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In May 2012, the British Columbia Minister of Justice and Attorney General announced the planned creation of a new, independent tribunal offering online civil dispute resolution tools to British Columbians. The proposed Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) Act is intended to create an alternative to the existing court-based approaches to settling strata disputes. Planned to be in place towards the end of 2015, the proposed service will provide a quicker and proportionately less expensive path to resolving common civil complaints and will have the authority to handle the following issues.
- Small claims disputes where the parties decide to take the matter to the tribunal instead of the court, up to a maximum value of $25,000, for: debt or damages; recovery of personal property; specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services; or relief from opposing claims to personal property.
- Strata disputes between owners of strata properties and strata corporations for a wide variety of matters such as:
- non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
- unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex;
- uneven, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as noise, pets, parking, rentals);
- issues of financial responsibility for repairs and the choice of bids for services;
- irregularities in the conduct of meetings, voting, minutes or other matters;
- interpretation of the legislation, regulations or bylaws; and
- issues regarding the common property.
The tribunal will not decide tribunal matters that affect land, such as:
- ordering the sale of a strata lot;
- court orders respecting rebuilding damaged real property;
- dealing with developers and phased strata plans; or
- determining each owner’s percentage share in the strata complex (the “Schedule of Unit Entitlement”).
Such matters will continue to be heard in the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen whether this approach will be successful, but any attempts to minimize the cost and encourage the early resolution of disputes is welcome.
The Civil Resolution Tribunal was created to increase access to justice for British Columbians by helping them to resolve strata property and small claims disputes fairly, quickly, and affordably – and from the comfort of their home computer or even their mobile phone. CRT decisions and orders will have the same force and effect as court decisions in British Columbia.
The CRT is going to be very different from other dispute resolution options that have been available in British Columbia. It will give you choices about how, when, and where you resolve small claims and strata property disputes, built around your needs and your life. When the CRT opens in 2015, you will be able to use it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. Interactions with the other participant and/or the CRT are at your convenience.
Information and support will be provided along the way to help users get a satisfactory resolution as early as possible. Tribunal adjudicators will only make a decision for you if you and the other participants to a disputecannot agree on your own solution.
The CRT will also provide unique opportunities for feedback and comments used to help shape the ongoing development of the CRT’s service and tools. For more information and update, British Columbians may visit CRT’s dedicated website at www.civilresolutionbc.ca