Home Strata Bylaws and Rules How to Enforce Bylaws and Rules – A Guide for Strata Councils

How to Enforce Bylaws and Rules – A Guide for Strata Councils

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One of the most stressful and contentious responsibilities of a Strata Council is the enforcement of strata bylaws and rules. While some conflict and tension will always exist within self managed communities, understanding and respecting the rights of Owners and duties of Strata Councils throughout the enforcement process can help to prevent costly and stressful community breakdown.

Strata Councils can help to build strong and cohesive communities through thoughtful, fair and even handed governance. It is important for Strata Councils to be judicious and respectful throughout the bylaw and rule enforcement process. Strata Owners need to feel that they are being treated with fairly, Complainants need to feel that they have been heard, and Strata Councils have the difficult task of balancing community needs and engaging in enforcement actions against neighbours.

The bylaw and rule enforcement process can be broken down as follows:

  1. Complaint
  2. Warning or Opportunity to Comply with Bylaws and Rules (optional)
  3. Choice of Enforcement
  4. Notice of Enforcement
  5. Right of Owner or Tenant to Respond
  6. Decision of Strata Council

Complaint: What Triggers a Warning or Enforcement Action?

When the Strata Council receives a complaint from an owner about another owner, tenant, occupant or visitor breaching a bylaw or rule, or if the Strata Council learns through other means that a bylaw or rule may have been breached, the Strata Council has a duty to review the matter. Upon review, if it appears that a bylaw or rule has been breached, the Strata Council has several options.

Warning or Opportunity to Comply with Bylaws and Rules: Does a Strata Council Have to Act?

Under the Strata Property Act, the Strata Council can choose to give the Owner responsible for the breach of the bylaw or rule a warning. The Strata Council can also give the Owner time to comply with the bylaw or rule without penalty. 1

Choice of Enforcement: Fine, Remedy of Contravention or Denial of Access to Recreational Facilities?

If an owner, tenant, occupant or visitor doesn’t heed a warning from the Strata Council, if the Owner fails to remedy the breach within the time period provided by the Strata Council, or if the Strata Council has chosen to move directly to enforcement, the Strata Council has three enforcement options at its disposal under section 129 of the Strata Property Act. These are:

  1. Fines
    The Strata Council can levy a fine against an owner. The maximum fine must be outlined in the Strata Corporation’s bylaws. If not, then the maximum fines in the Strata Property Act Schedule of Standard Bylaws will apply. 2 See the post on Maximum Fines for Breaking Strata Bylaws and Rules for more information about fines.
  2. Strata Corporation to Remedy Contravention
    The Strata Corporation may do what is reasonably necessary to remedy a bylaw or rule contravention, including removing objects from common property and assets, repairing common property and common assets or doing work on a strata lot . The Strata Corporation can require that reasonable costs for taking such action be paid by the owner responsible for the breach of the bylaw or rule. 3
  3. Deny Access to Recreational Facilities
    If the bylaw or rule breach involves the use of recreational common property or common assets, the Strata Council can deny access to the recreational facility for a reasonable amount of time. This denial of access cannot be permanent. 4

Notice of Enforcement: What Must be Included?

Once the Strata Council has chosen the enforcement mechanism it will use, the Strata Council must give notice to the Owner of the strata lot. This notice must contain the particulars of the violation, including the bylaw or rule that is the source of the complaint, as well as the enforcement steps that will be taken by the Strata Council.

When delivering notice to the Owner about a complaint, be sure to outline the Owner’s right to respond and provide the Owner with simple, clear and concise instructions. The notice must also include a reasonable period of time for the Owner to respond before fines or other enforcement tools are used. Generally, providing owners with 7 to 14 days to respond will be considered reasonable.

Right of Owner or Tenant to Respond: Justice Requires an Opportunity to Respond

The Owner of the strata lot must be given a reasonable opportunity answer the complaint, including a hearing before council if requested. If the strata lot is being occupied by a Tenant, he or she must be afforded the same opportunity.

