COVID-19 and Tenancies
The Residential Tenancy Act has been amended to support renters and landlords during the provincial state of emergency and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The amendments are in effect for the duration of the state of emergency. Talk to your landlord and make sure they are aware of the changes that have been made.
Last Updated: May 13, 2020
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Tenants should pay rent wherever possible. The legislation still requires that tenants pay rent in full and on time.
- The state of emergency temporarily suspends a landlord’s ability to end a tenancy if a tenant does not pay the rent in full and on time
- A tenant who has not paid rent could face eviction once the state of emergency is over
Tenants facing difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 crisis should consider all assistance that is available to them, including:
- The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers
- Temporary Rent Supplement
- Federal government financial supports
A temporary rent supplement is available.
- Eligible households with dependents can receive up to $500 per month
- Eligible households without dependents can receive up to $300 per month
- The supplement is paid directly to landlords
- Applications for the supplement are open on the BC Housing website
A landlord can give a notice for rent increase during the state of emergency.
- The rent increase will not come into effect until the state of emergency is over
If a landlord has already given a notice for rent increase, the increase will not come into effect until after the state of emergency is over.
- For example, if your rent was set to increase on April 1, 2020, you should continue to pay your existing, pre-increase amount
- 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 state of emergency, the tenant can deduct the additional amount from future rent payments.
To encourage physical distancing and minimize the transmission of COVID-19, the emergency order says that landlords are not permitted to enter the rental unit without the consent of the tenant (even if proper notice has been served) unless there is risk to personal property or life. If parties are not sick or in self-isolation and the tenant does consent, everyone should maintain safe physical distancing and practice all other health measures to prevent transmission.
A landlord must receive consent from the tenant before entering the unit for the following reasons:
- Making regular repairs
- Showing the unit to prospective tenants
- Hosting an open house
When showing units to 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
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
Landlords may reasonably restrict access to a shared service or facility such as a gym, pool or laundry room in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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).
If a service or facility is restricted in response to an Order of a public health official during the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords are not expected to reduce a tenant’s rent.
Poster for shared laundry rooms
COVID-19 Precautions for Multi-unit Residential Buildings with information on special use rooms and access restrictions
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. use single-use wipes, paper towel) or properly launder fabric cleaning cloths
- COVID-19 Precautions for Multi-unit Residential Buildings with detailed information on cleaning and other precautions
Most evictions are not allowed during the state of emergency.
- Notices to end tenancy cannot be given for any reason during the state of emergency
- In exceptional circumstances, a landlord may apply directly to the Residential Tenancy Branch to end the tenancy
Landlords cannot give notice to end tenancy for:
- Unpaid rent or utilities
- Landlord or purchaser use
- End of employment as a caretaker
- End of employment if the rental unit is being rented as a condition of employment
- Demolition, renovation, and conversion of a rental unit (or closure of a manufactured home park)
- Failure to qualify for a rental unit in subsidized housing
Landlords can apply to end a tenancy if it would be unreasonable, or unfair to the landlord or other occupants of the residential property, to wait for the state of emergency to end and the tenant or a person permitted on the residential property by the tenant has:
- Significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another occupant or the landlord of the residential property
- Seriously jeopardized the health or safety or a lawful right or interest of the landlord or another occupant
- Put the landlord's property at significant risk
- Caused extraordinary damage to the residential property
- Engaged in illegal activity that has
- Caused or is likely to cause damage to the landlord's property
- Adversely affected or is likely to adversely affect the quiet enjoyment, security, safety or physical well-being of another occupant of the residential property
- Jeopardized or is likely to jeopardize a lawful right or interest of another occupant or the landlord
Landlords can also apply to end a tenancy if:
- The rental unit must be vacated to comply with an order of a municipal, provincial or federal authority
- The rental unit is uninhabitable
- The tenancy agreement is otherwise frustrated
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
- LandlordBC COVID-19
- BC Non-Profit Housing Association COVID-19 / Coronavirus Update
- Building Owners and Managers Association Canada Coronavirus Resource Centre
Orders of possession cannot be enforced until after the state of emergency, except under exceptional circumstances. The order of possession must clearly state the section that it was made under. This will tell the Court whether the order is enforceable.
