Ask the Expert: How Do I Deal With an Uncooperative Tenant?

Richard Bell B.A. LL.B.
June 15, 2015

Q: I’m considering buying a rental unit but I’ve heard nightmare stories about bad tenants. What are the risks and how would I deal with such scenarios?

A: Owning rental property can be a great investment strategy but you need to be prepared at some point to deal with a difficult tenant. Most tenants are responsible but it’s a bit of a numbers game – the more properties in an investment portfolio and the longer the landlord holds investment properties the time will come when a landlord selects a troublesome tenant.

So what can go wrong? A tenant may:

  • be consistently late with rent;
  • cause damage to the property;
  • significantly interfere with or unreasonably disturb the landlord or another resident ;or
  • engage in an illegal activity.

In these situations the landlord can give one month’s notice. The notice must be in the appropriate form and delivered to the tenant before the date that the rent is normally paid. The method for serving notice may vary if you are unable to deliver a copy directly to the tenant. A landlord must be in strict compliance with the legislation in order to ensure the tenant is required to vacate the premises.

But even when a landlord has complied with the legislative requirements a tenant may still refuse to vacate. The landlord cannot physically remove a tenant nor change the locks but needs to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for an Order of Possession. Unfortunately this will delay the landlord’s ability to deliver up the property to another tenant.

Once an Order of Possession is obtained, it must be served on the tenant. If the tenant still refuses to move, the landlord must file the Order of Possession with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will then issue a Writ of Possession, which gives a court appointed bailiff the authority to remove the tenant and the tenant’s possessions. This can take place in a few days and the bailiff can sell all or some of the tenant’s possessions to recover costs owed, including costs that may be due to a new tenant who was unable to take possession at the commencement of the new tenancy.

So ultimately a landlord can remove a troublesome tenant, but it can be a frustrating process. Fortunately most tenants are good people hoping to deal with good landlords.

As a tenant or landlord it is important to know your rights and obligations. There are lots of very good resources online and when in doubt talk to an expert or the staff at the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Richard Bell B.A. LL.B.
Richard Bell is a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in real estate, wills and estate planning, probate, and immigration law. He is the co-founder of Bell Alliance Lawyers & Notaries Public and has been named Best Real Estate Lawyer in Canada by Canadian Real Estate Magazine.