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Serving Eviction Notices: How to Properly Notify Tenants

British Columbia has the highest eviction rate in Canada. If you're a landlord, it's not unlikely that you'll end up having to evict a tenant one day as well.
Eviction can be stressful for all involved parties, and it can also be tough to understand. We're here with a bit of eviction advice that can help you determine whether you can evict your tenants and how to go about it.
Read on to learn more. 

What Are Viable Reasons for Evicting Tenants? 

Many new landlords think that they're able to get their properties back whenever they choose to do so. They see tenants as temporary fixtures holding space for them in their spare properties. This isn't the case, and that false belief can get you in trouble. 
As a matter of fact, a wrongful eviction won't just cost you legal fees. It can cost you up to twelve months of rent that will then go to the wrongfully evicted tenants. If you evict a tenant, you need to make sure that you're within your legal rights to do so. 
We'll go over the exact reasons you may want to evict a tenant and how you would go about that eviction process. In general, however, the tenant has to have done something wrong (like not paying rent or somehow breaking the terms of the lease), you need to be moving yourself or a family member onto the property, or the property needs significant construction. 
If you're not sure whether your reason for eviction is viable, it can benefit you to talk to a property management company or a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law. You want to cover all of your bases and ensure you're being fair.
If eviction isn't actually an option, we'll discuss how to peacefully remove a tenant later on. You still have options for a peaceful end of the tenancy. 

Four Ways to Evict a Tenant

There are four ways to evict a tenant depending on why you're evicting them. The process for each is fairly straightforward so long as you're within your rights to go through with the eviction.
Tenants can contest eviction notices, and this can complicate matters. In many cases, it's best to go through a peaceful process instead of serving eviction notices. Try exhausting all other options first. 
If you do choose to go through an eviction, here's how you can do it. 

Eviction Notice for Non-Payment

If your tenants aren't paying rent, you have the right to evict them. If tenants are responsible for utilities, you can also evict them for not paying those (though this requires a 30-day grace period). 
At first, it's best to reach out directly. Remember that your tenants are human and they may simply have forgotten or found themselves in extenuating circumstances. Establishing a payment plan is a viable option if you're open to not going through with an eviction. 
However, according to section 46 of the RTB, landlords can notify tenants of impending eviction after one day of nonpayment. Tenants have the option of paying or disputing within ten days or peacefully leaving the property. 
Landlords should give tenants a ten-day notice in person or through the mail, not via email or on the phone.
After five days, if the tenant doesn't pay rent or dispute the notice, the landlord can get an order of possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch. If the tenant doesn't remove themself by the posted date, the landlord can have a bailiff enforce the eviction. 

Eviction Notice for Cause

An eviction notice for cause is a one-month notice. This means that your tenants have one month from the time you give them notice to leave. The tenant has ten days to dispute the notice or fix the problem and come to an agreement with the landlord. 
So what causes are valid for eviction? 
There are many common causes, but the general idea is that a tenant should be doing some kind of lease-breaking activity. It's generally best to try to discuss things with the tenant first before you give them an official eviction notice unless it's unsafe to do so. 
Common causes include:
    • Frequent late rent payments
    • Damage to the property
    • Disturbing other occupants excessively 
    • Having too many occupants within the unit
    • Endangering other tenants
    • Doing any illegal activity within the unit or on the property
    Petty disputes or mild disturbances should not result in an eviction notice. 
    Again, the landlord must give the tenant their notice in person (directly or on their door) or via mail or fax. Landlords may also tell their tenants about the notice via phone or email, but these are not official notices. 
    From there, the process is the same as the previous eviction. After ten days, instead of five, the landlord can get an order of possession. If the tenant doesn't move out, the landlord can have a bailiff remove them. 

    Eviction Notice for Personal Use

    This is a trickier case. Sometimes tenants don't do anything wrong, but landlords still need to evict them. Why would this be?
    You may have to evict a tenant so you can use your own property. The law recognizes that the property is yours, so if you or a close family member need to move in, you may displace the current tenant. 
    However, if there's evidence that you're putting the property up for rent again, selling the property, or having someone who otherwise isn't family move into the property, you can get in serious legal trouble. Do not abuse this rule. 
    The tenant has two months to leave from the time you give them an eviction notice via the previously mentioned methods. They have fifteen days to dispute the eviction. 

    Eviction Notice for Construction

    This is a four-month eviction notice, and it's for if a landlord needs to do extensive renovation, demolition, or conversion of the property. This is not for minor fixes or renovations.
    After you give the tenants their eviction notice, they have thirty days to dispute it. They also have the right of first refusal, meaning that if the property goes up for rent again after your renovations, they have first "dibs" on a tenancy contract. 
    If you don't extend your tenants a contract, you may owe them twelve months of rent. 

    Should You Evict Your Tenant? 

    So should you evict your tenant? This is entirely dependent on your situation. In some cases, eviction is the only option, and as we've mentioned, it doesn't always mean that the tenant has done something wrong.
    If you know that you have legitimate reasons to remove your tenant, eviction is reasonable. 
    You can also ask the tenant to leave on their own terms and have a conversation instead. Some tenants will ask for compensation (especially if they're leaving due to construction or personal use), and this is generally quite reasonable.
    Eviction does cost money, and it's not uncommon for landlords to pay about $1,000 out of pocket (if not more) to evict a tenant. 
    Eviction shouldn't be the first option and you should always consider whether you're within your right to do so, or if it would be best to let the tenant stay for the rest of the lease term or come to some sort of agreement. 

    Advice for Peacefully Removing Tenants

    If you're going to go the non-eviction route, have a conversation with your tenant. It's best to have a paper trail, so you can do this via email or in person (or on the phone) as long as you send an email to follow up.
    If the problem was nonpayment of rent or minor lease-breaking behavior, you may be able to come to an agreement that works for both of you. If you know the tenant needs to leave, you may want to ask them respectfully and let them know that by leaving of their own free will, they'll avoid having an eviction in their rental history. 
    As we mentioned, some landlords end up compensating tenants for ending their tenancies. This is an option that will help you avoid legal issues. 

    Consider Hiring a Property Management Team to Help

    If you're working with a property management company, they may be able to help you with the eviction process. The company is staffed with professionals who know all about how to file eviction notices.
    They also understand the landlord/tenant laws so you don't have to. They'll ensure that your eviction is legal and they'll handle direct tenant communication. 

    Evictions Can Be Complicated 

    No landlord ever wants to serve an eviction notice. If you find yourself in the position of having to evict a tenant, keep this guide in mind. Remember, it may be better to go with alternative options, and you need to make sure that you have the legal right to evict your tenant in the first place.
    At Axford Property Management, we want to help you. We offer a variety of property management services, including eviction help, to property owners in British Columbia. 
    Contact us so we can start working together today.