“Service of a Dispute” Notice and Residential Tenancy in B.C.

Note: This article does not contain legal advice about residential tenancy. If you would like advice on your specific situation, please contact Spraggs Law.

Vancouver lawyer David O’Neill discusses a “service of a dispute” notice in the context of residential tenancy in B.C. At Spraggs Law, David’s practice includes personal injury, residential tenancy, and strata law. Dave has experience navigating the ins and outs of administrative bodies such as residential tenancy branch and civil resolutions tribunal.

Service in a residential tenancy matter can be a tricky thing, especially the service of a dispute notice.  The reason for this is that the arbitrator at the hearing wants to ensure that there has been proper notice given to participants of the dispute, so that both the landlord and tenant are aware of the nature of the dispute and the evidence of the dispute.

For these reasons there are special rules that govern service of a dispute notice that is found at s. 89(1) of the Residential Tenancy Act S.B.C. 2002, c. 78.

  1. 89(1) An application for dispute resolution…when required to be given to one party by another, must be given in one of the following ways:
  2. a) by leaving a copy with the person;
  3. b) if the person is a landlord, by leaving a copy with an agent of the landlord;
  4. c) by sending a copy by registered mail to the address at which the person resides, or if the person is a landlord, to the address at which the person carries on business as a landlord;
  5. d) if the person is a tenant, by sending a copy by registered mail to a forwarding address provided by the tenant;
  6. e) as ordered by the director under section 71(1)
  7. f) by any other means of service provided for in the regulations.

These rules are very particular, and if not followed a dispute notice with valid merits may be dismissed.

Now a common misconception is that if one doesn’t open the mail then one was never served.  That is not the case for residential tenancy matters. If a dispute notice was served via registered mail then it is deemed received on the fifth day after it is mailed, regardless of whether it is opened or not. (s. 90 (a))

This was recently reaffirmed in the Court of Appeal decision Johal v. Damiano, 2021 BCCA 197. In this decision the Landlords were served a dispute notice via registered mail.  The Landlords failed to respond or attend the hearing and the former tenant was successful in the dispute.  The Landlords appealed the decision asserting that the Tenant was required attempt other methods of service when the Landlord stated they never received the dispute notices. The Court of Appeal rejected the Landlord’s assertion and stated the following at paragraph 60:

…Those provisions are intended to provide an effective and low-cost method of resolving landlord-tenant disputes.  That purpose would be undermined if a party could thwart service by mail simply by not picking up their mail.

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Dave has a civil litigation practice focused on personal injury, residential tenancy, and strata law.

While sending documents via registered mail may seem onerous it is a safe and secure way to ensure proper service.

Another way to serve a dispute notice has recently emerged as a result of the pandemic. The Residential Tenancy Regulations, B.C. Reg. 477/2003 was recently amended to allow parties to serve documents via email provided that the person has provided that email as an address for service.

However, if the person doesn’t have their email as an address for service, or does not consent to be served via email, you must do service in accordance with the Act, or risk your dispute being dismissed before it even starts.

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