Module 6: Trouble-Shooting Tenant Problems — Addressing emergency and non-emergency issues


Addressing emergency and non-emergency issues


Addressing an emergency situation

In the event of an emergency situation involving an eviction notice or the need for emergency repairs, you will need to act fast.

Download our Tenant Troubleshooting Guide for a useful chart showing some of the steps you should take. (It’s also a great tool to print and put on your fridge before an emergency.)


For information in this Toolkit on eviction notices, click here.


Addressing a non-emergency issue

If your issue is not an emergency, try following the steps below to resolve it.

  1. Check your rental agreement. Does it say anything about the issue? If you need help understanding the agreement, take it to a support worker or housing advocate.
  2. Review tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities. What does the law say about the issue? You can find information in this module, or you can try the Tenant Resource and Advocacy Centre or BC government. You can also refer to the Residential Tenancy Act.
  3. Use the Residential Tenancy Branch Solution Explorer Tool. This can be used to find helpful information, resources, and template letters specific to your tenancy problem. Find out what you need to resolve your dispute, whether you may have a valid dispute resolution claim, and what additional steps you need to take.
  4. Get more information or support. If you’re still not sure what the law says about your issue, you can talk to an information officer at the Residential Tenancy Branch. If appropriate, the information officer may even call your landlord to explain the law. You can also try calling the Tenant Infoline, which is run by the Tenant Resource and Advocacy Centre. A support worker may also be able to help you with understanding the law and advocacy.
  5. Talk to your landlord or write a letter. Prepare what you want to say. Describe the problem, and stick to the facts of the current situation. Be respectful. If you speak to your landlord in person or over the phone, follow up in writing and summarize the discussion.
  6. Allow some time. Give your landlord some time to reflect or to address the problem. This time can also be useful for helping you calm down if needed.
  7. Communicate the problem to your landlord again. If you didn’t before, try using one of these templates to help you draft your letter. Point out the section of your rental agreement or the Residential Tenancy Act that supports your request.
  8. Apply for dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch. If your landlord still refuses to take action, you can ask an arbitrator at the Residential Tenancy Branch to review your case. Like a court judge, the arbitrator has the power to make a legal decision; whatever they decide is legally binding and must be followed.


For more general tips on working through issues with your landlord, see here:


Where to turn if you need help

If you need help determining what the law says about your problem or what actions you should take, speak to a support worker or housing advocate. You can also contact the following:

For more tenant resources, see this list at Clicklaw. You can also contact a PAN member group, listed by region here. 


Dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch

The dispute resolution service offered by the Residential Tenancy Branch is similar to a court but specializes in issues between tenants and landlords, especially those covered in the Residential Tenancy Act. An arbitrator reviews the case and makes a legally binding decision that must be followed. There is a $100 application fee, but this can be waived for low-income tenants. To get a sense of whether you would be successful in dispute resolution, you can check past decisions made by the Residential Tenancy Branch.

For more information on the dispute resolution process, see the BC government webpage on dispute resolution, as well as these webpages from the Tenant Survival Guide and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. If you are a low-income person who would like help with dispute resolution, you can try contacting Access Pro Bono’s Residential Tenancy Program. You can apply for dispute resolution online or in person at a Service BC Office or the Residential Tenancy Branch Office in Burnaby.


Further Reading and Resources

Always, sometimes, or never? Personal information & tenant screening

Template letters to communicate with landlord