When it comes to accessing a tenant's rental unit, the Residential Tenancy Act has always opened the door for landlords in a variety of circumstances. These circumstances continue today, albeit in a modified form as a result of updated protocols to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Before walking into any rental unit, a landlord should ensure that they follow the process, step by step.
Come On In
The law allows landlords to enter a rental unit in many situations. In all situations, the landlord's purpose for entry must be "reasonable." The following situations have been recognized as a reasonable purpose for entry:
- To conduct the move-in and move-out condition inspection;
- To conduct a periodic condition inspection during the tenancy;
- To repair or maintain the rental unit;
- To provide housekeeping services (if provided under the tenancy agreement);
- To show the property to prospective tenants or buyers;
- To address an emergency situation;
- To access an abandoned rental unit; and
- For other purposes as agreed to by the tenant or as approved by the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Apart from entering a rental unit to address an emergency situation, a landlord must deliver advance written notice to their tenant before walking through their door. Section 29 of the Residential Tenancy Act prohibits landlords from accessing a rental unit unless the tenant grants permission at the time of entry, or at the very least after delivering written notice to the tenant at least 24 hours and not more than 30 days before entry. The written notice must clearly identify the landlord's reasonable purpose for entering, as well as state the proposed date and time for access. In addition, unless the tenant otherwise agrees, the time for access must be between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
In Good Company
As long as a landlord has delivered proper notice of entry to their tenant, the tenant need not be present during the landlord's entry. With that said, landlords should do their best to accommodate a tenant's request to be present while the landlord or their contractors enter their home. There are many legitimate reasons why a tenant may wish to be present for access: to identify a repair or maintenance issue for the landlord or their contractor; to participate in a condition inspection of the rental unit; or simply to safeguard their personal belongings. Leaving room for these access discussions can close the door on future access difficulties.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
How a landlord delivers an access notice will also dictate when the landlord can come knocking. If a landlord delivers the notice in any other way apart from in-person delivery, the law adds additional notice time to the delivery method. Unless a tenant acknowledges receipt of the notice or the landlord can otherwise prove that the tenant received the access notice on a particular date, the law presumes that the an access notice is delivered in accordance with the following timelines:
- In-person delivery: same day
- Mailbox or mailslot delivery: three days later
- Registered mail delivery: five days later
- Regular mail delivery: five days later
- Door posting: three days later
- Fax: three days later
In other words, a notice dropped in a tenant's mailbox should be dropped at least four calendar days before the proposed date of entry (three full days for deemed delivery, and one full day notice for access). It is important for landlords to double check their math when coordinating their calendar for entry.
Following our provincial state of emergency, the government implemented various orders prohibiting a landlord's right of access to a rental unit. Although those prohibitions have since been lifted, the Residential Tenancy Branch has directed landlords to ensure proper physical distancing, cleaning procedures, and other public health measures when gaining access to a rental unit. These recommendations include: wearing a mask during access; maintaining minimum physical distancing (6ft) within the rental unit; using hand sanitizer; using cleaning products and cleaning procedures recommended by the BC Centre for Disease Control; and considering using photographs, floor plans, and "virtual tours" of a rental unit for prospective buyers or tenants.
Watch Your Step
In the event that a landlord does not follow proper access procedures, a landlord can be on the receiving end of an Application for Dispute Resolution before the Residential Tenancy Branch. The law enables tenants obtain a variety of orders and remedies for unauthorized access to their home, including an order requiring their landlord to comply with the law, compensation for lost quiet enjoyment, and in extreme cases, permission to change the locks and prevent the landlord from accessing the rental until move-out.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.