Unpacking RTB Hearing Decisions: Learning from Tenant-Filed Wrongful Eviction Claims
12-Months Rent Compensation Claims
One of the biggest penalties that a tenant can claim against a landlord at the residential tenancy branch is the 12 months of rent penalty for wrongful eviction. While we’ve all heard of these cases from colleagues and on the news, I went through some recent decisions of the RTB from June – August 2023 to get a better idea of what types of cases are being brought forward and how the RTB is handling them.
In summary I randomly went through 33 cases where a tenant brought forward a complaint seeking 12 months rent as compensation and a hearing was conducted between June 1 – July 31, 2023. The vast majority of the evictions were given under the 2-month notice for landlord’s use.
Case Study Summary
Some Summary Statistics:
- 15/33 (45%) lost by tenant
- 18/33 (55%) won by tenant
- Average compensation: $23,355, minimum $8,260, maximum $67,800, total of 18 cases: $420,402.
Out of the 18 cases where the tenant won:
- 4 were undisputed where the landlord didn’t attend hearing
- 4 were where the landlord didn’t provide sufficient evidence of having moved into the property
- 9 were where the landlord violated the law
- 1 was where landlord couldn’t prove extenuating circumstance
Out of the 15 cases where the landlord won:
- 2 were due to extenuating circumstance
- 3 were where the landlord provided evidence that they had moved in
- 4 had clearly no merit
- 2 had no tenant evidence
- 4 were due to tenant error
Key Lessons for Landlords
- Learn what the law is, (or consult with a property manager or lawyer), and don’t give improper notice: 50% of the 18 cases where the tenant won were due to the Landlord acknowledging that they had violated the law even if a few were because they didn’t clearly understand the law.
- 2 of the cases were due to the landlord or their family moving into the property but then renting out of portion of the property within 6 months – this is not allowed.
- 3 cases were due to purchase and sale transactions where the seller or the buyer didn’t follow the regulations.
- Attend the hearing and provide evidence: 4/18 of the cases the landlord didn’t even attend the hearing whereby losing. 8/15 (53%) of the cases where the landlord won were either due to the tenant making meritless claims (for example – filing a claim before even moving out or 2 weeks after moving out – how can the tenant claim the landlord didn’t move into the property for 6 months when barely 1 month had passed) or due to the tenant making errors and not understanding the laws.
- Be careful about renovations and extenuating circumstances: When you give a 2-month notice for landlord’s use, while it may be OK to repaint quickly prior to moving in, a major renovation that lasts months may be contrary to the law. If you have extenuating circumstances that prevents you or a family member from moving in as intended, be sure to document it. This except is from one of the decisions:
The following are probably not extenuating circumstances:
• A landlord ends a tenancy to occupy the rental unit and then changes their mind.
• A landlord ends a tenancy to renovate the rental unit but did not adequately budget for the renovations and cannot complete them because they run out of funds.Residential tenancy branch
Wrongful eviction cases and the associated penalties are a big risk for property owners. At Habit8 Property Management, we protect our clients by 1) understanding the law and its nuances, and 2) having clear documentation. Our default scenario is to not even incur wrongful eviction disputes, however, should they occur, we make sure we can win them on their merits with ease.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this blog post should not be taken as legal advice. Furthermore, the Residential Tenancy Branch doesn’t actually reference other dispute cases when making decisions, hence you shouldn’t rely on the outcome of any particular case as if it were case law. If you’re already involved in a tenant dispute, you may want to contact a lawyer.