British Columbia’s Landlord-Tenant Dispute Resolution System Deemed Inadequate

Sale of a Fairfield property blocked by a tenant who took advantage of the system for all the rent-free time he was able to obtain, according to the owner

A Victoria landlord says it’s time to review the dispute resolution process for landlords and tenants after battling for weeks to evict a tenant in order to complete the sale of his home.

Liam McGowan said the sale of his Fairfield property was held up by a tenant who had operated the system for all the rent-free time he could get.

“It was a disaster – this guy played the system all the way,” McGowan said. He says he went through all the required steps once the offer to purchase was accepted, but the tenant refused to leave.

On October 28 last year, the tenant was informed that the house was sold and should be moved out by January 1, 2022.

McGowan said the tenant, who had been in the house since October 2019, paying $3,500 a month in rent on a monthly basis, challenged the eviction on the grounds that he heard the new landlords suggest they were going to renovate , which he took to mean that they were going to rent the house. If that were the case, he could not be expelled.

“He knew it would delay the [transaction], but he did not submit any evidence to the Residential Tenancies Branch,” McGowan said. This initially delayed the sale for a month. After an arbitrator ruled in favor of McGowan, the tenant requested a review, which further delayed the process.

The new owners provided statements to the Residential Tenancies Branch stating that the only renovations would be for their own convenience and that the Fairfield House was to be their primary residence.

“There seems to be no consequence to taking a dispute to the branch, even when it’s frivolous and baseless like this,” McGowan said. “All he had to do was suggest that there is new evidence and it all stops again. And there is no consequence to that.

The tenant finally moved out last weekend and the new owners, originally from Kelowna, are expected to take possession soon.

But McGowan notes that the move was due to take place more than a month ago and the new owners had to pay to store their furniture and stay in a hotel for weeks.

McGowan was also forced to reduce the sale price of the house and moved the closing date to early February, while the tenant lived in the house rent-free for two months in the process.

“And you know what, that’s not unusual,” McGowan said. “Something has to change.”

Hunter Boucher, director of operations at Landlord BC, said while the process isn’t perfect, the legislation is relatively balanced and the change that needs to happen is in the wait times for dispute resolution like McGowan’s.

“The problem is rapid access to justice. With the significant wait times, landlords and tenants are being denied that,” he said. “And when you have a situation where you can wait two, three or four months for a hearing to find out whether or not you are going to receive a possession order, or whether this notice and this rental is going to be confirmed, that has an impact considerable on people.

The department responsible for the Residential Tenancies Branch says it is working to improve wait times and streamline systems to reduce decision delays in the face of an increase in disputes.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Attorney General said management was processing a 17% increase in requests each month.

It now sees up to 1,400 requests per month, compared to an average of 1,200 per month between 2017 and 2020. Last year, it saw an average of 1,300 per month.

“This means the process takes longer,” the statement said. “We recognize that this can be difficult for tenants and landlords who must find a solution to their problem, and we are working to improve wait times.

“We agree that tenants and landlords deserve prompt access to services that help them resolve their disputes given the significance of the issues brought to the branch by all parties.”

The ministry overhauled the system in 2020, hiring more arbitrators, introducing a more effective dispute resolution system and creating a compliance unit to take action against bad tenants and landlords. But it clearly did not have the expected impact.

“We are currently working to further streamline hearing processes and identify opportunities to get faster results for landlords and tenants,” he said.

He said management prioritizes requests so emergency issues are heard first. In these cases, decisions are supposed to be issued within 30 days, with 80% being issued within three days of a hearing.

The department said people can request an expedited hearing process where “urgency and fairness demand faster response times” – for example, those dealing with early termination of tenancy, an order for possession for a tenant or for emergency repairs.

The ministry said the dispute resolution process aims to resolve issues when a party fails to meet their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, adding that until the matter is reviewed by an arbitrator, it can be difficult to determine whether a dispute has merit.

“We recognize the stress this places on landlords and tenants awaiting resolution, and are actively seeking ways to address the circumstances in which a party files litigation to take advantage of these delays.”

Patrick Corbeil, director of the Victoria Tenant Action Group, said his group conducted a survey of 500 members in 2018 which found “general dissatisfaction” with the branch and its processes.

“People found the process confusing, unfair and generally a bureaucratic maze that seemed designed to frustrate,” he said.

He said wait times are a problem for tenants, who also have to fight individually, without the guidance and support of other tenants.

Even a nominal cost of filing an application could be an insurmountable barrier for some, he said, adding that tenants feel the system favors landlords and there is little compliance and enforcement. rules.

“An active application would help in some way to give greater confidence in the system and a better understanding of its function and its objectives,” he said. “Then the whole system could work better.”

[email protected]

About Ian Crawford

Check Also

My family owns a house shared between my father and his three siblings. He spent $100,000 on renovations and wants to buy out his siblings. What can he do?

There has been a property in our family for decades. It was actually divided into …