On May, 7, 2012, the Provincial Government announced the introduction of Bill 44 into the provincial legislature. Assuming Bill 44 passes before the end of the current legislative session, the new Civil Resolution Tribunal Act will dramatically change how strata owners resolve conflicts with their strata corporations.
Currently, strata councils hold the balance of power when it comes to disputes with owners. Strata councils determine whether bylaws or rules have been breached, levy fines against owners and in certain cases, can place liens against strata lots or take owners to small claims court to collect amounts due.
Where an owner feels like they have been unfairly targeted by the strata council or wants to use a remedy available to them under the Strata Property Act, the owner has two options. The owner can either request binding arbitration or take the strata corporation to Supreme Court. Either of these routes can cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. While an owner has to pay their legal expenses out of pocket, the strata corporation can use the building’s resources pay for ongoing legal fees, frequently outlasting the financial reserves of the owner.
This power imbalance has been well documented for many years. With over 29,000 strata corporations in British Columbia and hundreds of thousands of owners, disputes with strata corporations and poor strata governance cause significant hardship for many people.
Once the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act comes into force, strata corporations with poor governance will find themselves embroiled in ongoing small claims style dispute proceedings. As the cost of dispute resolution decreases, more owners will take advantage of new, low cost tools to challenge their strata councils and force their strata corporations to invest in good governance.
While details are still in short supply, the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act will create a four stage online tribunal system that will help to resolve the following strata property disputes:
- non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
- unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owing 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.