Strata disputes can arise at any time. Conflicts can range anywhere from small matters about a bylaw dispute to larger matters such as owners suing their strata council for failure to carry out their responsibilities.
Four main avenues exist for resolving strata disputes. The most appropriate avenue of dispute resolution depends on the nature and gravity of the dispute between the parties.
Resolving disputes internally within the strata corporation
The strata council has several options for resolving disputes without involving external tribunal or court mechanisms. These options include:
- Putting a dispute matter on the general meeting agenda;
- Asking for a strata council hearing;
- Requesting a special general meeting; or
- Referring the matter to the voluntary strata dispute resolution committee.
When internal dispute resolution fails to produce results, the strata corporation can turn to arbitration. There are certain types of disputes that may and may not be arbitrated, as set out in the Strata Property Act. The strata issues that may be brought before an arbitrator include:
- Issues concerning regulations and bylaws;
- The enjoyment or use of a strata lot; and
- Issues concerning common property or common assets.
The Civil Resolution Tribunal
British Columbia's new Civil Resolution Tribunal ("CRT") has already been discussed here in a previous post. It's an important new mechanism and the country's first online tribunal for resolving strata disputes.
Numerous matters can be brought to the CRT, including those listed above, as well as:
- Actions of the strata corporation in relation to an owner or tenant;
- Money owing, including monthly strata fees or fines; and
- The exercise of voting rights by a person holding a majority of votes at an annual or special general meeting.
Where the CRT has jurisdiction over a claim, it is likely the preferred procedure over litigating in Court. However, the CRT does not handle certain types of disputes, such as those dealing with liens, forced sales, the appointment of administrators, or the wind-up of a strata corporation.
Litigating In Court
Going to court typically involves situations in which the strata corporation is sued by an owner or is being sued as a representative of the owners, or is seeking to liquidate or wind-up the strata corporation. The cost of litigating in Court means alternative dispute resolution routes should be considered first, where appropriate.
Before drawing on any one method, disputing parties are wise to consult first with a lawyer experienced in handling strata matters.