If the Owner or Tenant has answered the complaint in written form, then the Strata Council must consider this response and decide whether or not to take enforcement proceedings as outlined in the original notice. If the Owner or Tenant has requested a hearing, the Strata Council must provide the owner or tenant with an opportunity to present their case to the Strata Council in person.

Decision of Strata Council: Provide Fair, Justifiable Reasons

The Strata Council should avoid rushing to judgement. If an Owner feels that they are presumed guilty until proven innocent, their sense of justice, governance and community will erode.

Once the strata council has reached a final decision on the complaint, it must provide a written decision to the Owner. This decision should state whether the Strata Council continues to find the Owner or Tenant in breach and if it will continue with the enforcement action outlined in the original notice.

If possible, the Strata Council should outline its reasoning in the its final decision. By explaining how the Strata Council reached its decision, the Owner and Complainant are more likely to accept the decision and feel heard. Additionally, should the owner or complainant challenge the decision through arbitration or the courts, the written reasons will provide evidence of thoughtful and reasonable review.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1.  Strata Property Act, S.B.C. 1998, c. 43 section 129.
  2.  Strata Property Act, S.B.C. 1998, c. 43 section 132.
  3.  Strata Property Act, S.B.C. 1998, c. 43 section 133.
  4.  Strata Property Act, S.B.C. 1998, c. 43 section 134.
  • Shayna

    With the seemingly unfair power balance between Strata Councils and owners,
    it begs the question as to why would one even want to own a condo at all if
    being an owner doesn’t really mean being an owner?

    Unless:

    1) you bought in a brand new development which usually doesn’t have as much
    square footage as older condos, but at least an owner in this situation would
    have more rights.

    2) there was a guarantee you could become president of the Strata Council
    or join the council

    3) you wanted the ‘secure’ feeling of being in a retirement or gated
    community
    4) you were sure of having the same job and being in the same place for the rest of your life

    Wouldn’t owning a house or leasehold be a better solution for someone really
    opposed to having to follow so many rules? What about even renting?

    It looks like renters have more ‘rights’ than owners as most of the time
    they are allowed to sublet, hang individual fixtures or ornaments outside or on
    their doorways, move a new item of furniture in without having to obtain keys
    to hold open the elevator.

    My main question is: For someone who naturally opposes having to follow
    strict rules, especially concering rentals, and who had the financial means
    available and wants to be near the city centre, wouldn’t it make sense to own
    one condo and rent it out on permanent basis, but live in a rental building
    where sublets where allowed?

  • Xiaomei33

    We recently had a report of our latest strata council meeting in which there was”correspondence” of an owner to the strata counci regarding a noise complaint because their neighbors made excessive noise while leaving one morning. The result: “A letter will be sent out ( to the neighbors)”
    Now in all fairness, why wouldn’t an owner just speak to their neighbor about it first before naturally drawing in potential bad feelings between them by notifiyitng the strata? Why wouldn’t the try to work it out between themselves before involving the strata and a warning letter? (maybe he did, for all. I know)
    I just wonder how common it is for owners not to try to discuss issues with their neighbors first before involving the strata and creating negative feelings? What do you think of that?

    • Kmasse

      Well, I suppose there are a few reasons why I would complain to my strata council instead of speaking directly with my problem neighbour.  I don’t know the particulars of your example, but iIn any case:
      The complainant may feel intimidated by the problem neighbour. 
      The noise may have been caused by a domestic issue, which the complainant didn’t feel comfortable speaking face-to-face with the neighbour about. 
      Or, the noise is being made with the intention of disturbing others (yes, there are people that genuinely get a joy out of disturbing others), and speaking face-to-face would be pointless or potentially violent.

      Any mature individual that receives a warning letter will either a) realize they were wrong and accept it and change their behaviour, b) provide an explanation and apology, or c) explain why the complainant is wrong.  I disagree though that the letter is the cause of the negative feelings – obviously, the writer feels strongly enough about the issue and is feeling wronged.  The warning letter is civilized attempt to resolve things.

