Arbitration

Arbitration can be used when efforts to resolve the dispute within the strata corporation or section have not succeeded.  However, it is anticipated that most parties in strata disputes will use the new Civil Resolution Tribunal.  

Arbitration involves submitting a dispute for a hearing and binding decision by a third-party, an arbitrator(s), who is neither a judge nor a Court official.

Learn more on this page about arbitration:
General Information
Limitation Period
Getting Started
The Arbitration Process

General Information 

Who can refer a dispute to arbitration?

The strata corporation or section may refer a dispute with an owner or tenant.

An owner or tenant may refer a dispute with the strata corporation or section or another owner or tenant.

Disputes that may be arbitrated:

  • interpretation or application of the Strata Property Act, regulations, bylaws or rules
  • common property or common assets
  • use or enjoyment of a strata lot
  • money owing, including fines under the Strata Property Act, Regulations, bylaws, or rules
  • an action or threatened action or decision by the strata corporation including the strata council in relation to an owner or tenant
  • exercise of voting rights by a person who holds 50% or more of the votes, including proxies at a general meeting

Disputes may not be arbitrated if:

  • the arbitration provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act apply to the dispute
  • all parties agree that the Commercial Arbitration Act will apply to the dispute and the arbitration provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act do not apply
  • a court proceeding regarding the dispute has been started

Limitation Period

On June 1, 2013 the basic limitation period under the BC Limitation Act changed to two years.

For strata corporations this means that debts---including outstanding fines, special levies and strata fees---that become due and owing on or after June 1, 2013 are generally not collectable after a two-year period. Prior to June 1, 2013 the previous limitation period of six years applies. Please consult with a lawyer for additional advice. Some background information for strata owners and council members is provided by: CCI Vancouver, Clark Wilson or Lesperance Mendes.

Getting Started

The first thing you’ll need to do once you’ve agreed to go to arbitration is to choose an arbitrator.

The Strata Property Act provides the following methods for choosing an arbitrator:

The parties can agree on an arbitrator by one of the methods:

  • suggesting an arbitrator to which the other party agrees
  • suggesting the names of a number of arbitrators from which the other party chooses an arbitrator
  • suggesting a method for appointing an arbitrator to which the other party agrees

If the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator or method for choosing an arbitrator the parties may each choose an arbitrator and the arbitrators will choose a third arbitrator to act with them and to chair the panel or name a third person to be the sole arbitrator.

A list of arbitrators may be obtained from:

If the parties agree on a method for appointing an arbitrator or agree that the two arbitrators will either choose a third arbitrator or name a person to be the sole arbitrator, specific consent of the parties is required before any of the following parties may be appointed as an arbitrator:

  • an owner, tenant or occupant in the strata corporation
  • the strata manager of the strata corporation
  • an employee of the strata corporation

Beginning Arbitration
Arbitration is begun by one party giving the other party a "Form L: Notice Beginning Arbitration", which sets out:

  • the details of the dispute
  • the proposed remedy or resolution of the matter
  • one of the following proposals:
  • - the name of one arbitrator
    - the names of a number of arbitrators from which the parties can choose an arbitrator or
    - a method for appointing an arbitrator

The party receiving the "Form L: Notice Beginning Arbitration"  must provide the party beginning the arbitration with a "Form M: Notice of Reply" within two weeks of receiving the Form L. These forms are part of the Strata Property Regulations. 

The "Form M: Notice of Reply" must indicate whether the party:

  • agrees with the proposed arbitrator, one of the choices for arbitrator, or the method to appoint the arbitrator
  • disagrees with the proposals, in which case the party can propose
    - the name of one arbitrator
    - the names of a number of arbitrators from which the parties can choose an arbitrator
    - a method for appointing an arbitrator

If the Form M indicates disagreement with the arbitrator proposals contained in the Form L, the party beginning the arbitration must give the other party a "Form N: Notice Responding to Reply" within one week of receiving the "Form M: Notice of Reply".

The "Form N: Notice Responding to Reply" must indicate whether the party who began the arbitration process:

  • agrees with the proposed arbitrator, one of the choices for arbitrator, or the method to appoint the arbitrator set out in the "Form M: Notice of Reply" or
  • rejects the proposed arbitrator, choice or arbitrators, or method to appoint an arbitrator

If the Form N rejects the choices provided by the other party, within one week, each party may choose one arbitrator and the two arbitrators will either:

  • choose a third arbitrator to act with them and to chair the panel or
  • name a third person to be the sole arbitrator

Failure to Respond or Appoint an Arbitrator

An application can be made to the B.C. Supreme Court for an order appointing an arbitrator if the party receiving the form doesn't respond or the parties are unable to resolve the matter of an arbitrator within six weeks from the date the Form L was given to the other party.

