Tenant’s Rights of Entry, Quiet Enjoyment, and Privacy (19:VIII)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 29, 2019.|
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 has an Arbitrator’s order authorizing the entry;
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;
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:
1. reasonable privacy;
2. freedom from unreasonable disturbance;
3. exclusive possession of the rental unit subject only to the landlord’s right to enter the rental unit in accordance with s 29; and
4. 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.
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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