The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) has been dealing with strata-related issues since July 2016. As of June 1, 2017, the CRT will now also been able to deal with small claims matters of $5,000 or less.
The CRT says that this monetary limit will increase in the future but, for now, anything over $5,000 you will have to pursue in Provincial Court – Small Claims ($5,000 to $35,000) or in Supreme Court (over $35,000, unless you abandon your claim for the amount over $35,000), unless you are prepared to abandon your claim for the amount over $5,000.
Be aware that limitation periods apply to small claims matters. Most limitations are two years in B.C. – from the date when the subject of the dispute arose. You should get legal advice if you are uncertain about when the time started running on your claim (or whether your limitation period might be different).
As the CRT sets out on its website (https://civilresolutionbc.ca/), small claims disputes involve a wide variety of issues between individuals and organizations. These include:
- Buying and selling goods and services: issues related to the purchase and sale of goods and services, including disputes over payment, quality, and damage.
- Loans and debts: issues related to borrowing and lending money where the lender is in the business of lending money or extending credit. Examples include credit card debts, overdue loans, and overdraft bank or credit card accounts.
- Construction and renovations: issues related to the construction, improvement, or renovation of a building.
- Employment: issues related to some employment disputes. This area doesn’t include union disputes or contractors. Many employment disputes must be resolved by the Employment Standards Branch. However, everyone works under an employment agreement of some sort, whether it is in writing or not. A breach of an employment contract is a contractual issue and small claims can deal with claims for breaches of contract. At the $5,000 limit however, a longer term employee would probably be looking to Provincial Court or Supreme Court to sue for greater damages.
- Insurance disputes: issues involving insurance. This can include people providing insurance, people who have or want it, and others, including brokers.
- Personal injury, including motor vehicle injuries and accidents: issues related to injuries and accidents, including injuries that resulted from motor vehicle accidents and ICBC disputes.
- Property: issues related to personal property (like personal belongings) and intangibles (including intellectual property, artistic properties, stocks, bonds or other securities, contracts, lease agreements and virtual property).
There are some issues that the CRT cannot deal with. These include (in brackets we have included information about where these issues can be addressed or more information found):
- Bankruptcy (Supreme Court)
- Criminal cases and disputes (Provincial or Supreme Court)
- Defamation (Supreme Court)
- Discrimination (Human Rights Tribunal)
- Employment problems covered by the Labour Code (Labour Relations Board)
- Entitlement to public benefits (see Service Canada or Service BC for information)
- Estates (Supreme Court, possibly Provincial Court depending on the issue)
- Family justice issues, like child support or divorce (Provincial Court, Supreme Court)
- Family relationship issues (Provincial Court, Supreme Court, Family Justice Centres)
- Health and safety issues in the workplace (WorkSafe BC)
- Immigration matters (Federal Court, Immigration and Refugee Board)
- Income tax (Tax Court of Canada)
- Libel and slander (Supreme Court)
- Tenancy (Residential Tenancy Board)
- Traffic (Provincial Court)
- Wills Variation Act claims (Supreme Court)
- Areas covered by other BC administrative tribunals
The parties to disputes that are submitted to the CRT for resolution are not permitted to have lawyers represent them before the CRT (unless under 19 or mentally incapable) unless they specifically request representation and a tribunal member allows it. (see CRT Rules 34-45 available online)
It appears, at this early stage, that the CRT is making few exceptions for parties to have legal representation. What is happening, however, is that many parties are consulting lawyers to help them put together their complaints, their evidence and/or their arguments, which they will then present to the CRT themselves.
This is an ‘unbundling’ approach to providing legal services which enables people to get what they need to help their case (and improve their chances of getting a favourable result) at a more manageable cost.
If you need some help with certain aspects of your complaint/case, Railtown Law is here to help. Contact us.