Residential Tenancy Act Guide: Dispute Resolution

Dispute Resolution Tip and Tricks

Unfortunately, tenant-landlord relations aren’t always as harmonious as either party would like. As a result, the provincial government has established guidelines and procedures to follow should such discord arise.

The most common reasons tenants seek dispute resolution:

  • Dispute a Notice to End Tenancy when a landlord wants to break a fixed term lease pre-maturely.
  • Dispute an additional rent increase when a tenant believes a landlord has unfairly increased rent.
  • Have a landlord make repairs to the rental unit or property when a tenant feels a landlord has not attended to a matter in a timely fashion.
  • Apply for compensation from a landlord for money owed or other tenancy-related issues

While the most common reasons landlords seek dispute resolution are:

Dialogue and Transparency

Communication is key. Keeping the channels of communication open between landlords and tenants can help curtail the need for formal dispute resolution. It is beneficial to both parties to keep the conversation going to demonstrate an interest in resolving the issue.

Oftentimes, problems arise due to simple misunderstandings. A tenant doesn’t realize they’ve broken a tenancy agreement or they don’t know their rights and responsibilities. We recommend that all landlords review and discuss the tenancy agreement with the tenant to ensure its terms are clearly understood and as a way to establish a good rapport and trusted relationship from the get-go.

So when a problem arises, we recommend:

  • Addressing the issue as soon as possible.
  • Discuss the problem and possible solutions to address it. This will, in most cases, see results and resolution sooner than initiating an official dispute resolution process which takes longer and is costlier.
  • Make an effort to meet face to face. This will help avoid ambiguities and misunderstandings.
  • Follow up with the other party in writing
  • Be sure to document the record of conversations and outcomes (dates, times, people).
  • If a resolution doesn’t happen at first, revisit after a day or two and/or consider inviting a third party to mediate.
  • If the situation isn’t urgent and you can’t agree, it might be helpful to take a break for a day or two, or get someone to help mediate, like a mutual friend or an advocate.
  • If face to face discussions are still not resolving the problem, consider writing a letter outlining the problem, how it is impacting the tenancy, actions you have taken and action items for each party with set deadlines. Make sure you site reasonable deadlines so each side has time to address.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help

Contact an information officer at the Residential Tenancy Branch to discuss. This can be done by email, phone or in person.

Apply for Dispute Resolution

If all your communication efforts have failed, then you can begin the formal dispute resolution process but tell the other party of your intentions  – it might be enough to encourage a resolution.

Landlord/Tenant Dispute Study Facts & Figures

Research conducted by SFU geography Prof. Nicholas Blomley and research analyst Natalia Perez looked at data from the Residential Tenancy Branch covering end of tenancy notices and divided into three categories: landlord’s use of rental property; rent; and cause.

The study looked at 127,114 disputes between Jan. 1, 2006 and April 30, 2017 in Metro Vancouver.   Of those, 75,610 (59.5 per cent) were disputes that had tenants as respondents, while 51,504 (40.5 per cent) were initiated by tenants themselves.

Most disputes initiated by landlords originated in Surrey (66.5%), followed by Langley (66.3%) and Coquitlam (65.5%).

On the other side, most tenant-initiated disputes were in the City of Vancouver (48.7%), followed by West Vancouver (45.3%) and North Vancouver (41.4%).

The study also showed that most disputes, 38.8%, had to do with unpaid rent.


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Check out some other helpful posts:

Residential Tenancy Agreement Explained

How much can my landlord increase my rent?

Landlord’s Guide to Returning and Holding Deposits

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