2021 Flooding and Tenancies

Information for landlords and tenants impacted by the recent flooding in BC.

Last updated: November 17, 2021      

On this page:


Before an evacuation

You may have trouble contacting your landlord or tenant while evacuated.  If possible, ask your landlord or tenant for alternative contact methods, such as email, an agent, or an alternate phone number.

If you can, try to include important tenancy documents in your evacuation pack:

  • Tenancy agreement
  • Tenant insurance policy
  • Documentation and evidence for any upcoming dispute resolution proceedings

During an evacuation

If you have a hearing coming up and cannot attend or present your case:

  • Contact the other party, if possible, and see if they will consent to adjourning the hearing to another date.  If possible, obtain their consent in writing, such as an email or text message.
  • If you are unable to call into the hearing, ask a friend or family member if they are able to call into the hearing as your agent. They can tell the arbitrator why you are unable to attend and that you would like the hearing to be adjourned so you are able to attend. It is up to the arbitrator to decide whether to adjourn the hearing to another date
  • If  you are unable to get in contact with the other party, or they are not willing to adjourn the hearing, you may apply for a review of any order made on the grounds that you were unable to attend the hearing. You will have to submit evidence with your application that shows something unexpected or out of your control prevented you from attending
  • If possible, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch to advise them that you are unable to attend your hearing due to a flood and that you have been unable to obtain the consent of the other party to adjourn the hearing. While the Residential Tenancy Branch is unable to adjourn the hearing, a note can be added to your file stating that you called in. You can use this note as evidence if you would like to apply for a review of a decision on the grounds that you were unable to attend the hearing
  • If you don't have the telephone number or access code for your hearing, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch to obtain that information.

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch


After an evacuation

If you are not immediately returning to your home following an evacuation, make sure you have someone check your mail and rental unit or manufactured home site regularly for important communication from your landlord.  Be sure to regularly check the Canada Post website for updates on mail service and alternative pick up locations.

Rental property damaged or destroyed by flooding

If a rental unit or manufactured home park has been damaged by flooding but remains inhabitable, the tenant should inform the landlord in writing of any damage to the rental unit or manufactured home park so the landlord has a reasonable opportunity to make repairs.

If the unit was damaged to the point that it is uninhabitable, the tenancy agreement could be “frustrated.”  This means it is not possible for the tenant to continue living in the unit through no fault of either the landlord or the tenant.  

A tenant who believes the tenancy agreement has been frustrated should inform their landlord in writing that they are treating the tenancy agreement as frustrated.  If the landlord agrees that the tenancy agreement is frustrated, then the tenancy is ended, and the tenant does not have to continue paying rent.  It is advisable to get this agreement in writing.

The landlord would be required to return any rent paid for renting the unit or site after the tenancy agreement was frustrated.  For example, if rent was paid on the 1st and the tenancy was frustrated on the 5th, the landlord would be required to reimburse the tenant pro-rated amounts for rent from the 6th to the end of the month.  If the landlord does not reimburse this amount, the tenant may make an Application for Dispute Resolution seeking compensation for damage or loss under the Act, Regulation, or tenancy agreement.

For residential tenancies, the landlord would be required to return the security deposit and pet damage deposit after the tenant provides their forwarding address in writing—this address can be the address of a trusted friend or family member.

Document the condition of the property with photos and video in case there is a dispute about whether the tenancy is frustrated.

What happens if a landlord and tenant don’t agree whether a tenancy agreement has been frustrated?

If the landlord disagrees that the tenancy agreement is frustrated and the tenant has stopped paying rent, the landlord may make an Application for Dispute Resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch to claim compensation for unpaid rent and, for residential tenancies, to keep some or all of the security deposit.  The tenant may make a cross-application if they believe they are owed monies or, for residential tenancies, believe the landlord should not keep their security deposit or pet damage deposit.  Both the tenant and landlord should be prepared to provide proof of the condition of the unit or manufactured home park and what caused the tenancy to be frustrated.

If the landlord believes the tenancy agreement has been frustrated, but the tenant does not agree, the landlord may make an Application for Dispute Resolution for an order of possession.

Cleaning and repairing flood damage

The landlord must provide and maintain the rental unit or manufactured home park in a state of decoration or repair that complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law. In most cases, the landlord, or the landlord’s insurance company, will pay for repairs to the unit or manufactured home park. In a manufactured home park, the landlord is usually not responsible to pay the tenant for loss of the manufactured home. In a residential tenancy, the landlord is usually not responsible for the tenant’s loss of personal property in the rental unit.

There is no set period for a landlord to repair a rental unit or manufactured home park, unless ordered to make repairs by the Residential Tenancy Branch or another agency. However, landlords should attempt to repair the unit or park within a reasonable time.

