What is Dispute Resolution?
If you are having a disagreement with your landlord that you have not been able to settle by talking to each other, you can file for dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch. Dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch is like a court process that works solely on cases to do with the Residential Tenancy Act. When a case is brought forward, a Dispute Resolution Officer will hear both sides, view the evidence, and determine which person is at fault. An example proper use of a dispute resolution is if your landlord attempts to increase you rent after only three months of your tenancy. You can tell your landlord that they cannot increase your rent, and if they attempt to pressure you or increase your rent anyway you can contact the Residential Tenancy Branch and file for dispute resolution.
How do I file for Dispute resolution?
To file for dispute resolution, first download the Dispute Resolution Application Form, which is available here. The form requires your and your landlord’s contact information and an outline the dispute between you and your landlord. There is space on the application for only a few lines, but you may add an additional page if you would like to clarify. If you are adding any pages to the application ensure that you number and sign all additional pages. After you have completed the form, submit it to a Residential Tenancy Branch office or a ServiceBC office. In Kamloops, the ServiceBC office is located at #250 – 455 Columbia Street. If you are having difficulty filing for dispute resolution, contact your Students’ Union and we will explain and assist you with the process.
Does is cost anything to file for dispute Resolution?
If you are claiming damages less than $5,000, there is a $50 fee to file for a dispute resolution. If you are claiming damages more than $5,000, the fee to file for dispute resolution is $100. If you win your case, the Dispute Resolution Officer may order your landlord to reimburse you the cost of the filing fee in addition to damages. If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee in advance, you may apply to have the fee waived by the Residential Tenancy Branch. To download the Fee Waiver Applicationclick here.
*PLEASE NOTE: You can only apply to have the fee waived if you apply in person or through registered mail. If you apply online you cannot apply to have the fee waived.
How do I pay the fee?
If you apply in person, the fee can be paid by cash, debit, or credit card. If you send your application by registered mail, you must pay through a money order. If you apply online, you must pay the fee with a credit card. Click here to download the Fee Waiver Application. If you win the case, the Dispute Resolution Officer can order that your landlord must reimburse the cost of the filing fee.
While you can apply online, the process is much more complicated than applying in person. If you apply online you cannot apply to have your fee waived. You also cannot apply online if your dispute must be looked at in less than 5 days. For example, if your landlord has served you with an eviction notice for not paying your rent, you must file for dispute resolution within 5 days and would not be able to use the online application form.
Can I apply for dispute resolution with another person?
Yes. If you and another tenant have the same landlord and are having the same issue, you can apply for dispute resolution as a group. For example, if a number of tenants in an apartment building are being illegally evicted, you could apply for dispute resolution as a group. When you apply as a group, the filing fee is $50 for the initial application and $25 per additional person that is added to the application.
How to I file evidence for a dispute resolution?
As part of the dispute resolution process, you will be asked to provide evidence. For example, if you are filing for dispute resolution because your landlord refuses to make repairs, you could serve your Move-in Condition Inspection Report, pictures of the problem, and letters to your landlord requesting that it be fixed.
The need for evidence in the dispute resolution process is why it is so important to keep all records of your tenancy. A dispute resolution will be a lot easier for you if you have kept a copy of all the documents and requests between you and your landlord.
The easiest way to file evidence is to submit your evidence package (including documents, written testaments, pictures, etc) at the same time that you submit your Dispute Resolution Application. If you have evidence that could not be submitted at the same time as your Dispute Resolution Application, it must be submitted to the a Residential Tenancy Branch or ServicesBC office no less than five business days before your Dispute Resolution Hearing. For example, if your hearing was to take place on a Thursday, all of your evidence must be submitted by the previous Wednesday. It can be submitted in person, by registered mail, or by fax (1-866-341-1269) and cannot be submitted via email. If you are having difficulty filing evidence for dispute resolution, you should contact your Students’ Union and we will help you go through the process.
What should I include as evidence in a dispute resolution?
The evidence you choose to submit will be different depending on the reason for filing for dispute resolution. A few basic things that you should include:
- Any written correspondance between you and your landlord regarding the issue in question, or a written statement abut your communication
- Copies of the Lease Agreement
- Move-in and Move-out Inspection Reports
Written correspondence includes letters, notes, or emails that have been exchanged between the tenant and the landlord. If you do not have written copies of correspondence because of the nature of your communication, a written submission that outlines the communication will suffice. This should include the times and dates that you spoke with your landlord and what you talked about. If you are submitting a written statement, ensure that all the pages are numbered and that you have signed the final page. Other things you might want to include are copies of your lease agreement, and Move-in and Move-out Inspection Reports. You can also submit photographs. If you are submitting photographs, you should put a number and a label on the back of each photograph. For example, labels could state: “Photo 1 – Broken door handle in bedroom,” and “Photo 2 – Mould around bedroom windows.” If you are gathering evidence for a dispute resolution and you are not sure what you should include, contact your Students’ Union and we will meet with you to ensure that you are prepared.
What is the hearing package?
Once you have paid the filing fee and submitted an application, you have filed for dispute resolution. At this point, the Residential Tenancy Branch will set a hearing date (a date for you and your landlord to present your side of the dispute), and send you the hearing package. The hearing package will contain a letter with the names of the applicant and respondent (you and your landlord) the date, time, and place of the hearing and your file number. The package will also contain a copy of the dispute resolution application that you filed earlier and a fact sheet about the process to help you understand how things are going to work.
How do I serve the hearing package to my landlord?
When you receive the hearing package you will receive enough copies for all the applicants and respondents. You must serve the hearing package to your landlord, which means you must provide them with one of the copies. You may submit a copy of the hearing documents to your landlord in person or by registered mail. If you take the copy to your landlord in person, take a witness who has also read the hearing package. If you send the documents by registered mail, keep the receipt that shows the date you sent the documents. Having a witness or keeping the receipt will protect you if your landlord claims not to have received the package.
Tips for a successful dispute resolution hearing
Practice what you are planning to say in the dispute resolution hearing. You should ensure that you know what you are going to say and what any witnesses you may have are going to say.
- Be Patient
It can be very difficult to be patient if your landlord is being rude or dishonest when they present their side of the dispute. However, your behaviour can have a significant impact on the outcome of the dispute resolution. Be patient and wait your turn. If your landlord is being dishonest with the Dispute Resolution Officer, write it down and wait until it is your turn to speak to address the issue. Do not get angry and interrupt. The Dispute Resolution Officer will give you the opportunity to state your case.
- Be on time
If you are not on time to your Dispute Resolution Hearing, the Dispute Resolution Officer will start without you. Go a little bit early to make sure that you don’t miss anything.
- Bring a Translator
If English is not your first language, bring a friend or translator who can help you and make sure you understand everything that is going on during the hearing.
What happens after the hearing?
The Dispute Resolution Officer must provide you with a decision on your case within thirty days of your Dispute Resolution Hearing.
The decision of the Dispute Resolution Officer is legally binding.
To challenge the decision of the Dispute Resolution Officer, you must take your case to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The Supreme Court of British Columbia cannot change the decision of the Dispute Resolution Office, but can order that a different Dispute Resolution Officer review your case..
If the decision is in your favour, your landlord must obey the order. If your landlord ignores the decision, immediately contact the Residential Tenancy Branch. Do not deduct any funds your landlord owes you from your rent unless the Dispute Resolution Officer stated that you may do so in the decision. If you deduct funds from your rent without permission, you landlord will have cause to evict you.