  • Maria Novakowska

    Hi Neil,
    Do you know if it is ok to have a little yard sale outside the building where you own a unit on the grounds on the grass in front of the side-walk? We are in the West End and many people have cute little yard sales on the weekends, however this past Saturday, I actually saw someone from the City of Vancouver tell a string of people have little sales to pack up because they were on city property. They were told they had to be on private property to be able to continue the yard sales.
    in our bylaws, all it says is that you can’t use your unit for business purposes, but nothing is mentioned about little yard sales outside around the building.
    I want to have a little sale before the end of the summer and I am thinking of just going ahead and doing it and see what happens because if I ask then the strata might say ‘no” but if I just go ahead with a few books and items of clothing then if someone from our building on the strata comes out, sees it and doesn’t like it, he can just tell me it is not allowed.
    If there is no clear law mentioned about this in our bylaws, can you see any grounds on which the strata could fine me?

    • http://www.neilmangan.com/ Neil Mangan

      Hi Maria,

      While I cannot give you any legal advice about your specific building, generally the grounds in front of and around condominiums is common property and regulated by the strata corporation.

      For someone in your situation, the typical advice is to check your strata bylaws AND strata rules. While the old maxim “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” might hold true in certain circumstances, holding a yard sale on common property without permission may lead to fines in excess of any revenue you earn through the sale.

      Best of luck!
      Neil

  • Panjak Kamal

    Hi Neil,

    I have witten to my strata council asking them to provide me as a strata title owner with the mailing addresses of the other strata title owners (this is a seasonal condo with almost all owners living out of town) so that I may write to them to discuss alternative suggestions to that put by the strata council. The Strata Property Act (1998), if I read it correctly, says I should be able to receive the requested mailing addresses within fourteen days. Two part question: (1) can mailing addresses be considered e-mail addresses (my prefered means of communication) and (2) if I don’t receive the requested information can I make a statement to someone in higher authority that my request in accordance with The Act has been ignored?

    Thank you.

  • Angelo

    Hi Neil, seems the ETA for the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act is fall of 2014

    Council decided to pay the strata Insurance premium by just taking money out of the contingency reserve fund.

    to my understanding, this is not an allowed practice. Unless first approved by a resolution passed by a 3/4 vote of the owners at a general meeting or a special meeting.

  • pocojo

    My Strata allows installation of laminate flooring with the correct level of sound proofing under pad. I can consistently hear the people above me walking around and talking. This is a nuisance and disturbance to me. What can be done? This affects my mental and physical well being as well as my re-sale value.

    • http://www.neilmangan.com/ Neil Mangan

      Hi Pocojo,

      While I cannot provide you with specific legal advice, I generally advise people in your situation to speak with a member of the strata council to see if the noisy neighbour is in compliance with any flooring or alteration bylaws or agreements.

      Note that nuisance is an objective standard and noise complaints in strata corporations are common. If the problem persists, you may want to enlist the help of a lawyer to review your legal options and provide you with an opinion on the problem.

      Best wishes.

  • Linda

    Neil,
    I recently received two bylaw infractions one for noise the other parking violation. We are being bullied by our strata so badly we had to move! I asked for a hearing during the hearing we asked regarding the noise complaint. They refused to tell me details about it and simply stated they will discuss the matter at hand and let me know what the outcome was. I received a email from the property manager and the council stayed the fines. I still have no idea as to what the noise complaint was. How can I defend myself if they won’t even tell me?

    • http://www.neilmangan.com/ Neil Mangan

      Hi Linda,

      Section 135(1) and (1)(e) of the Strata Property Act state that a strata corporation must not impose a fine or take enforcement action unless the strata corporation has “given the owner or tenant the particulars of the complaint, in writing, and a reasonable opportunity to answer the complaint, including a hearing if requested by the owner or tenant”

      There may be a number of remedies at your disposal under the Strata Property Act, but you will need to obtain formal legal advice regarding the specific facts of your matter.

      Good luck!