Reasonable Doubt: Landlords can't evict tenants without good reason and notice
Everyone needs a place to live, but not everyone can afford to be an owner, especially in a city like Vancouver.
If you’re a tenant like me, you need assurance your landlord won’t evict you without good reason or without notice.
I’ve had clients show up at my office having been evicted and locked out of their place with nowhere to sleep and no access to their property. Their lives were completely disrupted—they couldn’t even get a change of clothes for work the next day.
Tenancy law tries to balance the inherently unequal power dynamic between tenants and landlords. Tenants need the security of knowing that if they follow their lease and are decent tenants, they won’t be evicted.
Landlords cannot evict tenants without good reason, as outlined by the Residential Tenancy Act.
If you do not pay your rent on the day it’s due, your landlord can issue a 10-day eviction notice. Once you’ve been served with the eviction notice, you have five days to pay the outstanding rent in full or file for a dispute resolution hearing.
If you pay your rent in cash, it is a good idea to get a receipt from your landlord; the last thing you want is for your landlord to claim you didn’t pay your rent and try to evict you.
Your landlord can issue a one-month eviction notice if you break an important part of your lease, so use common sense; speak to the tenancy branch if you are unsure if you’ve broken an important part of your lease.
Your landlord can also issue a one-month eviction notice if you do not pay your rent in time on multiple occasions.
If you do not think that you’ve broken an important (“material” in legal speak) part of your lease, then you can dispute your eviction notice through the tenancy branch. You have 10 days after being served with your one-month eviction notice to file for dispute resolution.
The third kind of eviction notice is a two-month eviction notice for landlord’s use of the premises. Your landlord can evict you if they need your premises for certain acceptable reasons. Usually this means that they intend to move themselves or a close family member into your residence, or they need you to move out in order to do renovations.
If your landlord issues a two-month eviction notice, then you get a free month’s worth of rent as compensation, either by not paying your last month’s of rent or by your landlord giving you a cheque at the end of the tenancy.
If your landlord evicts you with a two-month eviction notice and you later find out they did not follow through with the stated purpose of the eviction notice, then you can seek two months worth of rent as a penalty. This is an important provision that works to prevent landlords from falsely issuing two-month eviction notices.
For instance, if your landlord says they intend to move into your unit and issues a two-month eviction notice and you later find out they filled your unit with new tenants instead, then you can file with the tenancy branch to try and recover the penalty.
It is important to remember that two-month eviction notices and one-month eviction notices represent full calendar months. For instance, if you are issued a one-month eviction notice on January 2, then your eviction notice does not take effect until the end of February.
You can also negotiate with your landlord on a mutually convenient end to your tenancy. The tenancy branch has a handy online form to record your agreement.
If you decide to dispute an eviction notice, then you have to file for dispute resolution with the tenancy branch. An arbitrator will listen to the evidence from you and your landlord and then rule on whether your landlord had good reason to evict you.
It’s against the law for your landlord to seize your property without a court order, change your locks without an order from the tenancy branch, or physically remove you from your unit.
Landlords of residential tenancy units need to follow the same procedure in order to evict someone.
First they issue the eviction notice.
Second, if the notice is not cancelled or disputed, they must obtain an order of possession from the residential tenancy branch. Your landlord needs to serve you with notice that they are seeking the order of possession. Once they get the order of possession they need to serve it upon you.
Third, the landlord has to apply for and obtain a writ of possession from the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Fourth, the landlord has to hire a bailiff to remove you and your possessions from the rental unit. The bailiff may keep some of your property in order to pay their fee. The landlord can also sue you to recover the bailiff fees.
A last note, be cautious and ensure your lease is covered by tenancy law; there are certain situations, like when the owner of the residence shares a bathroom or a kitchen with the tenant, where tenancy law probably does not apply. If you are not covered by tenancy law, then you do not have the same level of protection.
Remember, if you have questions, contact the tenancy branch; it’s free.