Rent payments during repairs due to flood

Tenants and landlords should discuss what is expected for rental payments. Any agreement made by landlords and tenants should be in writing. If the tenant and landlord are not able to come to an agreement about the rent, the tenant should pay their rent as set out in their tenancy agreement.  A tenant who is unable to use their rental unit for a period may be entitled to compensation for that loss and can make an Application for Dispute Resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch for an order to temporarily reduce their rent. Landlords should check with their insurance company to determine if loss of rental income is covered under their insurance policy.  If the failure of the landlord to complete the repairs results in a breach of a material term of the tenancy, and the tenant has given notice to the landlord of the breach, then the tenant may end the tenancy.

Tenant’s belongings and alternate accommodations

Tenants are usually responsible for their belongings if they are damaged in a flood. If the tenant has tenant’s insurance, they should read their policy closely to see what kind of damage is covered and call their insurer with any questions.

Tenants are responsible for the cost of alternate accommodations unless otherwise stated in the tenancy agreement if they are unable to stay in their rental unit due to flood damage.


Serving documents during an evacuation

The Province’s tenancy laws set out how you can serve documents, including for repairs, a notice of entry, or dispute resolution proceedings.  During an evacuation, mail service may be restricted.  It is important to review your options related to how you can serve documents.  Subject to different timeline requirements, you can serve documents in-person, by mail, by leaving them in a noticeable place or in a mailbox, by fax, or by email.  Email can only be used if a party has provided an email address specifically for service.  If you do not already have an email address for a landlord/tenant for this purpose, try to get one.  Be sure to regularly check the Canada Post website for updates on mail service and alternative pick up locations.

What happens if I don’t receive documents that my landlord/tenant says they served?

If you did not receive documents that your landlord or tenant says they served to you, you may have recourse through the Residential Tenancy Branch.

For example, you may dispute a Notice to End Tenancy that you did not receive when served or file an Application for Review Consideration if a hearing is held that you did not receive notice of.


Returning to the rental unit after an evacuation

A landlord must not unreasonably restrict access to a residential property or manufactured home park by the tenant or a person permitted on the property by that tenant.

Although tenants will be anxious to return to their homes, landlords may be hesitant to allow tenants re-entry into their units if there is uncertainty whether the premises are habitable. A landlord must ensure the state of the residential property or manufactured home park complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law. Tenants should also be mindful of any local government or provincial order(s) not to enter the property.

In these circumstances landlords and tenants should keep in contact. The landlord should communicate reasons for any delay in the tenant returning home, and tenants may wish to check with their landlord on the availability of their rental unit prior to returning.

If all efforts to resolve the matter between landlord and tenant fail and a tenant feels the landlord is unreasonably restricting access to the rental unit, the tenant may make an Application for Dispute Resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch

Notice to enter a tenant’s rental premises

A landlord must not enter a rental unit or manufactured home site without notice or consent unless the landlord has reasonable grounds to believe there is an emergency or the tenant has abandoned the rental unit or manufactured home site.

Otherwise, landlords require the permission of the tenant, or must provide the tenant with 24 hours written notice explaining the reason for entering the unit and the date and time of entry, or have an order of the Director of the BC Residential Tenancy Branch authorizing entry. The tenant is not required to be present when the landlord enters.

Tenants who have evidence the landlord may have entered their rental unit improperly can make an Application for Dispute Resolution.


Dispute resolution deadlines during flooding

Some deadlines are set by law and can't be changed.  For example, a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator may not extend the time limit to make an Application for Dispute Resolution to dispute a Notice to End Tenancy beyond the effective date of the notice, and may not extend the time limit for a tenant to pay overdue rent without the agreement of the landlord - unless the tenant has deducted the unpaid amount because the tenant believes that the deduction was allowed for emergency repairs or under an order of the Director of the BC Residential Tenancy Branch.

In other circumstances, a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator may extend a deadline in exceptional circumstances.


Vacation/travel accommodation and Single Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs)

The Residential Tenancy Act (External link) does not apply to living accommodation occupied as vacation or travel accommodation. This includes hotel rooms and vacation rentals such as AirBnBs. However, the Act will generally apply if a vacation rental is rented under a tenancy agreement.
 
Some factors that may determine if there is a tenancy agreement are:
  • Whether the agreement to rent the accommodation is for a term;
  • Whether the occupant has exclusive possession of the hotel room;
  • Whether the hotel room is the primary and permanent residence of the occupant.
  • The length of occupancy.

An example of a situation where the Act would apply is a winter chalet rented for a fixed term of six months.

Read our policy guideline on jurisdiction for more information about hotel rooms and the Residential Tenancy Act.


Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch

If you have any questions about your tenancy and flooding, please contact the Residential Tenancy Branch:

Phone

  • 604-660-1020 (Lower Mainland)
  • 250-387-1602 (Victoria)
  • 1-800-665-8779 (Everywhere else in BC)

Email