Before applying to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for dispute resolution, parties should verify that the living accommodation in dispute falls within the scope of the Residential Tenancy Act (the Act) as matters arising out of living accommodations that do not qualify as residential tenancies are outside the jurisdiction of the RTB.
An Application for Dispute Resolution must be made within 2 years of the date that the tenancy to which the matter relates has ended or has been assigned. Otherwise, a claim arising under the tenancy agreement ceases to exist. The only exception to this rule is where an application is made by a landlord or the tenant within the prescribed time limit and, before this first application is concluded, the opposing party to the dispute makes a separate Application for Dispute Resolution in respect of a different dispute between the same parties. This separate application may then be made even after the prescribed time limit has elapsed.
The RTB is a specialized tribunal that, as a general rule, has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with matters related to residential tenancies. The RTB will decline to determine a dispute only where:
- The claim exceeds the $25,000 monetary jurisdiction of the RTB, in which case a claim should be made before the Supreme Court of British Columbia;
- The application was not made within the 2-year time limit described above; or
- The dispute is linked substantially to a matter that is already before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
An application can be made either online on the RTB’s website or in person at the RTB’s Lower Mainland office. A general filing fee for such applications is payable and the RTB’s approved form must be used by the applicant. In circumstances where it is determined that applicant cannot reasonably afford to pay the filing fee, the RTB may reduce this fee or waive it all together.
Where (1) a tenant has failed to pay rent or utilities, (2) a 10-day Notice to End Tenancy has been issued by the landlord, and (3) within 5 days of the landlord’s notice, the tenant has failed to file their own Application for Dispute Resolution or otherwise pay the outstanding rent, the landlord may proceed to make an application by direct request. This special procedure, only available when all three conditions are met, allows the landlord to obtain an Order of Possession and a monetary order for unpaid rent and utilities solely on the basis of the landlord’s written evidence without a telephone hearing to allow parties to provide verbal testimony.
If an application is accepted for hearing, the RTB will proceed by issuing a written Notice of Hearing. This notice will provide the date and the time of the hearing and the call-in number and access code. Other than in exceptional cases, dispute resolution hearings take place over the phone by way of teleconferencing.
The RTB’s Rules of Procedure establish a number of different evidence-submission and service rules for various types of applications depending on their urgency and nature. An applicant should consult these rules before making any application or cross-application.
Prior to the hearing, an applicant must submit to the RTB all the evidence they wish to rely upon. The general evidence-submission rule states that, to the extent possible, at the same time as the application is made, the applicant should submit to the RTB (1) a detailed calculation of any monetary claim being made, (2) a copy of the Notice to End Tenancy, if applicable and (3) copies of all other documentary and digital evidence to be relied upon at the hearing. The applicant has to submit the remainder of their evidence to the RTB no later than 14 clear days before the hearing.
Prior to the hearing, an applicant must also serve the respondent with the hearing package and their evidence. The hearing package consists of (1) the filed application, (2) the Notice of Hearing, and (3) the dispute resolution information package provided by the RTB. The general service rule states that the applicant must, within 3 days of the hearing package being made available by the RTB, serve each respondent with the hearing package as well as with any evidence already submitted to the RTB. The respondent has to be served with the remainder of the applicant’s evidence no later than 14 clear days before the hearing.
When serving the respondent with the hearing package, an applicant may only use the specific service methods approved by the Act:
- Leaving a copy of the hearing package with the respondent, in which case service is deemed to take place at that time;
- If the respondent is a landlord, leaving a copy of the application with the landlord’s agent, in which case service is deemed to take place at that time;
- Sending a copy of the application by registered mail to the address at which the respondent resides or if the respondent is a landlord, to the address at which the landlord carries on business. In both cases, service is deemed to take place on the 5th day after it is mailed;
- If the respondent is a tenant, by sending a copy by registered mail to a forwarding address provided by the tenant, in which case service is deemed to take place on the 5th day after it is mailed;
- Providing the copy of the notice by any alternative service method ordered by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Where the respondent is a tenant and the landlord is applying for an order of possession, for an order to end a tenancy early, or an order to end a tenancy as a result of frustration, the landlord may only use the following service methods recognized by the Act:
- Leaving a copy of the hearing package with the tenant, in which case service is deemed to take place at that time;
- Leaving a copy of the hearing package at the tenant’s residence with an adult who apparently resides with the tenant, in which case service is deemed to take place at that time;
- Sending a copy of the hearing package by registered mail to the address at which the tenant resides, in which case service is deemed to take place on the 5th day after it is mailed;
- Attaching a copy of the hearing package to a door or other conspicuous place at the address at which the tenant resides, in which case service is deemed to take place on the 3rd day after it is attached;
Last revised: April 17, 2016
- The RTB dispute resolution process is designed to be accessible to self-represented parties. Nevertheless, parties are allowed to be represented by legal counsel at the hearing and retaining a lawyer may provide you with the upper hand you will need to ensure that you obtain a favourable outcome. Often times, landlords will have a well-founded case but may miss submitting a critical piece of evidence due to a lack of experience with the dispute resolution process. Even if you ultimately elect to represent yourself at the hearing in order to save money, you may choose to retain a lawyer to assist you in preparing your evidence for the hearing. It is almost always more difficult and expensive to attempt to have an unfavourable hearing outcome set aside then to put your best foot forward from the start.
- If your claim exceeds the monetary jurisdiction of the RTB (ie. $25,000), under certain circumstances, it may still be desirable to have your claim heard by the RTB instead of making a claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In comparison to administrative tribunals such as the RTB, courts are generally more procedurally complicated and costly. If you have a claim that only slightly exceeds the monetary limit of the RTB, you may choose to simply abandon any part of your claim over $25,000 and opt to have your dispute heard by the RTB. Any such decisions should be made only after undertaking a careful cost-benefit analysis.
- The Residential Tenancy Act requires specific service methods for dispute resolution hearing applications which should not be confused with the general service methods for regular documents and evidence. Furthermore, the required service methods vary depending on the type of application you make. You should always check the service rules to ensure that the method of service you chose is one that is approved by the Act in your specific circumstances.
- It is important to note that email is not an approved method of service and cannot be used to serve your tenant with an Application for Dispute Resolution. For practical reasons, you may still combine one of the approved methods of service with an email to your tenant as your tenant may receive the email faster. However, relying solely on service by email is not advisable and may lead to problems at the hearing.
- When calculating the deadlines for service, you should always consider the deemed service provisions. For example, if your dispute resolution hearing is scheduled for April 30th and, as the applicant, you are planning to serve your evidence by registered mail to the respondent, you should mail your evidence by April 10th. In this case, your evidence will be deemed served on April 15th– a clear 14 days before the date of the hearing.