Claims for Damages or Loss

Landlords and tenants may ask the other person to pay money for damage or loss resulting from problems during the tenancy. If necessary, dispute resolution can help resolve any claims made.

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Damage and Loss in Tenancies

The term "damage" has two meanings in the law:

  • Things that need to be physically repaired or replaced
  • The amount of money an arbitrator may consider for losses when it's not clear how much compensation is required

Examples of the second type of damage can include such things as a tenant who has lost the use of their living room because of water damage from a leaking roof, or a landlord who has lost potential rent because the tenant left earlier than allowed by their tenancy agreement.

Claims for damage or loss may include claims by either party for the costs of repairs, claims by the tenant for loss of use of a part of the rental unit or loss of something that was promised by the landlord, or claims by the landlord for the cost of cleaning or re-renting the rental unit.

Usually claims can be settled between the landlord and tenant directly.  When the two parties are unable to resolve the issue on their own, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to have a claim for compensation heard. They must be prepared to prove:

  • That the damage or loss they are claiming is real
  • That this damage or loss happened because of the actions or neglect of the other person in violation of the Act, the regulations or the tenancy agreement
  • The amount required to compensate for the claimed loss or to repair the damage
  • That they took reasonable steps to minimize the damage and keep their losses as small as possible

The right to claim compensation doesn't end with the tenancy. Claims may be filed within two years after the tenancy ends – sooner is always better because things will be easier to remember. If one of the parties files a claim within that period, the other party can make a separate claim even if it falls outside the two year period, as long as they do so before the first claim is heard.

Minimizing Loss

When a problem occurs, it’s important to do whatever is reasonable to make sure the problem doesn't get worse or become more expensive – regardless of who caused it.

If a landlord or tenant suffers a loss because the other party broke a term of the tenancy agreement or didn’t meet their responsibilities, they must take reasonable steps to minimize loss. Here are some examples:

  • Tenant leaves without notice: The landlord tries their best to re-rent the unit as soon as they know the tenant has left
  • Tenant discovers a leaking pipe in their unit: The tenant reports the problem to the landlord right away and then does all that they can to protect the rental unit and their personal property from water damage

Property Damaged by Tenants

A tenant isn't responsible for reasonable wear and tear to a rental unit from normal usage over time. They are responsible for repairing substantial damage that they, their guests or pets cause. The tenant must also maintain a reasonable standard of health and cleanliness throughout the rental unit, common areas or manufactured home site (mobile home).

If a tenant doesn't repair damage that they caused, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution asking that the tenant pay money for the damage. The landlord should submit evidence along with their application to support their claim for compensation.

Tenants Leaving without Proper Notice

If a tenant ends a tenancy early without proper notice or ends a fixed-term tenancy without the landlord's written permission, the landlord may file a claim for compensation for loss of rent. Before making a claim, the landlord needs to take reasonable steps to re-rent the property like advertising for a new tenant right away and considering suitable applications for tenancy.

Ending a fixed-term tenancy without written permission is a breach of the tenancy agreement.

Sometimes a fixed-term tenancy agreement includes a clause that requires a tenant who ends the tenancy early to reimburse the landlord for costs of re-renting the unit – like advertising or lost rent. This is called a "liquidated damages" clause. The landlord must do their best to limit these costs by trying to rent the unit as soon as possible.

Tenancy Ended for Landlord Use or Major Construction/Renovations

When a landlord ends a tenancy under section 49 of the Residential Tenancy Act for landlord use or to do major construction or major renovations or repairs, they must:

  • Take steps to accomplish the stated purpose for ending the tenancy under section 49 within a reasonable period after the effective date of the notice, or
  • Use the rental unit for that stated purpose for at least 6 months beginning within a reasonable period after the effective date of the notice,

If they don’t, they must compensate the tenant 12 months’ rent payable under the tenancy agreement.  If there are extenuating circumstances, an arbitrator may exempt the landlord from this requirement.

Claims against Security and Pet Damage Deposits

If a tenant doesn't repair damage that they, their guests or pets caused to the rental property, the landlord may ask the tenant in writing to agree to allow the landlord to keep all or part of the deposit.

If a tenant doesn't agree to allow the landlord to keep all or some of the deposit, the landlord can apply for dispute resolution to request permission to keep all or some of the deposit. If the landlord is successful in the hearing, the tenant may have to pay the landlord's filing fee for the application as well.

If the tenant doesn't give the landlord their forwarding address in writing within one year after the tenancy ends, the landlord can keep the security deposit and pet damage deposit.

Tenant's Claims

A tenant may claim compensation:

  • When the value of their rental unit goes down because the landlord does not repair or maintain it – for example, if a landlord refuses to repair or replace a broken appliance after a tenant has notified them in writing, or if a tenant lost the use of their balcony for an excessive period of time
  • If a landlord fails to provide services or facilities that were terms of the tenancy agreement or required by law – this could include things like electricity, cable, laundry facilities or use of an elevator
  • For the loss of quiet enjoyment of their rental unit
  • Tenant's Application for Dispute Resolution (PDF)

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: May 17, 2018

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch