Strata Property Act
On July 1, 2000, the Strata Property Act came into force in British Columbia. This Act replaces the Condominium Act and significantly alters the provisions of the Condominium Act dealing with strata title properties. One of the areas of significant change in the Strata Property Act is with respect to the provision for settling disputes by arbitration. Generally speaking, arbitrations are faster and less expensive than court actions.
The types of disputes that may be arbitrated under the Strata Property Act include:
(a) the interpretation or application of the Strata Property Act;
(b) disputes with respect to common property or common assets;
(c) dispute with respect to the use or enjoyment of a strata lot by an occupier;
(d) disputes with respect to money owing or fines;
(e) any action or threatened action or decisions of the strata corporation or strata council with respect to an individual owner or tenant;
(f) any dispute respecting the exercise of voting rights by a person who holds 50% or more of the votes at an annual or special general meeting.
Either an owner or a tenant or the strata corporation may refer a dispute to arbitration. If a court proceeding has been started with respect to a dispute, it cannot be then referred to arbitration. However, if arbitration has been commenced, it may later be taken to court if the court grants a stay of the arbitration proceedings.
An arbitration is commenced by one party giving the other party a Notice Beginning Arbitration, which is set out as Form L in the regulations. The second party then has two weeks to provide a Notice of Reply, which is Form M to the regulations. The parties then can agree to an arbitrator or, if they cannot agree, then each party names their own arbitrator and the two arbitrators name a third arbitrator.
The arbitrator may make whatever decision he or she considers, just having regard to the Act, Regulations, the Bylaws of the Strata Corporation and the Rules of the Strata Corporation. The arbitrator can also make an award of costs. The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding, except that it can be reviewed under the Judicial Review Procedure Act in the event that proper procedure was not followed and, within 30 days after the decision of the arbitrator, an appeal may be made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on questions of law that might arise out of the decision. Both parties must consent to the court hearing the appeal, or the court must grant leave to appeal.
The use of the arbitration provisions in the Strata Property Act should be of great assistance to owners and strata corporations in resolving their disputes quickly and with a minimum of cost.