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Everyday Legal Problems

Options for Dealing with a Problem with Your Neighbour

Learn steps you can take if you have a problem with your neighbour.

“My upstairs neighbour regularly sang karaoke late into the evening. I tried earplugs but still couldn't sleep. I invited my neighbour over for a coffee. I explained how the noise was affecting me, and how I had to get up early for work. I played a recording of their karaoke. My neighbour said they had no idea how loud it was. They were very apologetic. They now only do karaoke earlier in the evening — and more quietly. I’m glad we talked. I’m finally able to get some sleep, and we’re still on good terms.”

– Edwin, Victoria, BC

If you have a problem with your neighbour, there are steps you can take. Your best course of action will depend on several factors. These include the nature of the problem, what your relationship with your neighbour is like, and how successful you think a particular step might be. You don’t have to go through these options in order. You can start with any of them.

Option 1. Consider self-help steps

If something has come between you and your neighbour, consider whether any self-help steps you can take might ease the problem. For example, to deal with an overhanging tree, you can follow the self-help rule and cut the overhanging branches back to your neighbour's property line. Or if you have a noise problem, you might try wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.

Option 2. Talk with your neighbour

It's almost always a good idea to try talking with your neighbour about your concerns. They may not be aware there’s an issue or how frustrated you are about it — whether it’s a noise complaint, second-hand smoke, a fence in disrepair,  or some other problem. Talking with your neighbour calmly and respectfully can often resolve the matter quickly.

That said, raising a problem directly with your neighbour may not be easy. To help you get ready for the conversation, we offer tips for talking with your neighbour and a template for preparing for the talk.

Option 3. Document the problem

If talking with your neighbour doesn’t work (or isn’t possible) and the problem is still bothering you, gather evidence. For example, you can:

  • take photos or make videos to document the problem
  • keep a dated journal or log of incidents and conversations with your neighbour
  • consult an expert who can provide backup that there's a problem (for example, you might hire an arborist to document a high-risk tree, or visit a doctor to confirm that second-hand smoke is affecting your health)
  • ask a friend or family member to come over and make notes of their observations
  • do some research into any local bylaws that are in play (for example, a neighbour's fence might not meet the requirements of your community's fence bylaw)

To keep organized, try to keep all your evidence in one place, like in a file folder or on your phone or computer. 

Option 4. Write a letter to your neighbour

Once you’ve gathered evidence documenting the problem, write a letter to your neighbour setting out your concerns. We offer a short template letter to help get you started. We also have a more detailed template letter you can fill out and give to your neighbour. Though these letters are about noise complaints, each letter can be adapted to your specific neighbour problem. 

Option 5. Try a dispute resolution service

If you’re unable to resolve the matter directly with your neighbour, consider mediation. This involves you and your neighbour meeting with a neutral third party (a mediator) who’ll work to help you reach an agreement. Mediation is quicker and much less expensive than taking legal action. And it can help preserve a good neighbourly relationship. 

We offer a template letter you can fill out and give to your neighbour to suggest mediation.

On the Mediate BC website, you can search for a mediator based on the community you live in and the type of problem you have. Selecting “Community” under Practice Areas can help narrow your search. 

You can also look into whether your municipality has a local community mediation program. For example, there is the Burnaby Mediation Centre and the North Vancouver Community Mediation Services Society.

Option 6. Make a complaint to your local municipality

If the problem with your neighbour continues, you might contact your municipality. Depending on the type of problem, there may be a local bylaw in play. There are bylaws, for example, relating to fences, trees, noise, and other neighbour issues. If there is a relevant bylaw, you can file a complaint with your municipality. The municipality can investigate and has the authority to give fines.

To contact your municipality, you can call 311 or visit their website. Here is contact information for municipalities across the province.

Option 7. Take legal action

If none of the options above have resolved the problem, it may be time to consider legal action. If you’d told your neighbour about the problem but it continues to disturb your peace and quiet, you can start a legal action, for example, in nuisance

Taking legal action (especially court action) can be a long, expensive, and stressful process. There’s no guarantee you’ll win. For example, a court or tribunal may decide there isn’t enough evidence to support your claim.

