Serving Documents

 


 

The Basics

Sections 88-90 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) cover the rules about how tenants and landlords can give, or “serve”, forms and notices to each other. When it comes to providing your one month written notice, or any other type of form or notice, you should avoid email, text messaging, and social media, and instead use one of the following methods:

  1. In person: You can serve your written notice in person to your landlord, an adult who lives with your landlord, or an agent of your landlord. If possible, bring a witness so you have proof that your notice was served properly. Write the date, time, and location of the delivery on your copy of the notice and have your witness sign it. A notice delivered in person is considered received that same day.
  2. Post the notice: You can attach your written notice in a visible spot at your landlord’s home, or the place where they carry out business as a landlord. For example, you can tape the notice to your landlord’s door. If possible, bring a witness so you have proof that your notice was served properly. Write the date, time, and location of the delivery on your copy of the notice and have your witness sign it. Do not slide the notice under your landlord’s door. The RTA says that a posted notice is considered received on the third day after being posted.
  3. Mailbox or Mail Slot: You can put your written notice in the mailbox or mail slot at your landlord’s home, or the place where they carry out business as a landlord. If possible, bring a witness so you have proof that your notice was served properly. Write the date, time, and location of the delivery on your copy of the notice and have your witness sign it. The RTA says that a notice left in the mailbox or mail slot is considered received on the third day after being left.
  4. Fax: You can serve your written notice by fax if your landlord has provided you with a fax number for serving documents. Keep the confirmation printout showing the date and time the fax was sent. The RTA says that a faxed notice is considered received on the third day after being faxed.
  5. Mail: You can serve your written notice using regular or registered mail. If you want proof that your landlord received the notice, send it by registered mail so that the post office can give you confirmation. The RTA says that a mailed notice is considered received on the fifth day after being mailed.

Proof of service:It is important to always have proof that you served a document properly. For example, if you send a letter via registered mail, then you can use the receipt and confirmation of delivery from Canada Post; or if you post a notice on your landlord’s door, consider taking a photo and/or video, or having a witness with you. You may also want to consider using the Small Claims “Certificate of Service” form.

Rebuttable presumption: When determining the date a document is legally considered received, there is always a “rebuttable presumption”. This means that even though the RTA has rules about when a document is considered received, they may not apply if there is evidence of the document being received on a different date. For example, if you mail a notice to your landlord and get email confirmation that they received it three days later, an argument could be made that it was received after three days rather than five days.

 


 

Special Rules

Most documents can be served in any of the ways listed above, but there are some exceptions. For tenants, there are two types of documents where special rules apply – an application for dispute resolution and a notice from an arbitrator to review a decision or order. These types of documents can only be served in a limited number of ways:

  1. by leaving a copy with the landlord;
  2. by leaving a copy with an agent of the landlord; or
  3. by sending a copy by registered mail to the address at which the landlord lives, or to the address at which the landlord carries on business as a landlord;

This is a complicated topic and there are additional special rules about serving documents. See section 89 of the Residential Tenancy Act and Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 12 for more information.

 


 

Digital Communication

The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) does not recognize email, text messaging, and social media as acceptable methods of service. This means that when an official Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) form must be served, or the RTA requires that something be done “in writing”, it is always safest to rely on hardcopy documents rather than email, text messaging, and social media. Landlords should never attach an eviction notice to an email, and tenants should never text their one-month notice to move out. If these issues ended up in dispute resolution, an arbitrator may rule that the documents were improperly served. That being said, if you receive a document that was not served properly, the safest option is to not ignore it. For example, if your landlord emails you an eviction notice, you should consider disputing it through the RTB so that an arbitrator can dismiss it and instruct your landlord to not illegally evict you.

While hardcopy documents should always be used when serving official RTB forms and notices that are legally required to be given “in writing”, email, text messaging, and social media may be acceptable when it comes to more general correspondence. For example, since there is no official RTB form for requesting repairs, a series of emails showing your landlord’s neglect for a repair request might be accepted as evidence at dispute resolution – as long as you can prove that your landlord received the emails. When it comes to email, text messaging, and social media evidence at dispute resolution, the arbitrator handling your case will always have the final say on whether or not to accept the evidence.

 


 

Previous Legal Decisions

 

  • Tenant’s application for substituted service using email allowed
  • Not allowed to serve notice of hearing by leaving it in mail slot