Privacy & Quiet Enjoyment When Renting

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Do collect evidence if you suspect your landlord is entering your place illegally. Illegal entry can be difficult to prove in a dispute resolution hearing. Don't change your locks without your landlord's written permission or an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch, unless it's an emergency.

Privacy in your home

When can a landlord enter?

You have the right to privacy in your home. In legal language, privacy is the right to "exclusive possession and quiet enjoyment." Your landlord is only allowed to enter your place under these circumstances:

  • An emergency, like a fire or flood.
  • Your landlord gives you between 24 hours and 30 days written notice, saying exactly what date and time they want to come in, and giving you a good reason.
  • Your landlord knocks on your door and you say it’s okay to come in. But remember—you have the right to say no and ask for written notice.
  • You tell your landlord they can come in for a certain reason.
  • You live in a hotel that has a cleaning service. The cleaner must enter at a reasonable time.
  • Your landlord has an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch to enter your suite.
  • You have abandoned the place. (Phone the Tenant Information Line or the Residential Tenancy Branch for information on abandonment.)
  • The Residential Tenancy Act allows the landlord to inspect the rental unit once a month as long as you are given the proper notice.

See sections 28 and 29 of the RTA.

Notice to enter

Written notice to enter your place must be served in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act. If the landlord puts the notice in your mailbox or mail slot it is not considered received until after three days from the day it was delivered. If it was mailed, then it is not considered received until after five days from when it was mailed. If you receive the notice in person then the notice period begins when the notice is handed to you. See section 88 of the RTA.

What hours can your landlord enter?

Unless you agree to something else, your landlord can only come into your suite between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Illegal entries

If your landlord is entering your place illegally you should talk to the landlord about your privacy and write a letter. Tell the landlord that the law says you need at least 24 hours written notice of entry and only for purposes allowed by the Residential Tenancy Act. Keep a copy of the letter. It is very important that you collect proof if you suspect that your landlord is entering your place illegally. This can be difficult. It is best to have a witness to the illegal entry.

Dispute resolution for loss of privacy

You can apply for dispute resolution if the landlord interferes with your right to privacy. The Residential Tenancy Branch can:

  • Give you permission to change your locks and keep the only key. The RTB can also order the landlord to pay for the cost of the new lock.
  • Allow the landlord to enter only under certain conditions.
  • Order the landlord to pay you money for the loss of your privacy.

Noise and disturbances

Noisy neighbors.jpg

You also have the right to quiet enjoyment. This means that the landlord should not behave in a way that interferes with your daily use of your home, or allow other tenants or employees to unreasonably disturb you. Here are some examples of interference that could result in the loss of quiet enjoyment:

  • the landlord constantly comes into your place, or
  • the landlord allows other tenants to be very noisy late at night.

Write a letter telling the landlord about the behaviour that is disturbing you, and ask the landlord to stop it. Keep a copy of your letter. In some situations, you will want to call the police.

The Residential Tenancy Act does not specifically say anything about noise. If you are disturbed by noise from other tenants, call your municipality and ask if there is a noise bylaw. You can also call the police if there is party or loud music disturbing you.

If your landlord enters your place illegally, you can ask for a dispute resolution hearing. You will need proof of the illegal entry. For example, if a friend or neighbour saw your landlord making an illegal entry, ask them to be your witness. At the hearing, you can ask the arbitrator for permission to change your locks and keep the only key. You can also ask that the landlord pay for the new locks. The Residential Tenancy Branch may or may not order that the landlord pay.

Protecting yourself from harassment

Protect yourself from harassment:

  • If you feel uncomfortable, don't let the manager or owner come into your home without proper written notice. Make sure they have a good reason for coming in. Phone the police if they force their way in.
  • If the landlord or manager yells at you, end the conversation immediately and follow up with a letter. Do not allow yourself to get into verbal confrontations with the manager or landlord.
  • Any time your landlord scares or insults you, write down the time, date, and exactly what happened. If you can, find witnesses who saw or heard the harassment.
  • If you have a problem with harassment, try to have a witness whenever you are dealing with the landlord or manager in person.
  • If you are harassed by a manager, write a letter to the owner and describe the problem. Keep a copy for yourself.

Dispute resolution for loss of quiet enjoyment

You can apply for a dispute resolution hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch if you want compensation for the loss of your quiet enjoyment. You can apply for compensation while you are living in your place, or up to two years after you move out.

The RTB can order your landlord to pay you money for the loss of your quiet enjoyment. For example, you can claim for part of your rent back for the time that you lived with the interference. You can also claim for aggravated damages if the behaviour was severe and the landlord allowed it to continue.

You will need to bring evidence of the behaviour that resulted in the loss of your quiet enjoyment. You can use friends and neighbours as witnesses. You can also use letters that you wrote to the landlord, audio and videotapes, and photographs. You need to be able to show that the landlord was aware of the problem and chose not to do anything about it.

Caution!

The law does not allow you to stop paying your rent because you have a problem with the landlord or other tenants. Apply for dispute resolution instead. Give proper written notice if you decide to move out. If you don’t, you might have to pay money to the landlord.

Locks and access

You or your landlord can’t change the lock on your door or to the building unless you both agree it is okay. In an emergency like a break-in, your landlord can change the lock. They must give you the new key right away.

New lock on moving in

When you move into a place, you can ask the landlord to re-key or change the locks, if they haven’t already done so, to prevent former tenants or others with a key from coming into your home. You should write a letter to ask for the change of locks. If your landlord refuses, you can apply to have an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch that the landlord change the locks. See section 25 of the RTA.

Lockout

The landlord can’t change the locks because you haven't paid the rent. If your landlord locks you out, you can call the Residential Tenancy Branch and ask for an intervention, which is when an information officer calls your landlord to explain when something is illegal. If the intervention does not work you can apply for a dispute resolution hearing and ask for an order that will give you back possession of your place. You can also ask for money back for the time you were locked out.

Changing locks

In an emergency, you have the right to change your locks as an emergency repair. For example, you may have a break-in, or the locks may have been broken when you moved in. You can take the money you spent on the lock off your next month's rent if you have followed all the rules about emergency repairs. See the section on Emergency repairs.

You might like to change your locks for personal reasons. In this case, you need the permission of the landlord. Make sure you get it in writing. You can also change your locks if an RTB arbitrator gives you permission.

Guests

It is your home and you have the right to have guests. Your landlord can't ask you to pay extra rent because of your guests. However, your landlord might object if your guests stay too long and appear to be living with you. You should check your tenancy agreement to see if it has a clause about the number of occupants allowed under the agreement. Some agreements say that a guest who stays longer than two weeks is no longer a guest but an additional occupant. The landlord might then want to raise your rent because of the additional occupant or may say that you are breaching your tenancy agreement. Tenants in subsidized housing, for example, often have agreements that limit how many days a guest can stay overnight in a year and could risk losing their subsidy if it appears there is an additional person living with them.

Legislation and links

Legislation

Links

Resources and forms


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