Serving Notice of Arbitration on the Strata Corporation

The strata corporation must be served with the forms relating to an arbitration in one of the following ways:

  • leaving it with a strata council member
  • mailing it to the strata corporation’s most recent mailing address on file at the Land Title Office
  • faxing it to the strata corporation at the strata corporation’s fax number
  • faxing it to a strata council member if the strata council member has provided the fax number for the purposes of receiving the notice
  • putting it in the mail slot or box used by the strata corporation for receiving notices
  • emailing it to the strata corporation’s email address or the email address provided by a council member for the purpose of receiving the notice, record or document

If a form has been served on the strata corporation in any manner other than leaving it with a strata council member, the strata corporation is deemed to have received the form four days after the form was mailed, faxed, emailed, or put in the mail slot or box.

Serving Notice of Arbitration by the Strata Corporation

The strata corporation can serve forms relating to an arbitration in one of the following ways:

  • if the person has provided an address for receiving notices that is outside the strata development, by:
    - personally leaving it with the person
    - mailing it to the address provided by the person
  • if the person has not provided the strata corporation with an address for receiving notices that is outside the strata development, by:
    - personally leaving it with the person
    - leaving it with an adult occupant of the person’s strata lot
    - putting it under the door of the person’s strata lot
    - mailing it to the person at the address of the strata lot
    - putting it through a mail slot or in a mail box used by the person for receiving mail
    - faxing to a fax number provided by the person
    - emailing it to an email address provided by the person

If a form has been served on a person other than by leaving it with that person, the person is deemed to have received the form four days after the form was mailed, faxed, emailed, left with an adult at the strata lot, or put under the door or in a mail slot or box.

Calculating Notice Periods

If notice of arbitration is served on a strata corporation by emailing, mailing, faxing, or putting it in the mail slot or box, the strata corporation is not considered to have received the notice until four days after the event. For example, if the notice was emailed on Monday, the strata corporation is deemed to have received it on Friday.

Under the Interpretation Act, if the reference to time includes phrases such as clear days or weeks, or at least in reference to days or weeks, the time must be calculated by excluding the first day and including the last day of the period. Another way of thinking about the days that must be excluded is to think that nothing can happen on those days.

When calculating the time periods relating to an arbitration, the first day of the time period should not be counted. In other words, the day the notice is given, or is deemed to be received cannot be counted as one of the days.

Authorization from Strata Lot Owners for an Arbitration

Before a strata corporation can begin an arbitration in the name of all of the strata lot owners (except the strata lot owner who is a party to the arbitration), the arbitration must be authorized by a resolution approved by a 3/4 vote. The strata lot owner who is a party to the arbitration is not an eligible voter for this vote.

A strata corporation can begin an arbitration on behalf of one or more owners about matters affecting only their strata lot(s) if:

  • it obtains the written consent of those owners
  • the arbitration is authorized by a resolution passed by a 3/4 vote

Notice to Strata Lot Owners of an Arbitration
The strata corporation must notify strata lot owners as soon as feasible once the strata corporation is served with notice of an arbitration.

The Arbitration  Process
The arbitrator:

  • must advise the parties, before the arbitration hearing, of the possibility of a mediated settlement in which a trained neutral mediator attempts to get the parties to agree on a resolution of their dispute
  • may, before the arbitration hearing, provide notice to a person who is not a party but who the arbitrator feels may be directly affected by the issues considered at the arbitration
  • must hold the arbitration hearing as soon as possible at a location in or near the strata corporation’s premises
  • may conduct the arbitration hearing in the manner the arbitrator considers appropriate

The arbitration:

  • is open to all owners or tenants, unless all parties to the arbitration agree that the hearing should be held in private
  • may consist of an exchange of written statements or any other procedure, as long as all parties agree

The parties to an arbitration:

  • may be represented at any stage by another person including a lawyer
  • before the arbitration hearing, must submit a written statement to the arbitrator describing the nature of the dispute and the evidence they intend to call

During the arbitration proceedings:

  • each party is allowed to present and rebut evidence
  • each party must, when ordered by the arbitrator, be examined by the arbitrator, and produce all relevant records required by the arbitrator
  • a person who is not a party to the dispute may give evidence only if they are requested to do so by a party to the dispute and are willing to give evidence
  • the arbitrator may require a party or witness to give evidence on oath or affirmation
  • the arbitrator may admit evidence that he or she considers relevant, even if the evidence would not be admissible in a court

Referring Arbitration Matters to Court

A court may hear a dispute that has been referred to arbitration. However, a party to the arbitration may apply to the court for an order staying the court proceedings.

