Sections 88-90 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) cover the rules about how tenants and landlords can give, or “serve”, documents to each other. When it comes to providing your landlord with forms and notices, make sure to use one of the following methods:
- In person: You can serve documents 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 documents were served properly. Write the date, time, and location of delivery on your copy of the documents and have your witness sign them. The RTA says that a document delivered in person is considered received that same day.
- Email: You can email a copy of your documents to an email address provided as an address for service by your landlord. The RTA says that a document delivered by email is considered received on the third day after being emailed.
- Post It: You can attach documents 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 your notice to move out to your landlord’s door. (Do not slide documents under the door.) If possible, bring a witness so you have proof that your documents were served properly. Write the date, time, and location of delivery on your copy of the documents and have your witness sign them. The RTA says that a posted document is considered received on the third day after being posted.
- Mailbox / Mail Slot: You can put documents 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 documents were served properly. Write the date, time, and location of delivery on your copy of the documents and have your witness sign them. The RTA says that a notice left in the mailbox or mail slot is considered received on the third day after being left.
- Fax: You can serve documents 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 document is considered received on the third day after being faxed.
- Mail: You can serve documents using regular or registered mail. If you want proof that your landlord received your documents, send it by registered mail so that the post office can give you confirmation. The RTA says that a mailed document 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.
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:
- by leaving a copy with the landlord;
- by leaving a copy with an agent of the landlord;
- by emailing a copy to an email address provided as an address for service by the landlord; or
- 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 can be 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.
The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) does not recognize text and social media messaging 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 in-person service, registered mail, or another approved method of service. A landlord should avoid sending an eviction notice using social media, and a tenant should never text their one-month notice to move out. If these issues ended up at dispute resolution, an arbitrator may rule that the documents were improperly served. That said, if you receive a document that was not served properly, the safest option is to not ignore it. For example, if your landlord sends you an eviction notice over Facebook, 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 approved methods of service should always be used when serving official RTB forms and notices that are required to be given “in writing”, text and social media messaging 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 texts 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 texts. When it comes to text 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.
- Not allowed to serve notice of hearing by leaving it in mail slot