COVID-19 and Tenancies

Updates to residential tenancies that impact landlords and renters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 

Last updated: August 14, 2020        

On this page:


Rental Assistance Benefits

Tenants facing difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 crisis should consider all assistance that is available to them, including:


Rent Repayment Plan

To give tenants a reasonable timeframe to pay back any rent they owe from the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020, the Province has introduced a repayment framework.

  • A landlord is required to give their tenants a repayment plan for unpaid rent or utilities due during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020
  • If the landlord and the tenant entered into a prior agreement for unpaid rent or utilities it can be replaced with a new agreement, by either the landlord or tenant

A repayment plan should not be issued until August 18, 2020 (after the specified period ends on August 17, 2020).

How Does the Repayment Plan Work?

A landlord cannot end a tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities that came due during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020 without giving the tenant a repayment plan for the unpaid amount.

For example, if the tenancy agreement specifies that rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must give the tenant a repayment plan for unpaid rent or utilities that were due on the following dates and remain unpaid:

  • April 1, 2020
  • May 1, 2020
  • June 1, 2020
  • July 1, 2020
  • August 1, 2020

As long as the tenant makes the payments required by the repayment plan in full and on time, the tenant cannot be given a notice to end tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities for that amount.  

If the tenant defaults on the repayment plan, the landlord may give the tenant a Notice to End Tenancy.

Repayment Plan Requirements

A repayment plan is invalid if it does not conform with all requirements. All plans must include the following four basic terms:

  • The repayment period starts on the date the repayment plan is given by the landlord to the tenant and ends on July 10, 2021
  • The payment of the overdue rent must be in equal instalments
  • Each instalment must be paid on the same date that rent is due under the tenancy agreement
  • The date the first instalment is due must be at least 30 days after the date the repayment plan is given by the landlord to the tenant

Those four terms can only be amended by the landlord and tenant if they want to:

  • Extend the repayment period beyond July 10, 2021
  • Allow earlier instalments to be less than later instalments
    • For example, the tenant pays $100 in September and $300 in October
  • Change the date that instalments are due each month. Remember, the first payment date must comply with the 30-day requirement
    • For example, a landlord gives their tenant a repayment plan on September 1. The earliest an instalment is required is October 1st, but the landlord and tenant decide that the first instalment can be paid October 15

Repayment plans must be in writing and set out the following:

  • The date the repayment period starts (this is the date the repayment plan is given by the landlord to the tenant)
  • The total amount of rent and/or utilities that are overdue (for example, $2,000)
  • The date on which each instalment must be paid (for example, the first of each month until July 2021 if the tenancy agreement specifies that rent is due on the first of the month)
  • The amount that must be paid in each instalment (for example, $200 each month)

A repayment plan must be given to a tenant in one of the following ways:

  • Hand delivered
  • Sent by registered mail to the address at which the tenant resides or to a forwarding address provided by the tenant
  • As ordered by an arbitrator on application

Review the Residential Tenancy Branch information on serving documents in Policy Guideline 12.

Resources

The Residential Tenancy Branch has created a repayment plan template for landlords and tenants. Landlords and tenants do not have to use the template, however a repayment plan document is invalid if it does not conform with all the requirements.


Rent Increases

A landlord can give a notice for a rent increase. The rent increase will not come into effect until December 1, 2020.

  • For example, if your rent was set to increase on April 1, 2020, continue to pay your existing, pre-increase amount until December 1, 2020
  • If a tenant has given their landlord post-dated cheques, the tenant should request that the cheques be returned to them and they can issue new cheques

If a landlord does collect the increase amount during the period that rent increases are not allowed, the tenant can deduct the additional amount from future rent payments.


Evictions for Unpaid Rent​

The ban on issuing evictions for non-payment of rent is over as of August 18, 2020. This means that tenants must pay rent in full on the day it is due or they can be evicted.

A landlord may issue a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities if:

  • The tenant failed to pay rent that was due before March 18, 2020

or

  • The tenant fails to pay full rent due after August 17, 2020 (for most renters that would be September 1, 2020)

A landlord must not issue a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities that came due during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020 unless the landlord has given the tenant a repayment plan for the unpaid amount and the tenant has defaulted on the repayment plan.

