Strata Advice: An Easy Solution for Condo Residents’ Disputes

Tony Gioventu
August 10, 2016

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As of mid July, the Civil Resolution Tribunal started receiving early applications for strata disputes in British Columbia. While full-scale case-management proceedings and adjudications have not yet started, the early submissions allow for strata corporations, lot owners and tenants to file their applications to stop the two-year clock on the Limitation Act.

Later this fall, full-scale operations will resume. Knowing that the costs of Supreme Court and arbitration are a significant barrier, many strata councils have ignored the pleas of the owners to comply with legislation and bylaws – but they will soon be faced with a rude awakening. For a few hundred dollars and from the convenience of their home, strata owners and tenants will be able to easily file their CRT complaints online. On the flip side, it will also be much easier for strata corporations to enforce bylaw infringements and outstanding fines.

How It Works

The online process starts with the Solution Explorer. It is a guided pathway system that prompts users through a variety of possible topics and scenarios to provide them with an understanding of the type of problem they are facing, possible solutions to the problem, what the law requires, and eventually a series of steps the user can take to enable a solution. The system provides information guides and culminates with sample letters to address the problem or request a hearing with the strata corporation to seek a resolution. If the problem cannot be resolved at this point, the user has the option to enter the CRT dispute process, pay a fee and commence their dispute.

As an owner, once your dispute is commenced, the strata corporation will be contacted, either through the strata manager or directly to council members, and the strata will be given an opportunity to respond and to settle the matter consensually early on. This is the case-management phase. If the parties agree to a solution within the scope of the law, a consent agreement is drawn up and becomes a binding agreement on both parties.

If the parties cannot agree to a solution, the dispute proceeds to the adjudication stage. At the adjudication level, which continues on line, both parties submit their claims and responses (their evidence) and the adjudicators render a decision within 60 to 90 days. Whether it is by consent or adjudicated order, the parties may file the decision in the court registry and the order may be enforced through the courts. If the decision is against an owner the order may be filed against the strata lot as well. There is an appeal mechanism to the Supreme Court of BC within 28 days if there was an error in law, or if both parties agree to appeal the decision.

Likely Disputes – on Both Sides

For strata lot owners, you will likely now face two issues that have often been ignored by strata corporations due to cost and time: bylaw infringement and money. If you don’t comply with the bylaws of the strata and/or pay money you owe for fines, damages or insurance deductibles, the strata council, which will not require a vote of the owners at a general meeting to commence a CRT complaint, will be making decisions about CRT actions at council meetings.

For strata councils and corporations, if you do not enforce your bylaws, comply with the act, or act unfairly against owners in enforcing bylaws, lot owners and tenants now have the same access to the CRT obtain decisions – and the list is long. Chronic strata violations that are eligible CRT claims will include failing to provide records or documents on request, denying voting rights to eligible voters, procedural errors at general meetings, failing to meet financial reporting requirements, attempting to impose financial penalties or collections on owners that are not permitted and failing to enforce the bylaws of the strata.

The CRT will not be dealing with matters that relate to property in a strata, such as liquidation votes, appoints of administrators and the court ordered sale of a strata lot. If for some reason you do not have access to the internet, you will still be permitted to manage a dispute by phone or mail, and the CRT will also be providing free translation services for the dispute proceedings.

So it’s time for strata lot owners, their tenants, councils and managers to review their operations and comply with the law, before you get involved in a CRT dispute.

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Tony Gioventu
Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association, which promotes the interests of strata property owners by providing advice, resources and support for its members. Tony has more than 20 years of experience within the local real estate and development industry.