Strata legal eagles or beagles?

If people really took the time to learn about things that mattered to them, I bet society would be a more collaborative entity. I do not have a legal degree so I would never presume to be an authority on the subject. However, I have a healthy respect for the law and I believe it is my responsibility to- at the very least- be familiar with those laws that do have cause and effect for my day to day.

In a strata corporation an owner MUST live within community rules specifically while the corporation MUST govern itself within legislative rules specifically for good governance and maintenance of the common property. Apparently though it all comes down to interpretation.

Both the courts and government are hesitant to step on the rights of the individual and the collective together. This is admirable but misguided. It is proven over and over again that where there is no authority or third party supervision requiring accountability, unscrupulous behaviors can become rather rampant in scope…for everyone involved. Strata Property Act only helps individual owners willing to pay a ton of money for an audience with the Supreme Court. One might understand then why some might suggest the SPA seems to be unenforceable.

Lately, the media sources that write about strata have been adding more fuel to the fire of just how in need of an overhaul the strata legislation is.

For example, Suzanne Morphet focused her latest Stratafied column in The Vancouver Sun upon the issue of tenancy within strata corporations. The article: Strata caught off guard by changes to eviction process was very interesting in that tenancy eviction appeared to stymie the sensibilities of a strata attorney.

As an owner in a strata I understand my bylaws. They are pretty generic for the most part but do cover all the most important issues owners may need to contend with on a daily basis. Rentals is one of those issues.It is my belief that rentals and strata are like oil and water –just say no!

I understand that if I choose to rent my unit I must first seek written permission from the council because the corporation has a rental restriction with which I would have to comply. The council will then provide me with written acknowledgement of my request and, in turn, request specifics about the tenant for their files. (This is a perfect world scenario…I doubt my swamp would issue anything in writing).

Subsequently, following permission, I understand it is my responsibility to set up expectations for the tenant in combination with bylaw requirements and of course the legislation to protect all parties. I would ensure the council and its management would have a copy of any agreements made between me and the tenant. Also and in addition I would make sure both the tenant and I knew of our obligations and responsibilites to each other by knowing all about the Residential Tenancy Act.

But, the most important thing for me to know and remember and act upon always is the fact that I am still the owner of my unit and a proportional owner of the common property of the corporation. As such, the buck stops with me for any actions of my tenant that may interfere with the peaceable enjoyment of my neighbours through contraventions of the bylaws or plain old bad behaviours.

Again, I remind readers I do not have a degree in law but I do have a good supply of common sense. Back to Suzanne’s article….

The lawyer Suzanne interviewed must be putting something odd in his coffee every morning or he must be a media whore because I cannot for the life of me figure out why a guy with a degree would have difficulty understanding a rather obvious legality.

The tenant in a strata is not an owner by proxy (for decision making)unless of course an owner gives that right away (I wouldn’t recommend it). What matters to the strata corporation is the name on the title because that name is wholly responsible for the unit. Another owner of course or even a strata council member can lay a complaint about just about anything in a corporation. The council I  assume would advise the tenant as well as the unit owner of the complaint in writing so that the owner would have opportunity to address the issue. If the owner chooses to ignore the council’s attempts to resolve an issue with a tenant, then the owner is choosing to be dealt with through the means at council disposal.

No brainer legal beagle. How come you want treats for no trick?

Council – based upon my swamp experience -is not necessarily able to handle such a situation if they are inept, uneducated and ignorant. Such a council would more than likely find themselves an attorney who would tell them what they want to hear because of course many lawyers charge what the traffic will bear. My opinion only of course but if as a council you need legal advice you go to attorneys that will give you the straight goods within 15 minutes…legal eagles. They are excellent. You don’t take advice from one who lets you spout off your emotional rant and then coddles you through your interpretations of what needs to be done and then tells you…. “And by the way you exceeded thirty minutes and here’s the bill”. I bet the beagle in the article preys on omnipotent, ignorant councils for sport. There’s that circle jerk again.

A council can fine a strata owner for the antics of a tenant. With the support of the corporation an owner can be sued in small claims court. A judgement against an owner for a bad tenancy can be quite costly. A wise owner would throw bylaws and the Residential Tenancy Act at a tenant and evict. A wise council would be relentess in documenting every effort to resolve the issue through proper channels. A wise council would ensure they have the power of well written bylaws to protect their actions against a bad owner landlord.

Let’s face it….tenants are only a problem if the landlord is a problem. If a strata corporation is well informed and thorough and makes a point of discussing tenancy regularly with the owners either at meetings, through minutes or newsletters and ensures the bylaws are well written and understood lawyers like the one in Ms. Morphet’s article would not have to stretch their abilities so much to charge a client.

A strata council has many tools at its discretion to look after the corporation. The courts and the government have an expectation that corporations should be able to govern themselves for the most part. Well, if this is the case than legal beagles should not be contributing to the problem by manipulating the system to benefit their coffers. That makes some legal entities part of the greater problem in my opinion and why there is no accountability in the wonderful world of strata.

A million strata owners in BC and a very limited amount of strata attorneys. That is a huge pool of conflict if even the lawyers can’t keep up with  the law….

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Posted in Cost of Ignorance
4 comments on “Strata legal eagles or beagles?
  1. Advocate says:

    The BC Liberals continue to protect developers, strata management companies and corrupt strata council members behind weak legislation. By being silent, the NDP have given permission to the BC Liberals to do nothing for strata owners. There is a glimmer of hope for getting strata legislation on the political agenda in a new policy brochure recently released by the BC Conservatives. It can be found at:
    http://bcconservative.ca/wp-content/uploads/Brochures/strata_brochure_feb2011.pdf

    Like

    • stratalife says:

      I appreciate all your efforts Advocate. I tell you what…..when politicians and their governments start putting some real action behind their lipservice I’ll start humming “I’m a believer” and endorse the first individual who implements…..

      Like

  2. Legal Stuff says:

    Unfortunately Ms. Morphet’s article over simplifies the issue and does not explain why a strata corporation might think it can evict an owner’s tenant. As the lawyer in the article pointed out, it had been done many times before without a problem.

    Until approximately 2 years ago the Residential Tenancy Board (“RTB”) would accept applications by strata corporations to evict tenants of owners on the basis of section 138 of the Strata Property Act (SPA). That section specifically allowed strata corporations to issue a Notice to End Tenancy under section 45 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). To succeed the strata corporation would have to prove that the tenant was in repeated breach of a significant bylaw. It was useful in that it provided a quick way (i.e. less than 2 months) to remove problem tenants that owners either refused to deal with or didn’t want to bother dealing with. Usually, it was a last resort when a landlord owner would refuse to evict under section 137 of the Strata Property Act or other enforcement was not practical particularly if people or property were in danger.

    The change arose when RTB took a look at the RTA and realized that without a specific provision in that legislation that made the strata corporation a substitute landlord they (the RTB) had no authority/jurisdiction to uphold a strata corporation’s eviction notice under section 138 of the SPA. Because the RTB is created by statute (the RTA), then it derives all of its powers from the RTA. Accordingly, regardless of what any other piece of legislation says it can do, the RTB and DRO’s are limited to what powers the RTA gives them. So, to fix this problem, the government will either have to make reference to section 138 of the SPA in the RTA or amend the RTA to specify that for certain purposes, a strata corporation can be a “landlord”.

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