Strata Dispute Resolution

The 12-Year Wait Continues!

Spring 2016 - Issue 20

     A long time ago in a legislature not far away there was a government member who heard from and represented strata owners in his constituency. Really, it is true! It actually happened! His name was Tony Bhullar (Surrey-Newton) and on November 5, 2003 he asked the responsible Minister if he had given any thought to creating an alternative to the expensive route of the BC Supreme Court for resolving strata disputes. The Minister’s response was that he was open to suggestions from the member. In response, Mr. Bhullar (who is also a lawyer) crafted Bill M 205 (Strata Owner’s Dispute Resolution Act) which he introduced into the legislature on May 17, 2004. As happens with most private member bills, Bill M 205 died on the order paper. There was no follow-up government bill or hearings on the matter with the government ignoring a clear signal that there was a serious and unresolved problem with current mechanisms for resolving strata disputes.

     Four years later (in May, 2008) the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association completed a series of public meetings and presented a report to government with findings of 30 significant issues of inadequate strata legislation, including the need for affordable access to dispute resolution. In response, and with an election coming, the government introduced Bill 12 in March 2009 which included provisions for the Provincial (Small Claims) Court to hear strata disputes. Although Bill 12 died on the order paper when the election was called, a near identical post-election Bill 8 was introduced and passed in October 2009.

     Although Bill 8 retained the provision for hearing strata disputes in the Provincial Court, the provision was never implemented. Instead, years later in May 2012, the government passed Bill 44 (Civil Resolution Tribunal Act) which repealed previously legislated access to the Provincial Court and replaced it with a new and separate tribunal process for resolving strata disputes, a process that was to include on line access. The passage of Bill 44 was accompanied by the Minister indicating the new dispute resolution system would be accessible to strata owners within 16 months, or late 2013.

     It is now 12 years since Mr. Bhullar’s question and 4 years since the government passed its tribunal legislation but strata owners are still without an accessible dispute resolution process. Many MLAs are from constituencies with a preponderance of strata ownership where strata disputes abound, with some disputes having festered for years. However, in reading Hansard’s coverage of Question Period it appears that not one of these MLAs has asked the government for the start date of an accessible strata dispute resolution process.

Please send me an email if you have any questions or comments about this subject. Also, please share this posting with anyone you feel is interested.   Deryk Norton