Even during these unprecedented times, a strata corporation’s obligations continue. Strata councils face both the challenge of how to continue with their usual vital business, such as:
- holding annual general meetings (AGMs) or special general meetings (SGMs) to approve special levies for critical repairs and rising insurance costs
- making 2-5-10 warranty claims
- conducting bylaw infraction hearings
- restoring water damage
but also how to address new types of issues, such as how to ensure common area sanitation, enforce social distancing in common areas and fairly deal with unpaid strata fees for those unable to work due to COVID-19.
To help council members navigate these challenges, the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has published an excellent resource for strata corporations, which is available here.
One piece of good news is that holding electronic council meetings and voting is a well-established method of conducting strata council business. How electronic AGMs/SGMs are to be conducted within the framework of the Strata Property Act is still an open question, unless the strata corporation has approved a specific bylaw enabling these meetings to be conducted in this manner. One of the issues arises with respect to the requirement to provide a secret ballot voting option, contained in Standard Bylaw 27(7) and incorporated into the bylaws of most BC strata corporations.
The Province has suggested that “restricted proxies” are a viable way to conduct voting at a special general or annual general meeting, provided that the proxies are prepared carefully. Owners are able to designate a council member to vote on their behalf, but direct the way that council member will vote on each issue before the strata corporation. The proxies are then tallied and compiled to ensure transparency. However, if a secret ballot is requested pursuant to a valid bylaw, this method would need to be modified. There are a number of specialized voting software solutions which are available to handle this request; please contact us if you would like more information.
The page also includes helpful tips about what types of communications the strata corporation should be providing to residents about the situation, as well as other COVID-19 resources.
We also note that while there have been suspensions or reductions in most of BC’s courts, the online Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), which has jurisdiction over most strata corporation disputes, is continuing to operate. That means that challenges from owners could continue to be filed and the CRT will not process default orders until May 15, 2020 at the earliest (a default order is one that is granted only because the other party does not respond in time). However, for deadline extensions, the tribunal must be contacted. Therefore, if the strata corporation receives a new claim, or is dealing with an existing claim, it is still important to seek legal advice in a timely fashion.
More information about the CRT operations during the state of emergency is available here: https://civilresolutionbc.ca/covid-19/
Our Real Estate Law Blog provides brief commentary on current legal trends and developments affecting your business. The topics addressed in Lawson Lundell’s Real Estate Law Blog are of interest to commercial real estate developers, real estate and strata agents, investors, landlords and tenants, as well as a variety of industry groups.
Legal Disclaimer: The information made available on this webpage is for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please contact our firm if you need legal advice or have questions about the content of this webpage.