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5.8 Participating in Dispute Resolution

Here are some examples of orders that can be made at dispute resolution: 

  • that your landlord follow the law
  • that your landlord give you money when they do not follow the law
  • that your landlord not enter your rental unit
  • that you may change your locks
  • that you may withhold a certain amount of money from future rent payments
  • that your eviction notice be cancelled

Dispute resolution hearings are almost always held over the phone, so the first thing you will need to do is call the number on your Notice of Hearing and enter the access code. Once all parties are connected to the call, the arbitrator, the person acting in a judge-like role, will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will proceed.

Try to have all of your evidence in front of you before the hearing starts, as well as a pen and paper, or computer, to take notes.  It’s a good idea to write down the names of the arbitrator and everyone else in attendance.  It’s generally best to refer to people by their last name during the hearing. If you forget the arbitrator’s name, you can call them “Mister Arbitrator” or “Madam Arbitrator”.

At the start of the hearing, you can address any procedural issues.  For example, you may want to ask that the hearing be postponed to a later date. Once all of the procedural issues are addressed, the arbitrator will swear everyone in. This means that they will ask if you agree to tell the truth during the hearing. Just like in court, you must be honest about everything you say.

Once everyone is sworn in, both you and your landlord will have the chance to present your evidence and explain your side of the story. The applicant, or the person who made the application, usually goes first, followed by the respondent. You and your landlord will usually have a chance to ask each other questions, and the arbitrator may have questions too.

It’s important that you act in a professional manner and not interrupt anyone while they are speaking.  Instead, take notes of any questions or concerns you have so that you can address them when it’s your turn.  When you are presenting your case, explain your version of what happened and how your evidence proves it.  It is important to guide the arbitrator through your evidence; don’t assume that they will understand everything on their own.  Speak clearly and respectfully at all times, and remember to never raise your voice or use bad language.

Dispute resolution is not as formal as court and has been designed for self-representation.  That being said, it can still be complicated, depending on the type and number of issues you are facing.  In some situations, it may be helpful to seek legal advice. Even when you do not need the assistance of a lawyer, you may wish to get help from a family member, friend, or legal advocate in your community.

If you do plan on going to dispute resolution on your own, you will need to familiarize yourself with the Residential Tenancy Branch’s Dispute Resolution Rules of Procedure.  This is the resource that covers everything you will need to know about preparing for and participating in a hearing.

Dispute resolution may not be held in court, but its decisions are still legally binding.  This means that you and your landlord are required by law to follow an arbitrator’s orders.  If either one of you disobeys an order, the other person can go to Small Claims Court for enforcement.  For more information on how orders are enforced, see TRAC’s webpages on Enforcing a Monetary Order and Enforcing an Eviction.

On the next page, you'll find a link to Povnet’s Find an Advocate Map. Legal advocates can provide information and/or representation to tenants with low incomes and/or disabilities.