A landlord cannot charge a late fee for any unpaid rent during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020.

Late payment of rent and non-payment of rent during the specified period of March 18, 2020 to August 17, 2020 are not considered "cause" for eviction.


Restrictions on the One Month Notice to End Tenancy for Cause

Rent or utilities that were due and payable by the tenant during the specified period of March 18 to August 17, 2020 is called "affected rent."

A landlord may not issue a Notice to End Tenancy for Cause for the following reasons:

  • One or more payments of the affected rent are late
  • The affected rent being unpaid is what put the landlord's property at significant risk
  • The lawful right or interest of the landlord is the right or interest to receive the affected rent
  • A breach of a material term where the breach is the non-payment of the affected rent
  • The tenant did not pay a monetary order for the affected rent

Accessing Rental Units 

A landlord may enter a rental unit for any of the following reasons by providing the tenant with proper notice

  • Conducting move-in and move-out condition inspections
  • Making regular repairs
  • Conducting a monthly condition inspection
  • Showing the unit to prospective tenants
  • Hosting an open house

Physical distancing and proper cleaning protocols should continue to be followed.

Guidelines for Accessing Units

  • Give appropriate notice
  • Follow public health measures including physical distancing wherever possible
  • Wear a mask
  • Follow cleaning protocols set out by public health officials

When communicating with prospective tenants, a landlord can consider:

  • Showing vacant suites
  • Using virtual tours, video conferencing, photos, and online floorplans
  • Sending documents via email and using electronic signatures
  • Using online payment methods
  • Conducting communications by email, phone, or video conferencing

Common Areas

A landlord can reasonably restrict or schedule the use of common or shared areas to support physical distancing and prevent the spread of the virus. 

  • This applies to both tenants and guests of the rental building
  • A landlord must not prevent or interfere with the access to the tenant’s rental unit

Temporary restrictions on access to common areas are considered reasonable if they are made:

  • to protect the health, safety or welfare of the landlord, the tenant, an occupant or a guest of the residential property due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • to comply with an order of a federal, British Columbia, regional or municipal government authority, including orders made by the Provincial Health Officer or under the Emergency Program Act; or
  • to follow the guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control or the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Reasonable restrictions may include:

  • Closing access to gyms, recreation rooms, pools and hot tubs where physical distancing cannot be maintained at all times
  • Limiting use of elevators to 2-3 passengers at a time
  • Limiting the number of residents in laundry facilities at a time. Consider creating a laundry schedule for managing the number of residents in the room (landlords should make all reasonable efforts to allow tenants to have safe access to laundry rooms).

It is not reasonable to require tenants to quarantine for 14 days after a trip locally such as to the store or doctor.

If a service or facility is restricted in response to an Order of a public health official during the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants will not receive a rent reduction.


Cleaning

It is estimated that the virus may remain on surfaces from a couple of hours to a few days. Increased frequency of cleaning for regularly touched surfaces will help slow transmission in combination with individual hygiene and physical distancing efforts. Regularly review up-to-date information on cleaning procedures from the BC Centre for Disease Control and other reliable sources.

  • Increase frequency of cleaning of high-touch areas
  • Regular household and commercial cleaning  products are effective against COVID-19
  • Do not mix bleach and ammonia or other cleaners
  • The federal government maintains a list of hard surface disinfectants that may be used for COVID-19
  • Follow product instructions for dilution, contact time and safe use
  • All visibly dirty surfaces should be cleaned BEFORE disinfecting (unless otherwise stated on the product)
  • Cleaning staff should wear the regular Personal Protective Equipment required for the hazards normally encountered in their course of work (e.g., working with chemicals) and use disposable materials (e.g. single-use wipes or, paper towel) or properly launder fabric cleaning cloths
  • COVID-19 Precautions for Multi-unit Residential Buildings with detailed information on cleaning and other precautions

ASL Translation


Disputes

Landlords and tenants can apply for dispute resolution when they can’t resolve a problem related to a tenancy.

