At a recent webinar presentation on June 18, 2015, Shannon Salter, Chair of the new Civil Resolution Tribunal, estimated that the first phase of the Tribunal’s online-based dispute resolution system, the Solution Explorer, would be up and running by the end of August/September 2015.
This is a guided pathway system that will lead users through the process using a series of questions and answers. It will also provide useful template letters that complainants can use; you simply fill in information relating to your situation, printing the letter off and send it off to the strata yourself.
The CRT approach takes an interests-based process rather than a rights-based process (which the courts provide, and which can get bogged down in rules and procedures creating additional cost for those involved). This is good news for those with strata-related issues.
It is not uncommon for strata councils to rely solely on their own or their property manager’s interpretation of the rights and obligations set out in the Act and the strata bylaws, which often tends to harden positions on both sides. To have access to a process that recognizes that there are rights and obligations but that each side also has certain interests that are as valid as the other side’s, should result in resolutions that will reduce the hard feelings and hostility that can often arise when there are complaints made in a strata situation.
During her presentation, Ms. Salter noted that there are over 31,000 strata corporations in B.C., housing over 1 million B.C. residents. Under the current system, the external resolution of most strata issues starts with a petition filed in the Supreme Court; currently a 1 day petition hearing will likely cost in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 in legal fees alone. Most people can ill afford to spend this kind of money even when it is an issue that affects them in their daily lives, right where they live.
Statistics also show that 98% of court cases that have been started do not go to trial; however, although some cases are settled, many more are simply abandoned when the plaintiff just gives up. Litigation is not only costly financially but is also often emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. The CRT should alleviate a great deal of that.
Although this is a great first step, and shows us that there is light at the end of this particularly lengthy tunnel, we will have to wait a bit longer for implementation of the next stages of the Tribunal, intended to assist with those cases that cannot be resolved at the initial stage. Ms. Salter advises that the facilitation of case management and adjudication services will likely not be available until the beginning of 2016 at the earliest. I recommend that you check out the CRT website for more information and updates.