COVID-19 and Tenancies

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

Last updated: August 5, 2020        

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Planned Residential Tenancy Changes

Government is planning the following changes to residential tenancies.

  • Renters will need to pay their monthly rent in full beginning September 2020
  • A landlord whose tenant has unpaid rent or utilities during the emergency period would be required to enter into a repayment plan for those arrears
  • A landlord would not be able to issue a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities during this period unless the tenant has defaulted on their repayment plan
  • A landlord would be able to issue a Notice of Rent Increase, but it will not come into effect until December 1, 2020

Evictions for Unpaid Rent​

The Province plans to lift the ban on issuing evictions for non-payment of rent ahead of September 1, 2020.

  • Landlords will be able to issue a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent or utilities if the tenant fails to pay full rent September 1, 2020

A landlord cannot charge a late fee for any unpaid rent during the emergency period.

  • Late payments during the emergency period are not considered "cause" for eviction

A tenant cannot be issued a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent during the emergency unless they have defaulted on their repayment plan.

  • A tenant that owes rent from before March 18, 2020 can be issued a Notice to End Tenancy for unpaid rent

Rent Repayment Plan

To give renters a reasonable timeframe to pay back any rent they owe from the emergency, the Province is introducing a repayment framework.

  • Landlords are required to enter into a repayment plan with a tenant for unpaid rent and/or utilities due during the emergency period (March 18, 2020 and ongoing)
  • If the landlord and the tenant entered into a prior agreement for unpaid rent it can be replaced with a new agreement for all arrears

How Does the Repayment Plan Work?

Under the framework, a repayment plan would have to be in writing and would have to be served using specific methods under the Residential Tenancy Act.

For example, a renter owing $2,000 in unpaid rent would receive a repayment plan that sets out:

  • The total amount of rent still owed from the emergency period ($2,000)
  • The date each installment would be paid (for example, the first of each month until July 2021) 
  • The amount the renter would have to pay each month, with the total owing split into equal installments ($200 each month)
  • The date the first payment would be due (for example, October 1, 2020)

The landlord and tenant would be able to amend the agreement but only to:

  • Extend the end date
  • Change the monthly installment amount to allow earlier installments to be less
  • Extend the date that repayment begins for longer than 30 days

If the tenant defaults on this repayment plan, the landlord would be able to give a Notice to End Tenancy.

To find out more see the COVID-19 Regulation, issued July 30, 2020.

Rent Increases

A landlord can give a notice for 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.


Rental Assistance Benefits

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


Evictions for Other Reasons

Landlords can give a Notice to End Tenancy for:

  • Cause, with some restrictions (see below)
  • 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
  • The rental unit must be vacated to comply with an order of a municipal, provincial or federal authority

Restrictions on the One Month Notice to End Tenancy for Cause

Rent or utilities that were due and payable by the tenant during the period of the State of Emergency (March 18 and ongoing) 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

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 one month notice period 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 is uninhabitable
  • The tenancy agreement is otherwise frustrated

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. This new order continues to be in effect until the end of the state of emergency. 

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