Natural disasters and tenancies

Information for landlords and tenants impacted by natural disasters.

Last updated: November 17, 2021     

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Contact information and important documents

Communicating with your landlord or tenant during a disaster

You may have trouble contacting your landlord or tenant while evacuated. Ask your landlord or tenant for another way to contact them, such as email, an agent, or another phone number.

Landlords must provide contact information

Landlords must give tenants:
  • Their address for service
  • A phone number for themselves or their agents
  • Written or posted emergency repair contact info
If you don’t have your landlord's address for service, write to the address on the tenancy agreement.

Bring important documents when you're evacuated

Pack your important tenancy documents in your evacuation kit:

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

Paying rent while evacuated

Tenants still have to pay rent during an evacuation. If you can’t pay rent in person or by mail, check with the landlord about electronic options.

My landlord served me a 10-Day Notice to End Tenancy while I was evacuated

After you're served, you have five days to pay the unpaid rent or utilities or apply for dispute resolution.

Reviewing the damage

Landlords and tenants should communicate about when the tenant can return to the unit. Both parties should follow any orders not to enter the property.

My rental unit was destroyed

If you can’t keep living in the unit, take photos and video of the condition. Then, make an agreement in writing with your landlord that you are ending your tenancy because of the disaster. This is called 'frustrating' your tenancy.

Landlord must return rent and deposits

Once you and your landlord have agreed to end the tenancy, you don’t have to keep paying rent.
The landlord must return any rent paid after your agreement. This means that if you paid rent for a full month and agreed to end your tenancy on the 15th of that month, your landlord needs to return half of your rent for that month.
The landlord must also give back the security and pet deposits after the tenant provides a forwarding address in writing. This address can belong to a friend or trusted family member.

Disputes

  • You can’t come to an agreement
  • The landlord does not return the rent or deposits
  • The tenant has stopped paying rent
Tenants who can’t use all or part of their rental unit can also apply for dispute resolution to:
  • Get compensation for the loss of their unit
  • Get their rent reduced
  • End the tenancy

My rental unit was damaged

Let the landlord know about the damage in writing.

Cleaning and repairs

Landlords are responsible for making sure units meet health, safety and housing standards.
 
In most cases, the landlord or landlord’s insurance will pay for repairs. Landlords should attempt repairs within a reasonable time.

Paying rent during repairs

Landlords and tenants should make a written agreement about rent payments during repairs.

If the landlord and tenant can’t come to an agreement, the tenant should keep paying rent.

Tenants can apply for dispute resolution to:
  • Be compensated for not being able to use the rental unit
  • Get a temporary order to reduce rent

My landlord won't make repairs

If the landlord fails to make important repairs, they may be breaching a material term of the tenancy. If you believe your landlord is breaching a material term, you must notify them that:
  • There is a problem
  • You believe the problem breaches a material term of your tenancy agreement
  • The deadline you've set for them to fix the problem
  • You will end your tenancy if the problem isn't fixed by the deadline

A material term is a term that the parties both agree is so important that the most trivial
breach of that term gives the other party the right to end the agreement.

Removing fridges and freezers

Tenancy agreements must state the services and facilities included in the rent. They should say whether the landlord provides a refrigerator or freezer. After an evacuation, landlords should replace moldy or damaged refrigerators and freezers in a reasonable time.

Tenants can apply for dispute resolution if the landlord doesn’t:
  • Replace the fridge or freezer in a reasonable amount of time
  • Provide proper notice and a rent reduction

Alternate accommodations

Tenants have to pay for alternate accommodations unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise.

My belongings were damaged

Tenants are responsible for flood damage to their belongings. Read your tenant insurance policy to see what's covered.

Moving back in

Landlord’s responsibilities

The landlord must ensure the rental property meets health, safety and housing standards.
 
They do not have to consult with local government before letting the tenant back in the unit after a disaster. If there are health and safety concerns, the landlord should get the unit inspected.

Accessing the unit

The landlord must not unreasonably restrict access to the unit by the tenant or anyone the tenant permits to be there.
 
Tenants can apply for dispute resolution if they feel the landlord is restricting access.

Changing the locks

Landlords must give tenants new keys if they change the locks.
 
If the landlord doesn’t give you new keys, request them by phone and in writing. Keep a copy of the written request. If the landlord still doesn’t provide keys, apply for dispute resolution to request:
  • An order of possession
  • Compensation for any damage or loss
The landlord may have to pay for alternative accommodation for the time between the tenant requesting keys and the landlord providing them.

Landlords entering rental units

Landlords must notify tenants in writing at least 24 hours before entering the rental unit. The notice should:
  • Explain the reason
  • Give the date and time of the visit
The landlord can enter the unit without giving notice if they have:
  • An order allowing them to enter without notice
  • The tenant’s consent

The tenant does not need to be home when the landlord enters the unit.

Tenants can apply for dispute resolution if they believe the landlord entered their rental unit without notice.


Resolving disputes during a disaster

Hearings

I can't attend my hearing

If you can't attend your hearing due to a disaster, you can:

  • Get the other party’s written consent to move the hearing
  • Ask a friend or family member to go to the hearing for you and ask the arbitrator to change the date
  • Ask the RTB to add a note to your file which you can use as evidence if you can't attend your hearing

I missed my hearing

If you missed your hearing due to a disaster, you can apply for review consideration. You must do so within the regular time limits. Time limits are based on when you receive the decision or order.

I don’t have the evidence I need

If you don't have access to your evidence because of a disaster, phone in to your hearing and request an adjournment.

I need more time

If you're involved in a dispute when a disaster happens, you will still have to meet deadlines set by law. Arbitrators may be able to extend other deadlines.

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.

Serving documents

You can serve documents:
  • In person
  • By mail
  • By leaving them in a noticeable place or mailbox
  • By fax
  • By email, if the other party has given an email address for serving documents
If the other party hasn’t given you an email address for serving documents, try to get one.

Applying for alternative service

If you can’t serve documents using one of the available methods, you can apply to use a different one.
 
You need to prove:
  • You couldn’t serve the documents using one of the available ways
  • The other party is likely to get the documents the way you want to serve them

I didn’t get documents the other party said they served me

If you didn’t get notice of a hearing, you can apply for review consideration.
If you did not receive a notice to end tenancy, you can apply for dispute resolution.

Apply for dispute resolution


Travel accommodation and Single Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs)

The Residential Tenancy Act may apply to hotel rooms and vacation rentals if the occupant:

  • Lives there for a fixed term
  • Lives there for a long term
  • Is the only person occupying the rental
  • Lives there as their main primary and permanent home

The RTA does not apply to vacation or travel accommodation being used for vacation or travel purposes. However, if it is rented under a tenancy agreement, e.g. a winter chalet
rented for a fixed term of 6 months, the RTA applies.


I need help

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for help with your tenancy and flooding.
 
Email the RTB or call: