2015 is the year in which the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act is anticipated to come fully into force and will commence operations. As a strata corporation, owner or tenant, are you looking for an efficient way to settle disagreements at a reasonable cost? Look no further. The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) will be Canada's first online tribunal and will be the handy tool to be utilized in settling disputes. It is a straightforward, convenient and timely process.

Strata owners have been longing for a better - and faster - method to resolve disputes. In 2012, the government introduced the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act which was an alternative to court. Fast forward three years and this new online tribunal is ready to be launched. The CRT is being designed primarily as an online tribunal. It provides information regarding strata dispute resolutions as well as any small claims issues which include:

x  Non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines
x  Unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex
x  Unfair, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as noise, pets, parking, rentals etc)
x  Issues of financial responsibility for repairs and the choice of bids for services
x  Irregularities in the conduct of meetings, voting, minutes or other matters
x  Interpretation of the legislation, regulations or bylaws and 
x  Issues regarding common property.

Strata disputes can be resolved in one of two ways: (1) The CRT Process or (2) The Existing Court System (Provincial and Supreme Courts of BC). If a party wishes to use the online process to resolve a dispute against a strata corporation, the corporation must participate in the online process as well. 

For additional information regarding the CRT, check out their website: Civil Resolution Tribunal

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In strata developments, parking areas and storage lockers are not all allocated in the same way. The specific rights of owners or tenants to use parking stalls or storage lockers vary depending on how the use of these areas has been allocated in the development.

Verifying use can be a puzzling problem for REALTORS®.

As of January 14, 2014, the process is easier because of changes to the Strata Property Act.

Strata corporations must now identify parking spaces and storage lockers associated with units on the new Information Certificate (Form B) given to potential buyers and anyone authorized by the
owner or buyer.

REALTORS® assisting clients buying or selling strata property should review the development’s strata plan to determine whether parking and storage areas are
designated as:
• a separate strata lot or part of a strata lot;
• limited common property; or
• common property.

The strata lot or part of a strata lot

This is any part of the registered strata plan identified with boundaries or as a separate strata lot and owned solely by the owner.
• Parking and storage areas may be designated on the strata plan as a separate strata lot or part of a strata lot.
• Parking and storage areas intended for commercial use can be designated as a separate strata lot, and will have their own strata lot number.
• Parking and storage areas intended to be used in conjunction with a residential strata lot can’t be a separate strata lot, but can be designated as part of the strata lot and so share the same strata lot number as the residential unit.
• A parking or storage area designated as part of a strata lot will always be owned by the strata lot owner, and a strata lot owner will transfer ownership of these areas to a purchaser upon the sale of their strata lot.

Limited common property (LCP)

Parking and storage areas are designated on the strata plan as LCP for the exclusive use of a particular strata lot. An owner with exclusive use doesn’t own the area, but has the exclusive right to use the area.
• LCP areas are common property owned by all of owners in the strata
corporation in proportion to each strata lot’s unit entitlement.
• If parking and storage areas are designated on the strata plan as common property and aren’t limited to the use of a specific strata lot, a strata corporation can create LCP designations by passing a resolution either by a unanimous vote or a 3/4 vote.
• The right to exclusive use of an LCP area attaches to the strata lot, not to the specific owner. When an owner sells their strata lot, the right to exclusive use of the LCP area automatically transfers to the new owner of the strata lot.

Common Property

Parking and storage areas may be designated on the strata plan as common property. Similar to LCP, common property is owned by all owners in a strata corporation in proportion to their respective unit entitlements.

The use of areas designated as common property can be allocated to owners in three different ways:

1. A grant of exclusive use. The strata corporation can give an owner exclusive rights to use parking and storage areas designated as common property for a maximum term of one year.
• The strata corporation can renew the term, alter conditions, and cancel at any point during the term by giving reasonable notice to the owner.
• The ability to use the common property attaches to the owner and not the strata lot. Vendors can’t contractually assign permission to use parking stalls or storage lockers to new owners, as with a lease.
• The new owner must ask the strata corporation for permission to use the
area exclusively.
• The strata corporation has discretion to grant exclusive use of the same or a different parking or storage area, or deny the new owner the right to use any parking or storage area.

2. An assignment of rights under a lease or licence. When a developer creates a strata development, the developer can grant a lease or licence over parking or storage areas to a related company or to itself (a head lease).
• The developer or related company can assign its lease or licence interest in individual parking or storage areas to buyers of a strata lot in the development.
• Head leases or licences of common property are created in developments with large underground parking and storage areas to enable the developer
to control which buyers are assigned which parking and storage areas after the strata plan is filed.
• Some head leases or licences are worded so the sale of a strata lot to
a buyer automatically triggers an assignment of the individual parking or
storage area to the new buyer. If this isn’t the case, the vendor can contractually assign their lease or licence in the contract of purchase and sale.

3. Common use of parking spaces. A strata plan may contain a parking area
designated as common property that is not allocated to the use of any specific owners.
• Owners can often use common property parking areas on a first-come first-served basis.
• There may also be strata corporation bylaws or rules governing how owners use the parking area.

-source: REBGV

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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

Dispute 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.

 Learn more

Information on strata property and the tribunal available at: www.housing.gov.bc.ca/strata

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