Reasonable Doubt: Landlords can't evict tenants without good reason and notice

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      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 disruptedthey 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.

      There are three different kinds of eviction notices, each with their own purposes and timelines: a 10-day eviction notice, a one-month eviction notice, and a two-month eviction notice.

      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.

      Joseph Fearon is a civil litigation lawyer at Stevens Virgin practising in the areas of personal injury and commercial litigation. Reasonable Doubt appears on on Fridays. You can send your questions for the column to its writers at

      A word of caution: Don’t take this column as personal legal advice, because it’s not. It is intended for general information and entertainment purposes only.



      Coach Dobbs

      Feb 22, 2013 at 1:22pm

      For the majority of circumstances as you say,if tenants are decent and follow the lease thay won't be evicted. I am long time landlord and I am in the renting business, not the evicting business. Evictions benefit no-one, they cost money and result in a loss of rent however I can tell I have seen plenty of irresponsible tenants and have no sympathy for those who find themselves on the street after they have done extensive damage for which the landlord has no recourse.


      Feb 22, 2013 at 1:26pm

      not totally true. if the tenant is being violent or damaging the place, the landlord can call the police and have them removed immediately.


      Feb 22, 2013 at 1:29pm

      also, if its a roommate situation and the landlord lives in the same unit as the tenant (bathroom and/or kitchen must be shared), the landlord and tenant laws do not apply, only contract law - so whatever it says in your lease. a landlord-roommate can throw you out on your butt in a second and change the locks if its not against the contract.


      Feb 22, 2013 at 1:32pm

      also, if there are multiple tenants, but only one is on the contract, the other can be thrown out and has no legal rights at all. that happened to me once. my boyfriend put chicken his his vegan roommates soup and she called the police and we were kicked out immediately by the police, even tho he had paid rent and lived there a long time. there was no violence or even yelling. the cops said we had no rights because we were not on the lease.

      Coach Dobbs

      Feb 22, 2013 at 3:53pm

      Although I don't fully concur with the present system, it's not quite idiotproof but it works very well if both landlords and tenants make all efforts to adhere to the rules by reading the requirements and dealing with everything in writing....that's the most important message...don't take anything forgranted !


      Feb 22, 2013 at 5:31pm

      It is hard to imagine the extent to which some renters will go in terms of disregarding any claim a landlord might have on the property. I know someone who gave a year lease on his single family property to some apparently well qualified renters while he took a contract overseas.
      He came back a year later to discover actual LIVESTOCK living in the basement ( manure and all!) and other types of damage which was difficult to repair.

      In reality, when you rent your place, you are giving a loan in kind of hundreds of thousands of bucks to people who banks will not lend to, for whatever reason.
      Best to get a very good agreement written in case you need it.


      Feb 23, 2013 at 8:34am

      Re: "Your landlord can also issue a one-month eviction notice if you do not pay your rent in time on multiple occasions." My understanding of the definition of 'multiple occasions' for the purpose of eviction- after talking to the tenancy branch- is three times within one year.


      Feb 23, 2013 at 2:49pm

      The Tenancy Branch & the strange Clerks acting as Judges with Tenancy Rulings that are inconsistent, not based on Common Law a lot of times with seemingly Arbitrary decisions leaves on to look in the Tenancy Branch as a Sick Joke played on Renters with Landlords have no fear of since the Tenancy Branch has little teeth.

      The Small Claims or the BC Supreme Court are the ONLY effective forums if you have a real dispute with a Landlord or Tenant with teeth to get & collect Judgement.

      Furthermore you need $0 Zero Dollars to launch action in the BC Supreme or Small Claims Court as recent rulings will give FREE Access to the Courts for ANYONE in Need of Justice.

      You do not need to be destitute even Professional Mid Income / Middle Class qualify for Free Fee Waivers at our Courts!

      I would avoid the Tenancy Branch at ALL costs for the above reasons.

      The landlord

      Jun 17, 2013 at 6:46am

      Reality check ~ I got a call from my tenants on the day they were to move out. The fixed term rental agreement had ended and was not renewed as they had caused damage, were late paying rent, and hadn't maintained the property. They gave a BS story that they couldn't move out. Long story short, the tenant shoved/assaulted me when I went to discuss the matter, I called the RCMP, they cuffed him and took him away. They released him 2hrs later as they deemed the incident not to be serious enough to lay charges, and suggested I consult the RTB to settle the issue as it was out of their jurisdiction - which I was aware of as I've been a landlord for 9 years.

      So the legal way to handle this will take several weeks/months, lots of money/lost rent and maybe a bailiff getting involved - not a pleasant experience. A friend of mine told me of a landlord they knew, had a similar problem and all he did was take the front door off it's hinges, the tenants got the message and moved out soon after. It may not be legal but it was certainly effective not to mention thinking outside of the box ~ Beautiful!

      Martin Dunphy

      Jun 17, 2013 at 11:28am

      You called the RCMP when you were "shoved", yet you celebrate another landlord breaking the law.
      How civilized.