Evictions - How do you dispute them?

To start off the new year, we return with the second instalment in our Eviction series. Our first post in this series covered the beginning stages of the eviction process and the different types of eviction notices a tenant might receive. Patrons who have received eviction notices may come into your libraries wondering what they can do to stop the eviction from going forward. For many, the next step will be to apply for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch to dispute the eviction notice. Our post today will go into more detail about applying and preparing for dispute resolution at the RTB, as well as how to get an RTB decision reviewed.  

What is dispute resolution?  

The term dispute resolution can refer to a variety of different ways of resolving disputes between people. This can include methods like negotiation (discussing the problem and reaching an agreement), mediation (having an unbiased and impartial person, often a professional mediator, assist in the negotiations), or going before a decision-making body, such as a tribunal or court. Check out this primer from the Department of Justice for more detail.

Dispute resolution through the BC Residential Tenancy Branch is a formal process for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants. It is usually pursued when the landlord and tenant can’t resolve their problem on their own through either negotiation or mediation. Applying to the RTB for dispute resolution is often a last resort; it’s similar to a court proceeding and the decisions are final and binding, only able to be overturned through a review hearing or by judicial review. If a patron is looking to resolve a dispute without going to the RTB, you can check out information resources like Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC), the Tenant Survival Guide, and the Solving Problems page on the BC Residential Tenancy website for next steps with their particular problem and template letters they can use to communicate with their landlord/tenant. TRAC also operates the Tenant Infoline, which can provide free legal information and referrals for legal help.

Dispute resolution can be used for a variety of problems related to tenancy, not just evictions. Common reasons include disputing rent increases or having a landlord make repairs. However, some tenancy related problems, such as disputing eviction notices, require a tenant to apply for dispute resolution through the RTB. Applying for dispute resolution puts the eviction on hold until the RTB decides whether the eviction can go ahead or not.  

How do you apply for dispute resolution?  

Specific methods and forms for applying for formal dispute resolution vary depending on the tribunal the dispute is before. To apply to dispute an eviction before the RTB, a tenant will need to submit the appropriate tenant application for dispute resolution as well as the Notice of Eviction they were served with. You can find more information and links to the forms on the BC Residential Tenancy page on Ending a Tenancy under the heading Disputing a Notice to End Tenancy.

This application process can be completed online through the RTB website. The application page has important information on time limits and technical specifications for uploading files people may want to refer to as evidence at the hearing. If a patron has more questions about what kind of evidence they should provide or how to submit it, the RTB has a page on Preparing Evidence that could be helpful.  

Important to note: the tenant will need to register for a Basic BCeID to apply online. Registering for this account will require an email.  

Tenants can also apply for dispute resolution through a paper application. In this case, the application is submitted in person at any Service BC Office or through the Residential Tenancy Branch Office in Burnaby. Their website has more information about what is required in the specific fields of the paper application form: How to Complete a Paper Application for Dispute Resolution

Some other helpful resources:

Tenant Survival Guide - Applying for Dispute Resolution

TRAC - Applying for Dispute Resolution

How do you prepare for the hearing?  

It’s important for the tenant to prepare and have their materials ready for the hearing. Patrons representing themselves might also be looking for more information about what happens at the hearing itself, including information on how the hearing is conducted and how they should behave. TRAC has a good, general overview of how the hearing will go from start to finish: Participating in a Hearing

The resources below are great resources to refer to:

BC Residential Tenancy - Guides to Dispute Resolution

Clicklaw Common Question - I'm representing myself at a landlord/tenant hearing

LSLAP Manual – Landlord and Tenant Law chapter has a section on dispute resolution, which contains a subsection on The Dispute Resolution Hearing and goes into the types of hearings and procedures for submitting evidence

Tenant Survival Guide – Participating in Dispute Resolution

TRAC - Preparing for a Hearing

Someone applying for dispute resolution might also find it helpful to look at past decisions from the RTB to see how the RTB has decided in disputes with similar circumstances. These decisions can be searched online by keyword through the RTB’s decision finder.  

TRAC often also highlights particularly relevant decisions at the bottom of their information pages through their Previous Legal Decisions sections. You can find some previous decisions linked on their Evictions page.  

When does the RTB make a decision?  

The arbitrator may inform the tenant and landlord of their decision at the end of the hearing, or they may need more time to review the evidence to make a decision. According to the Residential Tenancy Act, the arbitrator needs to give their decision within 30 days of the hearing; for evictions, they will usually make a decision in a few days.  

TRAC - Participating in a Hearing

What happens if you disagree with the RTB decision? 

If the tenant disagrees with the RTB decision, they may be able to have it reviewed, either at the RTB or through Judicial Review at the Supreme Court. In circumstances when the decision or order is unclear or where there has been a mistake, the tenant can also ask for correction or clarification from the RTB.  

Each type of review has strict deadlines and grounds under which the review can be sought. TRAC has a good overview of the processes involved with each. It’s important to note that these reviews are not a chance to reargue the case; they are meant to determine if the original hearing was fair.

There are certain grounds to apply for review at the RTB. They are:  

  • New and relevant evidence that was not available at the time of the original hearing 
  • Unable to attend the original hearing due to circumstances beyond your control 
  • Evidence in the original decision was obtained by fraud 

Applying for review is a written application only with no hearing, so it’s important to make sure the application includes all relevant information. If the application for review is successful, there may be an amended decision from the RTB or a new hearing.  

The application can be completed online or through a paper application using an Application for Review Consideration. This can be submitted at any Service BC location or at the Residential Tenancy Branch office.

Again, there are important time limits to be aware when applying for review at the RTB. For most decisions, the time limit is 5 days. See a full table on the BC Residential Tenancy website under the Review Consideration tab

Also check out the following information resources:

Tenant Survival Guide - Reviewing a dispute resolution hearing decision

BC Residential Tenancy Branch - Review, Clarify, or Correct a Decision or Order

BC Residential Tenancy Guide - After the Decision

LSLAP Manual - Landlord and Tenant Law chapter, section on Review of Arbitrator's Decision 

 

In the case of Judicial Reviews, if the Supreme Court judge finds the decision was procedurally unfair or unreasonable, they will usually order a new dispute resolution hearing at the RTB. We’ll talk more about Judicial Reviews in the final part of our Evictions series. If you want to read more about them in the meantime, check out CLAS’ blog post What is Judicial Review?  

Where can someone go for help with dispute resolution?  

There are a few provincial programs that may be able to help patrons dealing with evictions and going to RTB dispute resolution.  

Also make sure to check Clicklaw HelpMap and PovNet’s Find an Advocate to find referrals in your area

 

Other posts in this series: 

Part 1: Evictions – how do they start?