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3.7 Previous Legal Decisions

Previous Court Decisions

The Residential Tenancy Act says that, “Except as modified or varied under this Act, the common law respecting landlords and tenants applies in British Columbia.” This means that arbitrators are legally required to consider relevant decisions from the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal. If there are any common law decisions – also known as case law – that you wish to rely on, you can serve those as part of your evidence package, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure. 

While there is an argument to be made that case law is not actually evidence, and therefore does not have to comply with the rules about the timing and service of evidence, it is safest to treat case law as evidence so that there are no misunderstandings with the arbitrator.


Previous Dispute Resolution Decisions

Arbitrators are not bound by any precedent set by previous dispute resolution decisions. This means that two arbitrators could be presented with two similar cases and reach two different conclusions based on their respective interpretations of the law and evidence.

While arbitrators are not required to follow previous dispute resolution decisions, it can still be a good idea to include relevant and favourable decisions as part of your evidence package. For some arbitrators, it can be persuasive to see how their peers ruled on similar matters. This notion that previous RTB decisions can be persuasive, even if they are not precedential, has been referenced in case law such as Atira Property Management v. Richardson

“While [prior RTB] decisions are not precedential, and each arbitrator is free to decide on his or her own interpretation, consistency in the approach to a particular right or provision may be of assistance in determining the reasonableness of a given outcome.”

To search for previous dispute resolution decisions, see the RTB webpage, Lookup past decisions made by arbitrators.