February 25, 2009

How to Fight a Strata Fine

For tenants or owners facing a fine for violating a strata rule or bylaw, it can feel like the council plays the role of police, judge and executioner. Although the strata council does have a lot of discretion to issue fines, an owner or tenant who feels that a fine is unfair has rights and remedies under the Strata Property Act. Section 135 of the Act states that before a strata council can impose a fine, the following four conditions must be met:
  1. the council must have received a complaint about the bylaw or rule violation;
  2. the council must have given the owner or tenant the details of the complaint, in writing, and a reasonable opportunity to answer the complaint, including a hearing if requested by the owner or tenant,
  3. if the person is a tenant, the council must have given notice of the complaint to the person's landlord and to the owner.
  4. if the tenant or owner has provided a written explanation of the complaint, or made arguments at a hearing, the strata council must provide the owner or tenant with written notice of its decision to issue the fine.

If the strata council does not follow these procedures in issuing a fine, then arguably it has violated the provisions of the Act, and acted outside its jurisdiction. So what then?

If the strata council has skipped one or more of these steps, or if you believe that the council's final decision is still unfair, section 164 of the Act give the owner or tenant a broad right to apply to the court for help.

Section 164 allows the court to make any order it considers necessary to "to prevent or remedy a significantly unfair action or threatened action by, or decision of, the strata corporation, including the council, in relation to the owner or tenant". There are two important points about section 164:

  • An owner or tenant does not need to wait until the strata council actually issues the fine, or takes other action. Any threat by the strata council to issue a fine is sufficient to bring a court application. That being said, the court will not be impressed if an owner/tenant runs off to court without first writing to the strata council to explain their side of the story.
  • Second, the court will only intervene if the strata council's action is "significantly unfair". This means that not every unfair action by the council will be addressed by the court - the consequences of the unfair action must be significant. In addition, the filing fees and time required to bring a court action should be considered when deciding whether it would be cheaper and less stressful to simply pay the fine.

Whatever your choice, its good to know that owners and tenants do have procedural fairness rights which will be enforced by the court, if necessary.

16 comments:

  1. What a great blog! Here's another strata question, what services does a strata council have to provide?

    We moved into our first strata unit in November and filled in all the required ownership forms. It's four months later and our name still isn't on the entryphone. It's interfering with our mail delivery and having guests to our home.

    We've written a few letters to the strata council and contacted the property manager and heard NOTHING in response. I'm not sure what the next step is.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Holly,

    That's a great question, and one I'll look into and post about in the next little while.

    Shannon

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is very useful information. Thank you for the excellent blog!

    Do you have an email address that I can contact you at, as I have a very important matter that I am dealing with involving our strata and need help.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Holly,

    Instead of filing in court, could an owner file a Form L to begin an arbitration process with an independant, professional arbitrator?

    Less cost (only $100), and a bit less intimidating...

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Second, the court will only intervene if the strata council's action is "significantly unfair". This means that not every unfair action by the council will be addressed by the court - the consequences of the unfair action must be significant. In addition, the filing fees and time required to bring a court action should be considered when deciding whether it would be cheaper and less stressful to simply pay the fine."

    How much are filing fees, and what is the procedure to file a complaint? If you lose, will you have to pay court costs for the strata? Also, if the filing fees are significant, what is preventing strata from indiscriminately fining individuals the same cost of the filing fee, or a little bit more, say $200?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great blog!! I also have a question. I have a problem with my strata. I had some things in my storage locker in which someone broke in and went through personal stuff and stole anything of value! I thought it was pretty secure because the locker room is locked and then I have my own lock. I contacted the strata and property manager and they told me they can't do anything about it. Then I contacted them again to see if they could install cameras and notify the residents of the break ind ( 3 lockers broken in) and they said no to cameras and they said they are not going to waste their time notifying people. So there are two lockers still broken into and the owners probably still do not know about it. Funny thing is that whenever there is an issue like one time when cars were broken into, they always send letters to the residents. So why will they not do anything regarding this issue? If they can't afford cameras fine! But they could at least notify the owners that there is someone breaking into lockers! What are my rights? I am a tenant but I don't want this to happen to other people and strata is shrugging it off. They haven't even fixed the lockers which were cut open with some sort of grinder! Thanks for any help that you may be able to provide!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great blog, my tenant moved out and after they had moved strata council sent them a notice of a bylaw contravention to the address of the apartment, obviously the tenants did not get this as they had moved.
    Your point 2 above states the council must have given the owner or tenant the details of the complaint, in writing, and a reasonable opportunity to answer the complaint, including a hearing if requested by the owner or tenant.

    The tenant didn't get it, can the starta council still issue fines ?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have an issue with our caretaker. She is really nosey and sometimes questions people visiting us. SHe asks who they are visiting? How they got in?
    I don't like that and would like to make a complaint, but am a new owner and don't want her to know I complained.
    Is this normal for a caretaker to be so nosey?
    How much power does a caretaker have? We wanted to contact the strata president and asked her for his number which we had lost and she told us first she'd have to ask his permission to see if he wanted to give it out. I don't get this at all! As an owner, shouldn't we have the right to have the strata president's contact info and not have to go through the caretaker?
    Anyway we found his number ourselves to in the end it didnt'matter.
    I just find this caretaker's attitude too strict. For example, we got a courrier delivery once and she came up to our door and knocked on it with our parcel. SHe didn't even buzz us from down below to see if we were there. She just showed up outside our door. I find this a bit intrusive although I do appreciate the fact that she was trying to be helpful. I just feel like she is watching everything we do.

