Residential Tenancies: Removing a Tenant

By Stuart Cappus

We’ve previously discussed how a landlord can evict a tenant from a rental unit. However, evicting a tenant does not ensure that they will actually leave the unit. Despite being served with an eviction notice, some tenants simply refuse to leave willingly. What is a landlord to do in that situation?

The first step is to get an Order of Possession from the Residential Tenancy Office (RTO). There are two ways to get this order. The first is after a Dispute Resolution hearing, which will happen if the tenant disputes the eviction notice or the RTO requires one. Upon determining that the eviction notice is valid and justified, the RTO will issue the landlord an Order of Possession. The second is through the Direct Request process, which applies only where the tenant is being evicted for not paying rent on time. If, after being served with the eviction notice, the tenant doesn’t pay what’s owing or apply for dispute resolution, the landlord can use the Direct Request process to apply without a hearing for an Order of Possession.

Once the landlord has an Order of Possession, he must serve it on the tenant. Depending on the nature of the tenancy and eviction notice, the tenant will have up to 15 days to apply for a review of the RTO’s decision. During that period of time, the landlord still cannot do anything to physically remove the tenant from the unit.

If the tenant doesn’t apply to have the decision reviewed or does and the order is upheld, that still is not the end of the matter. If the tenant still refuses to leave, the landlord must then apply to the B.C. Supreme Court for a Writ of Possession, which authorizes the landlord to hire a court-approved bailiff to physically remove the tenant from the unit. The bailiff is also empowered to seize and sell as much of the tenant’s personal property as is required to pay the bailiff’s fee and cost of having to apply for the Writ of Possession.

It is very important that landlord’s strictly follow this process. If a landlord tries to physically remove a tenant himself, changes the locks to the unit or takes the tenant’s personal property without an order from the RTO, or uses a bailiff who hasn’t been approved by the court, the landlord can be fined up to $5,000 and required to pay the costs incurred by the tenant as a result.