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1.11 Merit Assessment

You should feel confident that participating in the dispute resolution process will be worth your time, money, and energy. Whether you are planning on self-representing or acting as an advocate, always try to gauge your likelihood of achieving a positive outcome before applying for dispute resolution. 

Here are some common factors to consider when assessing the merits of a case:

  • Jurisdiction. Can the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) adjudicate your dispute? Review TRAC’s webpage, Am I Covered By the Law?, to make sure your case falls within the jurisdiction of the RTB. If not, you will have to access a different court or tribunal, or try to resolve the dispute informally.
  • Written Communication. Have you communicated your concerns to your landlord? For most disputes, the first step is to notify your landlord in writing and give them a reasonable chance to correct the situation. An arbitrator will usually want to see evidence that you informed your landlord of the problem before applying for dispute resolution. TRAC offers a series of Template Letters that can be used as a starting point.
  • Approved Forms. Have you and your landlord been using the correct forms, according to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA)? Before applying for dispute resolution, review the list of approved forms on the RTB’s website. While some are optional, others are mandatory.
  • Service of Documents. How have you and your landlord been communicating during your tenancy? The RTA requires that certain forms and notices be given or served in specific ways. Before submitting an application, make sure you have properly served any documents that you wish to rely on as evidence. 
  • Deadlines. Have you or your landlord missed any deadlines? For example, if you miss the deadline to dispute an eviction notice, you may be conclusively presumed to have accepted the end of your tenancy. Similarly, if you apply for dispute resolution before your landlord’s deadline to return a deposit has passed, your application will likely be dismissed. When calculating deadlines, make sure to factor in the rules about when documents are considered received. The RTB also offers a series of Calculators to help you determine important deadlines.
  • Law vs. Opinion. You may disagree with your landlord about something related to your tenancy, but what does the RTA say about the matter? Do your research and make sure the law is on your side before applying for dispute resolution.
  • Evidence vs. Allegations. Do you have enough quality evidence to convince an arbitrator to rule in your favour? To be successful at dispute resolution, you will likely need more than just oral testimony. Before applying, think about how realistic it will be for you to gather documents, photos, videos, recordings, receipts, witnesses, and other evidence in support of your claims. To help determine whether you have sufficient evidence, you might want to create a table lining up the factual points that need to be proven in one column, and the evidence to prove those points in the other column.
  • Preparation Time. When will your case be heard? Dispute resolution wait times can fluctuate throughout the year, but hearings are always scheduled based on urgency, with the most serious applications receiving the highest priority and monetary order applications receiving the lowest priority. If you are wanting to apply for dispute resolution, make sure you can arrange your schedule so that you have adequate time to prepare for and participate in the hearing. This is particularly important for advocates working with multiple clients.