Frustration of the Tenancy Agreement

What do I do when unforeseeable circumstances make it impossible for the tenancy to continue?

BC Landlord Guide- Frustration
What do I do when unforeseeable circumstances make it impossible for the tenancy to continue?

In typical cases, a tenancy may end as a result of a tenant’s notice to end tenancy, a landlord’s notice to end tenancy, a landlord’s application to end tenancy or a mutual agreement between the parties to end the tenancy. However, a tenancy may also end as a result of external circumstances that are outside the control of both the landlord and the tenant.

A tenancy agreement is frustrated where, without the fault of the landlord or the tenant, the obligations under the tenancy agreement, as originally intended, become impossible to fulfill as a result of unforeseeable circumstances. For example, where a rental unit becomes uninhabitable as a result of significant damaged caused by an earthquake or fire, the tenancy may be frustrated. In such cases, both the landlord and the tenant are discharged from having to fulfill their obligations under the tenancy agreement.

If the parties cannot agree on whether the tenancy should continue, the landlord may make an application to the Residential Tenancy Branch for an order to put an end to the tenancy either because the rental unit is uninhabitable or the tenancy agreement is otherwise frustrated.

Last revised: April 17, 2016

  • You cannot rely on the doctrine of frustration to put an end to a tenancy where the rental unit has become uninhabitable as a result of your failure to repair and maintain it. Such circumstances would not be looked upon positively by the Residential Tenancy Branch and may result in an order to repair the rental unit and a suspension of the tenant’s obligation to pay rent until repairs are completed.

This article explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada and is not a substitute for legal advice specific to your situation.