If the order of possession does not state the section for which it was granted, landlords may apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to have the Order clarified.
Writs of possession issued on or before March 30, 2020 cannot be enforced until the state of emergency is over.
- If a landlord or tenant was issued an order of possession on or before March 30, 2020, they must not file it with the Supreme Court unless it was granted through an application to end the tenancy early or because the tenancy is frustrated
- If a landlord or tenant has already filed their order of possession before March 30, 2020 and the Court has not issued a writ, the Court may return the order of possession to the landlord or tenant
- A landlord or tenant who obtained a writ of possession for reasons not outlined in the exceptional circumstances above must not enforce the writ, otherwise they could be subject to fines or jail time
If the notice to end tenancy was given on or after March 30, 2020, it can be ignored as the notice is of no force or effect.
- You might want to talk to your landlord about the new rules in case they are not aware
If the notice to end tenancy was given before March 30, 2020, tenants may:
- Dispute the notice by making an application for dispute resolution
- Accept the notice, and the tenancy will end
A notice given before March 30, 2020 is a valid notice and statutory timelines are in effect.
- If you fail to dispute the notice within the appropriate timeline, you will be deemed to have accepted that the tenancy is ended, and you may be evicted when the state of emergency is over
If you are unsure when the notice was given, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch.
I am a tenant and I gave my landlord a notice to end tenancy. Can I be evicted?
If you gave your landlord a notice to end tenancy, the notice is valid. Your landlord may apply for an order of possession.
- The order of possession cannot be enforced until the state of emergency is over
If you have changed your mind or cannot move, you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to ask whether they are willing to accept cancellation of the notice or make other arrangements.
A tenant who continues to occupy a rental unit after the tenant's tenancy is ended is called an overholding tenant. The landlord continues to be entitled to payment for use and occupancy when a tenant overholds. In this case, the landlord may apply for dispute resolution seeking an order of possession and accept payment for use and occupancy while awaiting dispute resolution. The order of possession cannot be enforced during the state of emergency, except under exceptional circumstances.
When accepting payment for use and occupancy, the landlord should state in writing that:
- The payment for rent or utilities is being accepted for use and occupancy only – it does not cancel the notice to end tenancy
- The tenant must still move out
Note: The “use and occupancy” arrangement is short-term—it allows use and occupancy only for the period of the payment and does not reinstate the tenancy. If, in a dispute resolution hearing, a party claims that tenancy has been reinstated, an arbitrator will consider all the circumstances including the intent of both parties when exchanging payment.
During the state of emergency, landlords cannot give new notices to end tenancy. Existing orders will not be enforced except under exceptional circumstances.
- This includes situations where a new buyer has required vacant possession
- Tenants that intended to move and have now decided to remain in their unit during the state of emergency should let their landlord know as soon as possible
- Landlords who are selling their home should talk to their realtor or legal counsel about what impact, if any, being unable to achieve vacant possession of the property may have on their sale
Serving Documents and Applying for Dispute Resolution During the Pandemic
Parties are expected to make reasonable efforts to file applications within the timelines set out in the legislation.
There are certain time limits the Director cannot extend. Please refer to the Policy Guideline 36: Extending a Time Period.
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:
- Review Requests
- Substituted Service
- Request to Join
Parties unable to use email or upload evidence may contact the RTB to determine other available options.
What happens if landlords and tenants miss time limits set out by the Act or Rules of Procedure?
- The Director will consider those circumstances when determining whether to grant an order extending a time limit and if necessary, adjourn the proceeding
- Where there is authority to extend time limits, arbitrators are directed to consider the COVID-19 pandemic as an exceptional circumstance
- A party will need to provide a reasonable explanation why they or someone on their behalf was unable to file an application within the legislated timelines. If a party does so, arbitrators should exercise their discretion to ensure a party affected by COVID-19 is not prejudiced
- Arbitrators will also consider circumstances, set out in the practice directive, when deciding whether to accept evidence that has been filed outside of the time-frames of the Rules of Procedure
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
- The arbitrator may grant an adjournment at the time of the hearing if the parties are impacted by COVID-19
- Arbitrators are directed to consider the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor that is beyond the party’s control when determining if an adjournment is appropriate