Mediate BC is also offering a Quarantine Conflict Resolution Service

Important links:

ASL Translation


Emergency Orders

On March 18, 2020, a provincial state of emergency was declared to support the province-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 30, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Emergency Order #M089 (PDF, 296KB) allowing changes to tenancy laws to protect renters from losing their homes. 

On June 24, 2020, Emergency Order #M195 (PDF, 691KB) was issued, rescinding the order dated March 30, 2020. Emergency Order #M195 was later repealed as of July 30, 2020 when the COVID-19 (Residential Tenancy Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act) Regulation took effect.

Director's Orders and Practice Directives

On March 30, 2020, the Residential Tenancy Branch issued a temporary order that allowed for service of documents by email in limited circumstances during the state of emergency.

On June 24, 2020, a new Director's Order was issued, rescinding the order dated March 30, 2020. This new order continues to be in effect until the end of the state of emergency. 

The Resident Tenancy Branch also issued a Practice Directive to arbitrators regarding the Director's Orders, changing time limits for landlords and tenants affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. This Practice Directive lapsed at midnight on June 24, 2020.

The Director's Order and accompanying Practice Directive issued March 30, 2020 are no longer in effect but still may be applicable to events that occurred prior to June 24, 2020.

Enforcement of Orders

All Residential Tenancy Branch orders can be enforced by the Courts.


Questions

 

Can a landlord enforce an Order of Possession?​     

Yes, landlords wishing to have an existing order of possession enforced will be able to apply to begin that process on July 1, 2020, by filing it with the courts.

No, independent living facilities are generally covered under the Residential Tenancy Act. Assisted living and long-term care are not covered under this Act. During the pandemic some independent living residents have been told they are not permitted to have visitors or leave their residence and have been threatened with eviction if they do not comply.

  • One of the standard terms of a tenancy agreement is that a landlord must not stop the tenant from having guests under reasonable circumstances in the rental unit.
  • Another standard term is that the landlord must not impose restrictions on guests.
  • The landlord may impose reasonable restrictions on guests’ use of common areas of the residential property.
    • The Ministry of Health issued a health policy on May 19, 2020 restricting visitors to essential visits only and defined what an essential visit is.
    • This health policy pertains to assisted living and long-term care facilities only, it does not apply to independent living facilities.
  • If a tenant receives a notice to end tenancy, or is threatened with eviction because of restrictions on movement in or out of the facility, they should contact the Residential Tenancy Branch and consider applying for dispute resolution.
  • An arbitrator, based on the evidence provided by both parties, will make a determination of whether the imposed restrictions are reasonable.

 

Serving Documents and Applying for Dispute Resolution During the Pandemic

While Service BC and the Burnaby Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) office are currently open and modifying their operations to ensure public safety, parties are asked to stay home if possible, and are encouraged to file applications and evidence online.

The following documents that cannot be filed online, may be emailed to the RTB at RTBGAREF@Victoria1.gov.bc.ca:

  • Amendments
  • Review Requests
  • Corrections
  • Clarifications
  • Substituted Service
  • Request to Join

Parties unable to use email or upload evidence may contact the RTB to determine other available options.

Parties must think carefully about what method of service they use to ensure materials are received by the other party while maintaining physical distancing, social isolation or quarantine.
 
The ban on personal service has been lifted and the Director's order allowing for email service has been rescinded. Parties may apply to the Director for a substitutional service order, seeking permission to use email as a method of service.

Please visit the Canada Post website for the latest on mail delivery.

There may be circumstances where parties agree an adjournment is necessary. Parties can consent to rescheduling a hearing if they file written consent with the RTB not less than three days prior to the hearing.

  • If parties cannot consent to rescheduling the matter, arbitrators may adjourn a hearing to another date
  • Where parties have consented to reschedule a hearing, but consent is received less than 3 days before the hearing, both parties must phone in to the hearing
  • If a party is unable to phone into the hearing themselves, they may have someone call into the teleconference hearing on their behalf to request the adjournment
  • An arbitrator may grant an adjournment at the time of the hearing if satisfied that a parties' ability to participate or attend has been impacted by COVID-19