If your claim is for less than $5,000, you can bring it to the Civil Resolution Tribunal. This online system encourages a collaborative approach to resolving disputes.

If your claim is for less than $35,000, you can bring a legal action in Small Claims Court. This is faster and less complicated than suing in the British Columbia Supreme Court. 

Taking legal action against a neighbour will almost certainly strain your relationship — no small matter since you’re living next to one another. Think of it, therefore, as a last resort. 

For Caregivers: Know Your Rights When Coming to BC

Answers to eight common questions for caregivers coming to BC.

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If you’re coming to work in British Columbia as a live-in caregiver, knowing your legal rights will help make your experience successful. To help you prepare, here are answers to eight commonly asked questions.

Can I be charged a fee to get a job?

Under the law in BC, no one can charge a fee to help you find a job. This includes employment agencies and immigration consultants. 

And no one can charge for pointing you to employers who are hiring.

What kind of working conditions can I expect?

As a live-in caregiver, you have legal rights to fair working conditions and fair treatment under BC’s main employment law. This law sets minimum standards for things like minimum wage, overtime pay, hours of work, and statutory holidays.

For example, as a live-in caregiver, you’re entitled to earn at least the general minimum wage in BC. You could be entitled to more, depending on what your contract says. If you work more hours than you and your employer agreed to up front, you must be paid for these extra hours. You’re entitled to time off. Our guidance for caregivers who have a problem at work explains several of these rights and what you can do if your employer violates your rights.

What kind of living arrangements can I expect?

If you’ll be living with your employer, they must guarantee that the accommodation meets acceptable standards. You’re entitled to your own private accommodation. For example, a room with a lock on the door. And no one should enter your room without your permission.

Do I need an employment contract?

Under the law in BC, live-in caregivers must have a written employment contract. This is an agreement between you and your employer. It sets out the terms of your work (for example, your duties and work hours).

Read your contract carefully before signing it. Consider seeking help from an employment agency or settlement service to be sure you understand the terms.

The employer must give you a reasonable amount of time to review and consider the employment contract before you sign. If you’re pressured into signing before you feel comfortable doing so, the contract might be unenforceable.

Do I need a work permit?

If you are a foreign national (that is, not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident) and you want to work in Canada as a caregiver, you must first get approval for a work permit. You can apply for a work permit through one of the following programs:

To qualify for either of these programs, you must be able to establish that:

  • you can communicate in at least one of Canada’s official languages (English and French),
  • you have an education that is equivalent to one year of Canadian post-secondary education, and
  • you have a job offer from a Canadian employer who has offered you full-time employment to provide in-home care for a child, a person with special needs or a senior.

How can I avoid problems in applying for a work permit?

It’s important not to misrepresent anything on your immigration paperwork. Under Canadian law, misrepresentation is defined broadly. It includes doing any of the following when applying to immigrate to Canada or communicating with Canadian immigration officials:

  • making false statements
  • lying
  • submitting false information or altered documents
  • withholding important information, including previous employment history

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to deceive anyone. If you misrepresent something even by mistake, the government can still allege misrepresentation. If you’re found guilty, you could be denied entry into Canada and barred from even making an application to enter Canada for five years.

I’ve been warned about “labour trafficking.” What does that mean?

Labour trafficking is a type of human trafficking. Human trafficking is recruiting, transporting, or harbouring people to exploit them. Under the law in Canada, human trafficking is illegal.

Labour trafficking happens when workers are made to work by deception, fraud, or abuse of power. Signs of labour trafficking include workers who:

  • are underpaid or not paid at all
  • have wages deducted for no good reason
  • are forced to work overtime, too many days, or without breaks
  • are living in poor conditions with little or no privacy
  • are abused emotionally or psychologically
  • are prevented from holding onto their own passport

If someone is the victim of labour trafficking, there are organizations that can help.

Are there places where I can get help before I go?

Before you leave your home country, search for organizations providing pre-arrival services in your area. These services can help you prepare for life and work in Canada. They may be delivered in-person or online.  

The federal government has partnered with organizations to offer pre-arrival services in locations around the world. Check out the federal government’s website to explore your options. (Note these services are for permanent residence applicants only.)

For more information to help you prepare, see our guidance on preparing to work in BC.

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