Ending a Tenancy in Special Circumstances

Tenancies typically end when either the landlord or the tenant gives notice or when the tenancy term is finished. There are also some special circumstances that can cause a tenancy to end:

Frustrated Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement is frustrated when an unexpected event beyond anyone’s reasonable control occurs making it impossible to meet the original terms of a tenancy agreement, or the terms can only be met in a significantly different manner than what was intended.

For example, if an earthquake damaged the rental unit so that it couldn’t be occupied for an extended period of time, the tenancy becomes frustrated.

In these cases, neither the landlord nor the tenant has to give notice to end the tenancy. Also, the tenant is not required to pay rent for the time after the unexpected event occurred and if rent for that period had already been paid, the landlord should reimburse the tenant.

Sometimes landlords and tenants don’t agree that the event has frustrated the tenancy. These situations can be especially challenging – for example, if a fire damages a unit extensively, but the tenant refuses to leave and holds up the restoration process.

A party who doesn’t agree that the tenancy was frustrated can apply for dispute resolution for an Order of Possession.

Death

If a landlord or tenant dies, the executor or administrator of their estate is responsible for any rights and obligations under the original tenancy agreement – they must follow the same steps for ending a tenancy as anyone else.

Find out how to end a tenancy properly:

If a tenant dies and there’s another tenant on the tenancy agreement, the tenancy continues. Otherwise, the estate of the tenant is responsible for the tenancy agreement. The executor or administrator can choose to pay the rent, give notice to end the tenancy or ask for the landlord’s permission to assign the tenancy to someone else.

When there is a death of a tenant and no action is taken by an administrator or by the estate of the deceased, and the rent hasn’t been paid for at least one month, the landlord may view the unit as abandoned.

When a landlord dies, the tenant continues to be responsible for paying the rent.

Abandonment

A tenancy may be considered abandoned when a tenant gives up the tenancy and possession of the rental unit without properly giving notice to the landlord. It’s not abandoned if the rent has been paid.

The landlord could consider a rental unit abandoned if the rent has not been paid for at least one month and one of the following conditions applies:

  • The tenant removed their possessions from the building
  • The tenant has told the landlord that they don’t intend to return
  • The tenant isn’t expected to return – for example, the tenant has moved into a care home

Tenants should let their landlord know if they plan to be away for a long time and make arrangements to pay the rent. If the rent is not paid and they’re away, the landlord may think they’ve abandoned their possessions and the tenancy.

When a tenant abandons the unit, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution to request compensation for unpaid rent and utilities or other expenses, such as cleaning.

Sublet or Assign Tenancy

Some tenancy agreements allow tenants to have someone else complete all or part of the term of their tenancy agreement (or take over their lease). Written permission from the landlord is required to sublet a rental unit or assign a tenancy agreement. Keep in mind that if the tenant remains in the rental unit while renting to an additional occupant, it may not be considered a sublet, but rather a roommate situation.

Foreclosure

Foreclosure is a legal process that allows a lender, like a bank or mortgage company, to repossess and resell property if a borrower hasn’t kept up with their payments. This process affects the rights of the landlord, and may also affect the tenant. Find more information at TRAC (Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre).

Ending a Tenancy Early

There are some circumstances when it’s necessary to end a tenancy as soon as possible – when waiting for a regular notice to take effect would be unreasonable or unfair. Applying for dispute resolution to end the tenancy early is required in these situations.

A landlord can apply for an order to end a tenancy without the usual notice if a tenant, (including their pets or guests) have done one of the following:

  • Significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another resident or the landlord
  • Seriously endangered the safety, rights or interests of the landlord or another resident
  • Engaged in illegal activity that has caused or could cause damage to the property, disturbed or threatened the security, safety or physical well-being of another resident, or endangered a lawful right or interest of another resident or the landlord
  • Caused major damage to the property or put the landlord’s property at considerable risk

A tenant can apply when a landlord has breached a material term of a tenancy agreement. Material terms are considered very important – in fact, even the smallest breach of a material term gives the other party the right to end the tenancy. An example of a material term breach could be if a landlord fails to provide a service or facility included in the agreement like heat, electricity or water.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: December 5, 2016.