Residential Tenancy Branch Dispute ResolutionJan 22 2024
The Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”) provides landlords and tenants with information on their rights and responsibilities and is also provides the mandatory dispute resolution process for landlords and tenants who are covered by the BC Residential Tenancy Act (“RTA”). Navigating the rental landscape can be difficult and confusing, especially if a dispute occurs. In this post we explore options for cost-effective services if you find yourself needing help in a dispute. While we provide our general flat rates below, please note these are based on standard disputes and may vary depending on complexity.
What Are Unbundled Legal Services?
The first step when a dispute or concern occurs is knowing your rights. The RTB is designed to be affordable and to allow tenants or landlords to represent themselves. However, sometimes an individual finds themselves in need of additional legal advice or assurance in navigating the process.
Unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope representation, allows for individuals to hire a lawyer for a specific task rather than full representation throughout the entire dispute process. This approach provides flexibility and cost-savings, making legal assistance more accessible. With this program, we do not go on record with the RTB Tribunal. This means you directly correspond with the RTB and the opposing party or their lawyer allowing you to decide how much or how little assistance you need from us as you go.
Steps in a Complaint
1. Do you have a Dispute?
Typically, our first suggestion would be for you to call the RTB to explain the circumstance of your dispute or concern. The RTB will be able to provide you with information that relates to your situation such as if the RTB has jurisdiction to handle the matter, the relevant RTA rules you can rely on and will advise on how to proceed.
If you still require assistance in understanding the process or the nature of your potential dispute against your landlord or tenant, you can meet with a lawyer to discuss the nature of your dispute. This consultation will allow a lawyer to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your dispute and what reasonable next steps would be if any.
For an initial consult, we generally charge a flat fee of $300, plus tax.
2. File a Complaint
If you are ready to proceed with filing a complaint with the RTB you will need to fill out an Application for Dispute either in paper form or online. The application contains key dispute information, dispute address, name(s) of respondents and the evidence your dispute is supported by. Once submitted the application will be processed and if accepted you will receive a Notice of Dispute resolution Proceeding Package.
For assisting with drafting your dispute application we generally charge a flat fee of $750, plus tax.
2. Notice of Dispute Resolution Proceeding
Whether serving the Notice of Dispute Resolution Proceeding package or being served with it, the package will contain the date and time of a hearing that will occur via teleconference and an access code to the RTB portal with instructions on attending the hearing.
For the applicant serving, the package will contain instructions on serving the package that include acceptable forms of service and a time frame in which to serve. You will be required to provide proof of service either by photo or video or both. If there is more than one respondent and they share an address, as many packages as individuals named are required to be served a copy of the package. Once served, a Proof of Service is required to be uploaded to the RTB portal along with copies of all your evidence documents submitted with your application within a certain amount of time prior to the hearing.
For the respondent being served, you will also be required to serve copies of any evidence that supports your side of the dispute to the Applicant via acceptable service methods within the appropriate timeframe and provide proof of service to the RTB portal. Additionally, you will also need to upload copies of that.
Applicant: we generally charge a flat fee of $250, plus tax.
Respondent: we generally charge a flat fee of $750, plus tax.
3. Cross-ApPlication to a Dispute
If you have been served a Notice of Dispute Proceeding package but have a dispute of your own against the Applicant, you may consider submitting a cross dispute. The steps and the process for this are the same as submitting a Notice of Dispute noted above. The RTB will hear all disputes between a tenant and landlord as have been filed at the RTB Hearing.
For assisting with drafting a cross Notice of Dispute Application we generally charge a flat fee of $600, plus tax.
The Hearing typically takes place via teleconference. It should provide all parties to a dispute with the opportunity to resolve the dispute(s) in the presence of an Arbitrator (decision-maker). This means each party to a dispute will need to speak to their dispute, present their evidence and witnesses (if any), and reasons as to why or why not the dispute is valid during the hearing.
To assist with preparing and attending a hearing, we generally charge a flat fee of $750, plus tax.
The Arbitrator has up to 30 days after the hearing to issue a written decision. Once a decision is rendered, it is sent to the Applicant(s) and Respondent(s) along with an informational sheet “Now that you have your decision” which outlines next steps a party can take should they disagree with the outcome or how to pursue enforcement of any Orders made within the decision. The decision of an Arbitrator is considered final and binding.
A review of a decision is only granted if a party was unable to attend the hearing due to circumstance beyond their control, and/or a party has new and relevant evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing and/or a party has evidence the decision was obtained by fraud. There is also a timeframe in which to apply for a review if you disagree with the decision of the Arbitrator that varies between 2 and 15 days from the date of the decision.
We can assist with interpreting a decision, whether you may have cause for applying for a review consideration and navigating the review process for a flat fee of $350, plus tax.
6. Appeal of the Decision
Appealing the decision of an Arbitrator is a bit more complex than a review. The criteria for appealing is stricter than that of a review. The Arbitrator would need to have made an error in fact or law, or the decision was procedurally unfair. A party has 60 days from the date of the decision to apply to the Supreme Court of BC for a judicial review of the decision. This is done through a petition to the court.
If you require assistance in determining if such an error has been made and navigating the appeal process, drafting, serving and filing the petition, we can assist. We generally charge a flat fee of $2,000, plus tax. For just drafting the Petition, we generally charge a flat fee of $1,500 plus tax. This means that you would be in charge of filing and serving the Petition on the other parties.
If you would like to retain us to prepare for and attend the appeal (i.e. have us represent you in court), we would need to have a full retainer in which case you would be charged hourly for the time involved in assisting you.
7. Enforce RTB Monetary Order
If your dispute involved seeking reimbursement for monies, your decision may contain a monetary order. There are several steps to take before you can begin enforcement mechanisms such as payment hearings and collections.
Your first step is to serve a copy of the order along with the decision in a demand for payment letter to the individual the order is against. If the demand for payment is ignored the next step is to register and file the RTB monetary order with the small claims court along with a copy of a Confirmation of Service. Once the order is filed and registered within small claims you will need to send a second demand for payment letter with a copy of the filed order enclosed.
To assist in these steps, we generally charge a flat fee of $750, plus taxes. This fee does not include pursuing further enforcement such as a payment hearings or collection of the debt via collections agency.
What factors may impact Legal Fees?
The fees set out above are based on “standard” disputes. If your matter involves more complex issues, including significant documents or correspondence needing to be reviewed, disputes over whether there is a tenancy at all or where the tenant is also an employee then adjustments may need to be made. We will be transparent and keep you informed about costs throughout the course of the dispute.
Please reach out to our intake team at 778.666.3723 and we will be happy to set up a consult with a member of our General Civil Litigation team.