    Even to get another main entrance key to the building we had to explain to her why we needed it, who it was for, ect.
    Does strata have the right to know if we have guests stay with us for a few weeks? I feel like a criminal trying to hide things. It is ridiculous!

    ReplyDelete
  9. wendyshellben@hotmail.comOctober 14, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    HI Holly, We moved into a strata last spring. We were told the most flexible strata we'd ever find and it would appear to be so when you look around at the array fo windows, doors, stoop gardens and flags for curtains! We installed a small cresent moon shaped window in our storage room door and now strata in threatening fines. The playground and electricals are substandard; far more important than our little window in a storage room door!!! Do you think we have any recourse?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi,
    My daughter and her husband are in med school so they cannot afford to pay a fine issued by the strata on her condo building. what happend was there was a leak under her kitchen sink caused by a building defect.(the plumber installing it had cracked the pipe and patched it with a big glob of silicone) that she could not see and the lady below her did not report it until some minor water damage was done, the cost of repair was 1200 dollors. the proptery or strata manager then hired a plumber that was not the designated plumber for the the home warranty thus voiding the home waranty(they have only lived there a year and the home warranty is for two years)but they had a strata meeting without my daughter being allowed to come and all decided that she has to pay. they know she is in the middle of school and can't afford any legal help. please help! we don't know what to do. or where to turn.
    thank you
    Jeanne

    my email is wanachea@hotmail.com any advice would be appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  11. JAN/15/2013: I'm a Landlord for a Rented unit. My tenant keeps getting fines for making noise and I keep getting fined. I don't believe she is. I have statements from her immediate neighbours on both sides and accross the hall that they have never heard any disturbances or noise. Most of them too are owners and 1-renter. The complaints were only coming from 1-suspected source (above) who is also the party that threatened my renter with a statement " we'll everything in our power to get you out". This person is on the Strata council. NOW.. all of a sudden the complaints are being lodged by other sources (other that the upstairs neighbours according to council), which means that it can only be the from apartments on either side of our upstairs neighbour or farther. The immediate neighbours on the same main-floor have signed statements that it is not them and they have no trouble. I have stood outside and allowed my tenant to 'pump-up' he TV sound as loud as it will goa and een with the doors wide open you barely hear it out on the lawn. The council or the Strata Mgrs company, will not come out and hear these tests, but keep on fining me. What can I do and how can I fight them. I do not want to 'fire' my tenant, because she pays on time and my place is immaculate. Her 14-year old daughter swears it is not her and she does not really have many friends coming to her appartment.
    Help, help !! Can I hire you or someone locally to assist?

    (FAR)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I rented my apt. to a tenant with two dogs. Since I saw other tenants/owners with two dogs i thougt it was ok. Strata wrote violation letter. I responsded. Then, Strata manager called me to tell me that this is a bylaw and nothing will change this bylaw. She did not even present this letter to the Strata Council. What do I do? I don't want to lose a good tenant.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi shannon, Great blog! Quick question... Does strata have the right to charge you a hundred dollars if you Strata fees payment is late? This is just one of many problems we are having with strata. Looking forward to your response. Thank you. Email is mike.benoit69@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh my God! Stop whining and follow the rules that you should have (but didn't) read before you purchased or rented your strata unit.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have a question about when a fine can be levied. We were asked to move our vehicles out of our parking spaces for pressure washing. I moved my car but completely forgot to move my motorcycle. Full disclosure, there was adequate signage and warning so that isn't my gripe. My issue is that there was no action needed or taken by the cleaners or strata to move my bike, they simply cleaned around it. There was no warning that there would be any fine levied against anyone who forgot to move their vehicle(s). If I didn't violate a written bylaw, I didn't perform or facilitate any actions that required strata to take any action whatsoever, why are they allowed to fine me? And it may be to the tune of a couple hundred dollars?

    ReplyDelete
  16. We have owned and lived in the same strata complex for over 10 years. We chose the location because of the abundance of parking spaces and overflow area for recreational vehicles. Over the years we have owned several different trailers and a motorhome. 2 years ago when we purchased our used motorhome, we were advised that because of an additional storage unit that had been custom welded to the rear bumper, we had exceeded the length limit permitted by 18 inches. After several emails between ourselves and council we were forced to move the motor home to a storage lot far from our home, and therefore after several months, decided to sell it. Since then, 2 more owners have been parking their trailers in the over flow parking area, that are clearly over the acceptable length limit. We were told that they had been given special permission to park in overflow until the AGM. At the AGM, owners voted to allow these trailers to continue to park in the overflow area without changing the bylaw. Since that time, we have purchased a small utility trailer that we use strictly for camping, which we had parked in the overflow parking. Last week we received a notice from council telling us utility trailers were not allowed and if we did not move it we would be fined. We plead our case, stating it was only for camping and would only be there for 3 months, but have now received our second notice stating the trailer had to be gone by the end of the week or the fines would begin.
    What recourse do we have? My husband and I feel that we are being discriminated against. How can you allow exceptions to be made for some and not others?

    ReplyDelete

I would love to hear your views on this post so please leave a comment below. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide any legal advice through these comments. If you need legal advice, please contact one of the pro bono resources listed on the right side of the Rights & Remedies blog.