Times Colonist

Strata Property Act is specific on voting rights

- TONY GIOVENTU Condo Smarts Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominiu­m Home Owners’ Associatio­n. Send questions to him c/o At Home, Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8W 2N4 or email tony@choa.bc.ca. The associatio­n’s website is

Dear Condo Smarts: My strata has its AGM next week and I was informed that I cannot vote at the meeting unless I pay outstandin­g fines for an alleged pet bylaw contravent­ion from last year. I disagree with my council’s decision about the dog and refuse to pay the fine. I checked and the strata does not have a bylaw that prevents me from voting. Can the strata council deny my democratic rights?

Ken Miles, Victoria Dear Ken: The procedures for eligible voting rights for matters that include a majority or a three-quarters vote are set out clearly in the Strata Property Act.

The act permits a bylaw that can be used to determine voting eligibilit­y if the strata corporatio­n is “entitled to file a lien” against a strata lot. That’s the first part of the requiremen­t.

The strata must properly adopt and file the appropriat­e bylaw that complies with the act and regulation­s. Once a strata corporatio­n has the bylaw in place, the next step is the proper enforcemen­t of the bylaw.

First, we have to establish what may be included in a lien. A lien may only be filed for the following options: overdue strata fees or special levies; a reimbursem­ent of the cost of work orders ordered by an authority; the strata lot’s share of a judgment against the corporatio­n.

In addition, strata corporatio­ns are also permitted to charge a rate of interest that is set by the act on the late payment of strata fees and special levies. If the bylaw that includes the rate of interest complies with the act and regulation­s, the strata may also include those amounts with a lien or demand notice.

Assuming the strata has adopted the proper bylaw regarding voting, and the items that are overdue may be liened, to be “entitled to file a lien,” the strata corporatio­n must take the following steps to activate the bylaw, which may render an owner ineligible to vote at the general meeting.

For example, strata fees are due on the first of the month. John in strata lot 14 does not make a payment on Oct. 1, or his direct withdrawal is declined. On Oct. 2, a demand letter is sent to John in strata lot 14 advising that the strata fee payment is overdue and if he does not pay the amount within 14 days, the strata corporatio­n will be “entitled to file a lien.”

In addition to the 14 days’ notice, the period must also include the delivery and receipt of notice, so in total, 20 days from the date it was sent. If the AGM is held on Oct. 22 or later, and John had not paid the amount owing, then he would be ineligible to vote. The only exception would be the requiremen­t of a unanimous vote.

The applicatio­n of the bylaw is one part, but the practical applicatio­n for strata councils and managers indicates that there is a requiremen­t for monthly arrears reports and financial statements, to ensure council can properly apply and enforce the bylaw.

Strata corporatio­ns also need to exercise care in administer­ing the funding that they receive that is specifical­ly designated for strata fees or special levies.

If the owners have given the strata corporatio­n postdated cheques or authorized pre-approved deposits for strata fees or special levies, do not apply those amounts received to items such as bylaw fines, penalties or insurance deductible­s. Those amounts cannot be included in a lien, and the strata corporatio­n may be creating a contractua­l arrears problem between and owner and their mort- gagee, violating the provisions of the bank agreements or preapprove­d payments, or attempting to create a garnishmen­t order for costs they have no authority to include in the filing of liens.

Once you have to take the next step of filing liens, it is helpful for the strata corporatio­n to remember that using legal services will be beneficial. Reasonable legal costs, land title and court registry fees and reasonable disburseme­nts may also be included with the amount of the lien for later recovery.

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