The court may stay its proceeding after considering the following:

  • the legal and factual complexity of the dispute
  • the suitability of the intended arbitrator
  • the comparative expense and delay of the court proceedings and the arbitration
  • the interest of any other parties
  • the likelihood that all parties to the arbitration will cooperate to do all things necessary for the proper conduct of the arbitration

Paying for an Arbitration

The parties to an arbitration must pay their own costs and must equally contribute to the fees of the arbitrator unless:

  • the parties to the arbitration have entered an agreement with respect to costs or
  • the arbitrator makes an order for costs either
       - at the time of the decision or
       - as a consequence of a request by one of the parties made within thirty days of being notified of the decision

If the arbitration proceeded in the name of all strata lot owners:

  • all strata lot owners (except the strata lot owner who is a party to the arbitration) must contribute to the expense of the arbitration
  • the strata lot owners must contribute to the expense according to their unit entitlement
    - unless another method of contributing to the common expenses has been unanimously agreed to
    - except that the unit entitlement of the strata lot owned by the strata lot owner who is a party to the arbitration should not be used in the calculation

If the arbitration proceeded in the name of only some of the strata lot owners:

  • only those strata lot owners on whose behalf the arbitration proceeds must contribute to the expense of the arbitration
  • the owners should contribute to the expenses, based on their unit entitlement
    - unless another method of contributing to the common expenses has been unanimously agreed to
    - using only the unit entitlement of the strata lots owned by the strata lot owners in whose name the arbitration proceeded

The costs of defending an arbitration are shared by all strata lot owners (except the strata lot owner who is a party to the arbitration) on the basis of unit entitlement (unless another method of contributing to the common expenses has been unanimously agreed to).

Arbitration Decisions

The arbitrator may:

  • make whatever decision he or she considers just having regard to the Strata Property Act, Regulations, bylaws and rules
  • order a party to do something
  • order a party to refrain from doing something
  • order a party to pay money as damages

The arbitrator’s decision must be in writing, include reasons and be signed by the arbitrator.

An arbitrator may vary a decision within four weeks of the date of the decision to correct a clerical, typographical, or similar type of error or omission.

An arbitrator’s decision is final and binding except that it may be:

  • reviewed under the Judicial Review Procedure Act
  • appealed to the Supreme Court within thirty days of receiving the decision

All strata lot owners are responsible for a judgment against the strata corporation and must pay the judgment according to their unit entitlement (unless another method of contributing to the common expenses has been unanimously agreed to). 

Limits on a Strata Lot Owner in Relation to an Arbitration

If the strata corporation initiated an arbitration proceeding against a strata lot owner, or the strata lot owner initiated an arbitration proceeding against the strata corporation, that strata lot owner:

  • is not liable to contribute to the legal costs that the strata corporation must pay
  • does not have a right to information or documents relating to the arbitration including legal opinions
  • does not have a right to attend those portions of any general or council meeting at which the arbitration is discussed
  • is not required to contribute to the funds paid to the strata lot owner by the strata corporation in settlement of the matter

Appeals of an Arbitration Decision

A party to an arbitration may appeal the arbitrator’s decision to the Supreme Court on any question of law within thirty days after receiving the decision if:

  • all parties consent to the appeal
  • the court grants leave to appeal because
    - the decision is sufficiently important to justify court intervention
    - and the determination of the question of law may prevent a miscarriage of justice
    - the question of law is of importance to some class or body of persons of which the applicant is a member
    - the question of law is of general or public importance

Enforcement of an Arbitration Decision

An arbitration decision and order for costs may be filed in:

  • supreme Court or
  • provincial Court (Small Claims Court) if
    - the amount claimed or the value of the personal property or services is within the monetary jurisdiction of the court ($25,000) and
    - the action or decision is in respect of
              (i) debt or damages
              (ii) recovery of personal property
              (iii) specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services or
              (iv) relief from opposing claims to personal property

 The filing of an arbitration decision and order for costs in either Supreme or Provincial Court:

  • has the same effect as an order of that court
  • allows the parties to enforce the decision and take all proceedings as if it was an order of that court

References: 
Strata Property Act: Sections 63, 166, 167, 171, 172, 175-189
Strata Property Regulation: Section 17.16

The information on this website about strata housing is provided for the user’s convenience as a basic starting point; it is not a substitute for getting legal advice. Learn more about the site’s purpose and limits. The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: July 15, 2016.

Important Legislation and Forms

Strata Associations

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