Tenant’s Rights of Entry, Quiet Enjoyment, and Privacy (19:VII)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 10, 2021.|
A. Right of Entry
Section 29 of the RTA provides that a landlord may not enter a rental unit except where:
- an emergency exists and the entry is necessary to protect life or property;
- the tenant gives either written or verbal consent to enter for a specific purpose one month or less prior to entry, including when the tenant consents at the time of entry
- the landlord provides housekeeping or related services as part of the written tenancy agreement and the entry is for this purpose in accordance with the terms
- the tenant abandons the rental unit;
- the landlord gives written notice of entry for a specified “reasonable purpose” between 30 days and at least 24 hours before the time of entry (s 29(1)(b)).
- The landlord must arrange a specific time between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to enter unless otherwise agreed by the tenant.
- Note that the clock starts ticking when the tenant receives the notice to enter, not the time when the landlord gives it. The 24 hours starts right away when a landlord hand-delivers the notice; 3 days later when it is delivered by fax or by posting on the tenant’s door, or five days later when sent by regular or registered mail, unless earlier received;
- the landlord has an Arbitrator’s order authorizing the entry.
B. Quiet Enjoyment
Section 28 of the RTA provides protection of tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. A tenant’s right includes but is not limited to:
- reasonable privacy;
- freedom from unreasonable disturbance;
- exclusive possession of the rental unit subject only to the landlord’s right to enter the rental unit in accordance with s 29; and
- use of the common area for reasonable and lawful purposes, free from significant interference.
Arbitrators may not be particularly generous in assessing noise complaints. While tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment, they also have a duty not to disturb other tenants. There is no reciprocal right.
However, a landlord may end a tenancy for Cause with one month’s notice if a tenant unreasonably disturbs other occupants or the landlord of the building. This is separate from the right of quiet enjoyment, and is a cause for landlord to evict (RTA s 47 (d)(i)).
C. Duty to Provide Access
Under RTA s 30 (1)once a tenant has taken possession of a rental unit, a landlord is not allowed to unreasonably restrict the tenant’s access to the residential property. Under s 31 of the RTA, the landlord cannot change the locks or alter the means of access to the rental unit without the tenant’s permission, and a landlord is obligated to provide all tenants with new keys or other means of access to the rental unit. On the request of a tenant at the beginning of a new tenancy agreement, the landlord must re-key or change the locks to the rental unit: see Section IV: Moving In and Moving Out. A landlord cannot restrict access if a tenant has failed to pay rent.
1. Tenant: Changing the Locks
If the landlord changes the locks in contravention of s 31 of the RTA, the Arbitrator may grant an order authorizing the tenant to change the locks. Also, if a tenant applies for dispute resolution, an Arbitrator can grant permission to allow the tenant to change the locks, and give the tenant the right to withhold a copy of a key from the landlord if the Arbitrator is satisfied that the landlord may contravene s 31. It should be noted that a tenant changing a lock without landlord permission or an order can be grounds for eviction. To change the lock legally, the tenant must follow the procedure set out in RTA, s 31(2).
D. Cash Payment Rules
Section 26(2) provides that a landlord must provide a tenant with a receipt for rent paid in cash. If a tenant makes a cash payment and receives no receipt, the tenant should send a letter to the landlord confirming the payment or pay with a witness present.
E. Personal Property: Non-Payment of Rent
Whether or not a tenant pays rent in accordance with the tenancy agreement, a landlord must not seize any personal property of the tenant or prevent or interfere with the tenant’s access to the tenant’s personal property (RTA, s 26(3)). The only exceptions are if the landlord has a court order authorizing the action, or if the tenant has abandoned the rental unit and the landlord complies with the regulations: see RTA s 26 (4)(a) and (b).
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