Renters and landlords are getting more efficient service through the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), thanks to government investments and innovations making it easier to apply for dispute resolution online and shortening wait times for both hearings and information.
“As we continue to update our tenancy laws to better protect people, we know it is important to ensure that the RTB has the resources to support renters and landlords,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “A lack of investment under the previous government led to long wait times and made it hard for landlords and renters to access the services they needed. While we continue to work to improve access, we are seeing clearly our government’s investments have led to significant improvements that mean people in B.C. will have easier access to help for their rental housing concerns.”
To assist with reducing wait times, the B.C. government increased the RTB’s operating budget in September 2017. Since then, RTB hired 15 new information services staff and 10 new dispute resolution experts.
The increase in staffing has had positive impacts on service delivery, with notable improvements in wait times over the previous year:
- Wait time for applications for urgent matters like an order of possession for unpaid rent, or to cancel a notice to end tenancy for unpaid rent, are 47% faster at 5.8 weeks.
- Wait time for applications requesting money, such as money for damages, are 44% faster at 14.6 weeks.
- The average time it takes to reach an information officer by phone is down 84%, from almost 45 minutes to eight minutes.
In addition to hiring more staff, the RTB has begun modernizing the way it does business by releasing an online, intuitive application for dispute resolution — the service portal.
“The new Residential Tenancy Branch service portal has simplified the dispute resolution process for both landlords and tenants,” said David Hutniak, chief executive officer, LandlordBC. “We support the Residential Tenancy Branch’s continued commitment to embracing new technologies with the aim to ensure landlords and tenants have access to timely and fair justice.”
The service portal guides applicants through the application process and is continuously updated to help ensure applicants provide the right information, offers digital evidence uploading and includes online payment or a fee-waiver process for those who qualify.
“The Residential Tenancy Branch’s service portal has been a big improvement over its previous online application process,” said Andrew Sakamoto, executive director, Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. “In particular, the ability to apply for fee waiver applications and upload evidence online have been two of the most useful features of the new system.”
Online applications have nearly doubled since the new system was introduced and are steady at over 75%. Applications submitted online are generally processed faster and include better supporting information.
The RTB has also hired a new director of compliance and enforcement. The compliance and enforcement unit will hire three more staff and be fully operational in early 2019. The unit will oversee the investigation of cases of serious, repeat and deliberate non-compliance with tenancy laws and will have authority to levy monetary penalties.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, Rental Housing Task Force chair and MLA for Vancouver-West End –
“Renters and landlords told our Rental Task Force that long wait times when trying to get information or help from the Residential Tenancy Branch made stressful situations worse and needed to be fixed by the B.C. government. I am pleased to see that the recent multimillion-dollar investment our government made is making a real difference in cutting wait times and getting renters and rental housing providers the help they need when they need it.”
- The RTB provides information and dispute resolution services to tenants and landlords in British Columbia.
- Each year, the RTB receives more than 260,000 calls requesting information or assistance and approximately 19,000 applications for dispute resolution.