Mandatory Civil Resolution Tribunal coming to BC
Back in the spring of 2015, changes were made to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act in British Columbia. These changes will notably facilitate and increase access to justice for consumers by requiring parties with most strata/condo disputes and many Small Claims Court matters valued up to $25,000, to participate in the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), Canada’s first online tribunal. Basically, the CRT will be mandatory and accessible online, in all areas of the province, as opposed to the Provincial Court system.
In a strata/condo setting, the CRT will handle disputes related to non-payment of monthly fees or fines, unfair actions by the Corporation or Council, by-law enforcement or lack thereof, financial issues with respect to repair and maintenance, problems with Annual General or Special General Meetings, interpretation of the Strata property Act or the by-laws of the strata/condo Corporation and more.
CRT decisions with respect to strata /condo disputes will be final, except for limited circumstances where an appeal will be allowed before the Supreme Court of BC.
Many disputes, historically the subject of a Small Claims Notice of Claim for contract, debt, property damage or personal injury claims, will be handled by the CRT. Decisions in these civil cases will be deemed final and enforceable, unless an appeal is made before the Provincial Court in due course.
The CRT will include five (5) stages to help resolve disputes:
1- The Solution Explorer or self-help section will inform and educate users. It will provide tools and suggestions to help resolve the issue at an early stage or, in some cases, explain why the complaint may be unfounded.
2- The Dispute Resolution Suite will offer online supervised party to party negotiation and tools to help the parties resolve their dispute.
3- Case Manager will facilitate settlement discussions. A case manager, assigned to the file, will act as a mediator and try to find a solution to the problem agreeable to both parties. If not successful, the case manager will help the parties get ready for the adjudication process, if necessary.
4- Adjudication by a designated adjudicator, who will review the case and material, communicate with the parties by phone, email and/or video to ensure all pertinent facts are available and views expressed before making a decision.
5- Post Resolution Support will help the parties deal with the decision and explain the appeal process if needed.
This alternate dispute resolution process is changing the legal landscape in BC, and other provinces are watching.