In British Columbia, rental properties are governed by the Residential Tenancy Act and disputes are handled by the Residential Tenancy Branch of the provincial government.
Disputes between landlords and tenants often arise from many simple issues. A barking dog or a leaky faucet can quickly escalate to a city bylaw fine for nuisance or an expensive water damage repair from an unattended leak that the landlord is on the hook for as the property owner.
The first and most important step in a tenancy is having all the appropriate paperwork completed and signed by both the tenant and the landlord. Without a completed and signed Tenancy Agreement and Condition Inspection Report, there may not be enough evidence to deal with the courts or insurance should a dispute or emergency arise.
The second important step is for both the landlord and the tenant to have appropriate insurance. It is advisable that the landlord requires as a condition of the Tenancy Agreement that the tenant has renter’s insurance in place and to provide proof to the landlord that the insurance is in place on an annual basis.
If the rental property becomes vacant, the landlord must contact their insurer immediately and vary the property coverage to insure for the risks of a vacant property, such as a burst pipe, fire, or vandalism that may go undetected for a time. The landlord must also do regular and frequent inspections during the vacancy to ensure the property is safe and secure. Extra precaution should be taken to ensure unauthorized people cannot break in and “squat” while the property is vacant – a monitored alarm system and extra fortification of doors and windows are recommended.
In the situation where the property is vacant and unauthorized persons move into or use the property, it can be very difficult and costly to get them out. The police will not assist in eviction from a residential property without a Court Order, even if the residents are squatters. It is expensive and time-consuming to obtain such an Order and in the meantime, the damage to the property can be great and most likely uninsured.
Like with marriage, entering a tenancy can be simple enough and plenty of people do so without a lawyer, but the process of ending the relationship can be messy, complicated, and very expensive. A lawyer can always assist with practical advice at any stage of the landlord-tenant relationship and help you get ahead of potential problems if possible.