The tenant/landlord relationship is based on the tenant living up to certain obligations such as paying rent and keeping the rental unit in an acceptable condition and the landlord having the ability to evict the tenant if they fail to live up to those obligations.  However, due to COVID-19, a tenant may be unable to adhere to certain obligations that are expected of them.  Do landlords still have the ability to evict tenants during the State of Emergency caused by COVID-19?

Normally, landlords have the ability to evict a tenant for a variety of reasons pursuant to the British Columbia Residential Tenancy Act (the “Act”).  Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Non-Payment of Rent;
  • Damaging the rental unit;
  • Landlord’s use of the rental unit; and
  • Landlord selling the rental unit.

If a landlord wants to evict a tenant, the landlord has to serve the tenant with a Notice to End Tenancy.  After the tenant has received the Notice to End Tenancy, the tenant can dispute the Notice to End Tenancy within a certain timeframe which is prescribed by the Act.  If the tenant does not dispute the Notice to End Tenancy, the tenant is deemed to have accepted that the tenancy will end after the notice period provided in the Notice to End Tenancy has elapsed.

Due to COVID-19, the Government of British Columbia (the “Government”) has created special rules regarding the eviction of residential tenants.  One of these rules concerns the validity of Notice to End Tenancies given by landlords.  If the Notice to End Tenancy was given on or after March 30, 2020, it can be ignored by the tenant as the notice is of no force or effect.  If the Notice to End Tenancy was given before March 30, 2020, the notice is valid and statutory timelines for disputing the Notice to End Tenancy are in effect.

If the tenant does not leave the rental unit after the notice period has ended, a landlord cannot remove a tenant by force.  The landlord must apply to Court for an “Order of Possession”. The Government has stated that Orders of Possession are not being enforced until the State of Emergency has ended except under exceptional circumstances.  Examples of exceptional circumstances include situations where the tenant has:

  • Significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another occupant or the landlord of the residential property;
  • Seriously jeopardized the health or safety or a lawful right or interest of the landlord or another occupant;
  • Put the landlord’s property at significant risk;
  • Caused extraordinary damage to the residential property; or
  • Engaged in illegal activity that has;
    • Caused or is likely to cause damage to the landlord’s property;
    • Adversely affected or is likely to adversely affect the quiet enjoyment, security, safety or physical well-being of another occupant of the residential property; or
    • Jeopardized or is likely to jeopardize a lawful right or interest of another occupant or the landlord.

To summarize, if a tenant received a Notice to End Tenancy before March 30, 2020, it is valid and, once the State of Emergency ends, the landlord will be able to apply for and execute on an Order of Possession.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding your tenancy or a Notice to End Tenancy you received, please call Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202.