days – before entering. The notice must state:
- the date;
- the time (between 8am and 9pm); and
- a reasonable reason for entry, such as making repairs or completing a monthly inspection.
If your landlord follows the law and provides proper notice in writing, they are allowed to enter your rental unit at the stated time, regardless of whether you will be home. If you are concerned about your landlord being in your unit alone, or you are not comfortable with seeing them at that time, try asking a neighbour, friend, or family member to be there on your behalf.
If your landlord enters your rental unit illegally, explain to them in writing that they are required to give proper written notice in the future. You can also apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to request any of the following orders – especially if your landlord continues to enter illegally:
- an order that your landlord follow the law;
- an order giving you permission to change the locks and keep the only key;
- an order that sets conditions on when your landlord is allowed to enter; and
- an order that your landlord pay you monetary compensation.
While the Residential Tenancy Act does not require a landlord to provide proper written notice to enter onto a residential property (as opposed to a specific rental unit), the common law still sets limits on landlords in this type of situation. Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, landlords should generally only visit residential properties for reasonable purposes, such as collecting rent or serving notices. See Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 7 for more information.
There are some exceptions to the rules about landlord entry. A landlord can enter a rental unit without obtaining the tenant’s permission or providing proper notice in writing in the following situations:
- there is an emergency and the landlord’s entry is necessary to protect life or property;
- the landlord has obtained an order from the RTB granting them permission to enter;
- the landlord or an agent of the landlord needs to provide housekeeping services in accordance with the tenancy agreement; and
- the tenant has “abandoned” the rental property according to the Residential Tenancy Regulation.
See section 29 of the Residential Tenancy Act for more information.
Quiet enjoyment gives you the right to be free from unreasonable disturbances; it does not give you the right to complete silence at all times. If you live with neighbouring tenants, you should expect a reasonable amount of noise – especially during the day. In addition, if you live in an older building, you should expect inferior soundproofing compared to more modern buildings. To help you determine what is considered reasonable noise in your neighbourhood, check to see if your municipality has a noise bylaw.
If noise issues become unreasonable, inform your landlord in writing that your right to quiet enjoyment has been breached, or violated. See TRAC’s template letter, Loss of Quiet Enjoyment. Once notified, your landlord has a responsibility to investigate the problem and, if necessary, correct the situation. Although the police do not normally get involved in residential tenancy disputes, you can consider contacting them in extreme situations, such as an excessively loud party late at night.
If you are searching for housing as a non-smoker, ask about the smoking rules for the entire building – not only the rental unit you are viewing. Some buildings with “no-smoking” policies may still have tenants who smoke because they have lived in the building since before the policy was introduced. Even though these tenants may legally be allowed to smoke, your landlord must still ensure that their smoking does not cause an unreasonable disturbance.
Cannabis / Marijuana
Landlords are allowed to restrict tenants from growing and smoking cannabis in rental properties. However, vapourizing cannabis is not considered smoking and therefore cannot be prohibited. Tenants who have been prescribed medical cannabis may have the right to consume it in their rental unit under the BC Human Rights Code, but they must also ensure that they are not violating another tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA).
See section 21.1 of the RTA for more information.
Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 6 says the following:
A tenant may be entitled to compensation for loss of use of a portion of the property that constitutes loss of quiet enjoyment even if the landlord has made reasonable efforts to minimize disruption to the tenant in making repairs or completing renovations.
A landlord is never allowed to intimidate, threaten, or harass a tenant. If your landlord’s behaviour endangers your personal safety, you can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for the right to change your locks and an order instructing your landlord to follow the law. Alternatively, you can always consider ending your tenancy for breach of a material term. See TRAC’s webpage, Breaching Important Terms, for more information.
The police do not generally get involved in tenant-landlord disputes about quiet enjoyment. However, if your landlord or another tenant ever assaults you, threatens to assault you, forcibly enters your home, or otherwise puts you in danger, contact the police immediately.
This Tenant’s Journal can help you keep a record of notable events during your tenancy. For example, if another tenant is causing an unreasonable disturbance and your landlord is ignoring your written complaints, it can be useful to log the date and time of those occurrences. If the problem continues and you need to apply for dispute resolution, your journal can be submitted as evidence in support of your case.
- Second hand smoke can interfere with quiet enjoyment; court discusses implied terms, such as when a landlord implies that rental housing will be smoke-free
- Duty to minimize impact of smoking on others
- Tenant entitled to partial reimbursement even if landlord made effort to minimize disruption
- Single serious illegal entry by landlord can support claim for nominal damages