Taking Action as a Tenant

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

The section on Dispute Resolution explained the dispute resolution process and the very limited grounds for disputing a decision. If you are not happy with a decision made by a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator, the only way to get the decision changed is to apply for a review, which is done only in limited circumstances. You could also apply for a judicial review at Supreme Court, but again there are only very limited grounds for review and the process could get expensive. It is estimated that 90 percent of judicial reviews fail.

However, there are other ways to make complaints.

Here's what you can do when

Your landlord disregards the law and continues to ignore orders from the Residential Tenancy Branch

The Residential Tenancy Branch does not enforce orders. Orders for security deposit return or other monies owed to you by the landlord are enforced through Provincial Court (Small Claims). The court establishes the procedures for enforcing orders. Contact your local court registry.

You can let the Residential Tenancy Branch know that the landlord is ignoring arbitrator orders. The Director of the Residential Tenancy Branch can assess complaints and impose fines of up to $5,000 per day while a contravention of the Residential Tenancy Act or Regulation continues. The Director of the Residential Tenancy Branch can impose administrative penalties of $5,000 a day on landlords for serious repeated cases of non-compliance with the Residential Tenancy Act. See the Residential Tenancy Branch website.

In dispute resolution you can also ask to be compensated for the time the landlord ignored an order and withheld a service or facility from you.

You think the staff at the Residential Tenancy Branch gave you wrong information, made serious mistakes in processing your application, or otherwise unfairly prevented you from accessing their services

Always ask for the name of the staff member you are speaking to when you contact the Residential Tenancy Branch. Staff must provide you with a contact name if you ask for it.

Ask to speak to a Residential Tenancy Branch manager or supervisor. Explain the details of the problem you had with the office and the name of the staff member you were dealing with. The manager can only deal with problems you had with office staff or procedures, not with arbitrators or their decisions. Arbitrators are independent decision makers.

If you are not satisfied with the response you get from Residential Tenancy Branch management you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson can conduct impartial and confidential investigations to determine if a public agency is being fair to the people it serves. For more information about the Ombudsperson call 250-387-5855 or 1-800-567-3247, or go to the BC Ombudsperson website.

You believe that an arbitrator conducted a hearing in an unfair manner

First ask to speak to the manager of the Residential Tenancy Branch with which you were dealing. While management cannot change decisions they may be able to explain why a hearing was conducted the way it was.

If you are not satisfied with the explanation you receive from Branch management you can contact the director of the Residential Tenancy Branch in writing. Keep in mind that the director cannot change a decision. If the director does investigate your complaint it is unlikely to affect your situation, but may help others in the future. Write to:

Director, Residential Tenancy Branch
PO Box 9844 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 1C8

You think that the law is unfair to tenants in BC and you would like the government to change it

The Government of British Columbia is responsible for the Residential Tenancy Act. If you feel like the law is unfair to tenants you can contact your local MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) and voice your concerns. The government needs to hear from tenants in order to strengthen laws protecting tenants. To find your MLA go to the MLA website or call Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683.

You would like to see enforcement by city officials regarding serious repair issues in your building, or would like your municipality to pass bylaws preserving affordable rental housing in your area

Not all municipalities in BC have bylaws regarding the condition of rental buildings or the loss of affordable housing. Contact your local city or town hall and ask if there are any such bylaws where you live. If not, contact your local mayor and municipal councilors and ask why not. Local governments can play a big role in preserving safe and affordable housing, but like provincial politicians they need to hear from tenants. Look in the Blue Pages of your local phone book to find out contact information for your local government or go to the Municipal Red Book website and search for your local government.

You have a problem with the way a realtor or property manager has treated you while selling the place for your landlord or managing the property for the landlord

For example, the realtor enters your place without notice. First try and discuss the matter directly with the realtor. Explain that the realtor has to follow the Residential Tenancy Act. As always follow up with a letter, keeping a copy for yourself, so that you’ve documented your concerns. If this does not resolve the problem, contact the managing broker. If your problem is still not resolved you can contact the Real Estate Board. For more information on making complaints about realtors see the Real Estate Council of British Columbia's website.

If you are at the point of making a formal complaint about a realtor or property manager, you should also consider filing for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch. It is only through a dispute resolution hearing that you could ask for an order restricting entry or for compensation for loss of quiet enjoyment. See the sections on Privacy & Quiet Enjoyment and Dispute Resolution.

Tenant groups

Sometimes when everyone in a building is having problems with the landlord it may be helpful to start a tenants' group. There’s strength in numbers and working together to get a landlord to fix problems in a building can be very effective. However, there are potential pitfalls involved with building organizing. For example, you want to make sure people in your building are on side with your cause so that the landlord does not simply dismiss you as a troublemaker. Contact TRAC if you would like information about starting a tenants' group in your building.


Involving the media in a dispute you're having with your landlord can be an effective way of getting the landlord to take notice of the problem and do something about it. Very few landlords want to be publicly shamed for the way they carry on their business. Keep in mind that the media is more likely to be interested in stories that are unusual or that affect several people. You should also be prepared to explain to a reporter how you have tried to resolve the problem and show evidence such as letters. Call the Tenant Information Line for more information about speaking to the media.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, 2012.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada LicenceTenant Survival Guide © TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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