As an owner in a strata-operated property, do you wonder how you can challenge a strata council’s decision? As a strata council member, do you wonder how you can enforce the bylaws effectively?
Effective late-2018, the maximum fine that a strata corporation may set out in its bylaws for the contravention of a bylaw that prohibits or limits the use of all or part of a residential strata lot for remuneration as vacation, travel or temporary accommodation is $1,000, daily. Fines, however, are still subject to the strata corporation’s statutory obligations that a strata council must comply with prior to fining an owner.
It used to be that strata-related disputes had to be adjudicated in the British Columbia Supreme Court, which is a lengthy and expensive process. In order to improve access to justice, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (the “CRT”)—an online tribunal—began accepting most strata-related disputes in 2016 (note that the CRT cannot decide matters that affect land or relate to significant issues in a strata complex).
The CRT is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online. Although the CRT is an online platform, some of its services are available by phone. As an owner challenging the strata’s decision to fine, or, as a strata corporation enforcing the payment of a fine, the first step is to seek legal advice. If that advice is to apply to the CRT for relief, you can often times handle your case with minimal legal services (and therefore, minimal fees). When making the application to the CRT, it is important to review and understand the Strata Property Act, its Regulation, and the strata corporation’s bylaws and rules.
For approximately $225 the CRT will make a decision on a strata dispute (note that the fees can be waived if the applicant meets certain criteria). However, it is recommended that parties reach out and try to resolve the dispute before submitting an application to the CRT. The CRT decisions can be filed in a British Columbia Provincial Court for enforcement. Lastly, the CRT decisions can be reviewed by the British Columbia Supreme Court. It is vital to note, however, that the Limitation Act might extinguish a strata corporation’s rights to fines that remain uncollected and unpursued for less than two years, so it is usually preferable for everyone involved to resolve fines soon after they are levied.
Generally, the parties need to represent themselves before the CRT; however, if requested, the CRT can assess whether it is just and fair to allow representation. When faced with a strata-related dispute, it is strongly recommended to consult with a lawyer at the early stages—this is especially important for a strata council because, to avoid strata liability, the council needs to ensure that its decisions are reasonable and that it complies with certain statutory obligations. The Sodagar & Company Law Corporation has experience providing advice on strata-related disputes.