During the Hearing
At the hearing, both the applicant and the respondent have an opportunity to explain their side of the dispute. The arbitrator hears both sides and reviews any evidence, testimony or documents submitted before making a decision. A final decision is made within 30 days of the hearing date.
It’s important to be well-organized for the hearing – stick to the relevant facts and provide evidence to support your position.
Starting the Hearing
Just like a judge in court, the arbitrator has the authority to decide how the hearing will be conducted. Most hearings are held over the phone. Hearings are held in person in limited situations when there’s a strong need for doing so, for example, to accommodate someone with a documented hearing loss or disability that would prevent them from participating in a teleconference hearing.
The instructions for dialing into the hearing are listed on the Notice of Hearing letter included in the Notice of Hearing Package. Make sure to dial in at the correct time using the phone number and information provided in the letter.
Hearings usually start at the scheduled time – the arbitrator may wait a few minutes if someone is late to arrive. If a party or their agent does not attend the hearing, the arbitrator may continue without them, or dismiss the application, with or without leave to re-apply.
It’s possible for the arbitrator to be delayed by an earlier hearing. If the arbitrator isn’t on the phone when the hearing is scheduled to begin, the parties must wait 30 minutes before disconnecting from the line. If the arbitrator does not join the hearing, the parties should contact an information officer.
The arbitrator will start the hearing with a round of introductions, a brief explanation of what will happen and some “ground rules” – like being courteous and not interrupting when someone else is speaking.
Usually the hearing is scheduled for an hour. If more time is needed, the arbitrator can adjourn the hearing and continue at a future date – each party will be mailed a letter with the details of the next hearing. The parties must attend at the rescheduled time with any witnesses they wish to present, or have sworn statements from witnesses who can’t attend.
Presentation of Evidence
Usually the arbitrator asks the applicant to make their case and present their evidence first – this includes presentation of documents, photographs and digital evidence. In cases where the applicant is a tenant disputing a notice, the arbitrator may require the landlord to go first to justify why the notice was issued.
Evidence must be presented by the party who submitted it, or by the party’s agent. If a party or their agent does not attend the hearing, any written submissions supplied may or may not be considered by the arbitrator.
Then the arbitrator will listen to any witnesses. After each party has presented their evidence and witnesses have been heard, the arbitrator may allow each party to ask questions—sometimes the arbitrator may require questions to be asked through the arbitrator.
Make sure to present evidence thoroughly but briefly:
- Make notes about how you will make your case and the order in which you will present evidence
- Don’t repeat statements already made
- Make all necessary points in the initial presentation of your evidence as you may not have another opportunity to present evidence later
The arbitrator can decide whether an oath is required for parties presenting evidence or witnesses testifying. If an oath is required, individuals may either swear an oath or make a solemn statement that what they say is the truth. Remember, it’s an offence to give false or misleading information at a dispute resolution hearing.
Parties don’t necessarily need to have witnesses, but sometimes witness testimony may be the only available evidence to present. Witnesses must have first-hand information about the dispute, not just opinions. For example, other tenants may be invited to testify about the dates and times of loud and disruptive parties or their concern about an unsafe building. Generally, after each witness has presented evidence, the other party may ask questions, if permitted by the arbitrator.
Witnesses cannot participate in the hearing until they are called to provide evidence. In conference call hearings, witnesses must not be within hearing range of the call until asked to give evidence.
Each party has an opportunity to respond to evidence presented by the other party – they have the right to ask questions of the opposing party and witnesses. Questions may need to be asked through the arbitrator and must be related to the issues of the dispute, otherwise they won’t be allowed.
After all evidence is presented, the arbitrator may ask the parties if they wish to make a submission. This isn’t an opportunity to restate evidence already provided – it’s time used to clarify relevant points that are not clear from the presentation of evidence. This would include referring to a specific legal precedent or by emphasizing important points for the arbitrator to consider.
Submissions may be limited to either a set time or a certain item. Be prepared for questions that the arbitrator may ask. If the arbitrator has heard enough evidence to find in favour of a party, a submission may not be necessary.
Recording the Hearing
Private recordings of the hearing are not allowed. A party may make a written request to the Residential Tenancy Branch for approval to obtain an official transcript by an accredited Court Reporter. The request must state the reasons for the request and the party must give a copy of the request to the Residential Tenancy Branch and the other party not less than 7 days before the hearing.
If the arbitrator agrees, the requesting party must cover the cost of hiring a court reporter and provide copies of the transcript to the Residential Tenancy Branch as well as the other party.
The Final Decision
The arbitrator will make a decision within 30 days of the hearing – this decision is final and binding. Copies will be mailed to the first applicant and first respondent listed on the application form, for sharing with the other applicant(s)/respondent(s), or as otherwise determined during the hearing.
You must tell the arbitrator at the end of the hearing if you need the decision sent to an address that’s different than the one on your application.
In urgent matters regarding possession of a rental unit, the arbitrator may fax decisions and orders upon request as a courtesy or tell the parties when the documents will be available to be picked up at a Residential Tenancy Branch location or Service BC location.
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 22, 2016.