Resolving strata disputes will soon become faster, more accessible and more affordable thanks to recent provincial legislation.
Bill 44: The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, which passed in 2012, creates an independent body, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, which will provide dispute resolution tools as an alternative to going to court. The tribunal is expected to be operational by 2014.
This is welcome news for the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, which together with BC Real Estate Association (BCREA) had, for many years, voiced concerns about strata property legislation.
BCREA advocated for this change and in 2011 reiterated the industry’s position during the province’s 2011 consultation process on strata dispute resolution.
Who can access tribunal services?
Strata corporations, strata owners and tenants will be able to access tribunal services.
• If two individuals are in a dispute, both must need to agree to participate in the tribunal.
• If a strata owner or a tenant decides to use tribunal services, the affected strata corporation must participate.
The tribunal will have the authority to handle strata disputes between strata property owners and strata corporations, including:
• non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
• unfair actions by the strata corporation or by those owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex;
• uneven, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as smoking, 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 common property.
The tribunal will not decide matters that affect land, including:
• 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 per cent share in the strata complex (the “Schedule of Unit Entitlement”).
These matters will continue to be heard in the BC Supreme Court, as will other matters, including:
• the appointment of an administrator to run the strata corporation;
• orders vesting authority in a liquidator;
• applications to wind up a strata corporation;
• allegations of conflicts of interest by council members; or
• appointment of voters when there is no person to vote in respect of a strata lot.
How will tribunal services be accessed?
The tribunal services will be available online 24/7. Assistance will also be offered by phone, mail or even in person. Disputes are expected to be resolved within 60 days, compared to 12 to 18 months for the court process.
The tribunal will have five stages
Souce: BC Ministry of Justice
Stage 1 - Self-Help
Information and tools will be available online 24/7 to help parties resolve disputes.
Stage 2 - Online Party-to-Party Negotiations
If Stage 1 fails, parties can go through a guided negotiation monitored by tribunal staff.
Stage 3 - Facilitated Settlement
Where an agreement is still not reached, parties can pay applicable fees and request active facilitation by the tribunal involving mediation or other dispute resolution processes. All parties must consent.
Stage 4 - Case Management Preparation
A case manager will facilitate mediation and explore options for settlement.
Stage 5 - Adjudication
Any dispute not settled by agreement will be heard by an adjudicator with the authority to decide the outcome and make binding decisions.
Fees for tribunal resolution of a dispute have not been finalized.
Information on strata property and the tribunal available at: www.housing.gov.bc.ca/strata