2017 Wildfires and Your Tenancy

Have you been affected by the 2017 Wildfires?  Visit the Government of BC Wildfire Status page for important updates and information.

Find information below about how the 2017 Wildfires may affect your tenancy.

What do I need to do during an evacuation alert?

Stay safe.  The most important consideration is to follow the advice of your local officials. 

You may have trouble contacting your landlord or tenant while evacuated.  If possible, get another contact method for your landlord or tenant  now--email, an agent or an alternate phone number.

If you are able to, include important tenancy documents in your evacuation pack:

  • tenancy agreement
  • tenant insurance policy
  • documentation and evidence for any upcoming dispute resolution proceedings

What do I need to know during an evacuation?

Upcoming Dispute Resolution Proceedings

If you have a hearing coming up in the next few days and aren't going to be able to 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. 
  • If it is not possible to contact the other party, or if they are not willing to consent to adjourn the hearing, phone into the hearing as scheduled. 
  • If you don’t have the telephone number and access code for your hearing, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch to obtain that information. 

What do I need to know when returning to my community 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.

My  home was damaged or destroyed by fire.  What do I do now?

If a rental unit or manufactured home park has been damaged by fire, but remains inhabitable, the tenant should inform their landlord in writing of any damage to the rental unit or manufactured home park, so that 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.

You can find a template to help you and your landlord put your agreement in writing here:

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 for 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.

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: tenancy frustrated under section 56.1 of the Residential Tenancy Act or section 49.1 of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

When 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 your 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: tenancy frustrated under section 56.1 of the Residential Tenancy Act or section 49.1 of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

How can I serve documents?

 

Tenancy law sets out how you can give or serve documents generally, like a request for repairs or a notice of entry.

Tenancy law sets out special rules for certain documents.

The Residential Tenancy Branch issued a temporary order that allowed for service of documents by email in limited circumstances during the state of emergency due to the 2017 Wildfires.  These orders lapsed at midnight on September 15, 2017. 

Learn more about serving documents during a tenancy

Learn more about serving documents for dispute resolution

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.

 

What if I can't meet a deadline because of the 2017 Wildfires?

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 or unless the tenant has deducted the unpaid amount because the tenant believed that the deduction was allowed for emergency repairs or under an order of the director.

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

During the state of emergency due to the 2017 Wildfires, the Residential Tenancy Branch issued a Practice Directive to arbitrators regarding Director's orders: changing time limits for landlords and tenants affected by the 2017 Wildfires.  This Practice Directive lapsed at midnight on September 15, 2017.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: October 2, 2017.

Contact the Residential Tenancy Branch