Given that over 1.5 million British Columbians live in 32,218 strata plans (Land Titles Office, September 1, 2019), how can strata corporations strategically manage the current COVID-19 emergency to more successfully stabilize their strata’s goals?
In addition to the traditional governance requirements and obligations to maintain and repair its common assets and property, in an environment of anxiety, hearsay, fear, scams, media hype, and viral transmission, each strata corporation faces the challenge of averting becoming the next COVID-19 epicentre.
In the past there have been other health-related attacks on stratas with SARS (2003), H1N1 (2009), and MERS (2012). None of those health related attacks reached the height of pandemic alarm of COVID-19.
Other than a strata corporation taking action under the Act’s “standard of care” provision relying upon “best interests” and “care. . . of a reasonably prudent person” language, or possibly its bylaws similar to that of the Act’s Standard Bylaws’ “Use of Property” concerning “hazard” or “the rights of other persons to use and enjoy,” there comes the need to rely upon external government authorities. Act 31
BC’s Public Health Act (PHA) considers an emergency as “an immediate and significant risk to public health” either in a localized area, a region, or the province whereby it is reasonably believed that “action is immediately necessary to protect public health from significant harm” having met at least two of the following criteria:
- “the regional event could have serious impact on public health;
- the regional event is unusual or unexpected;
- there is a significant risk of the spread of an infectious agent or hazardous agent;
- there is a significant risk of travel or trade restrictions as a result of the regional event.”
Under BC’s Emergency Program Act (EPA), an “emergency means a present or imminent event or circumstance caused by accident, fire, explosion, technical failure, or the forces of nature, and requires prompt coordination of action or special regulation of persons or property to protect the health, safety, or welfare of a person or to limit damage to property.” Satisfied that an emergency exists or is imminent, BC’s government may declare an “emergency” for any number of recurring 14-day periods. EPA #9
The federal government’s Emergencies Act considered a “national emergency” as a temporary critical and urgent and critical situation endangering the health or safety of Canadians “of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it.”
To trigger BC’s Public Health Act or its Emergency Program Act, and as a seeming last resort, the federal Emergencies Act—a governmental Order must be made and Notice provided.
Strata Health Emergencies
Unlike other emergencies, health related emergencies are silent and without boundaries when attacking stratas. Other than strata corporations with a mix of non-resident and residential strata lot interests (Act 191), for many their “strata lot” is their home with expectations of safety, security, and self-identification.
Strata corporations are unique entities. Individuals own their home, adjacent to and separated from other strata lots, all within a corporate structure of shared common assets and property ownership that are managed and maintained by the strata corporation under the direction of its elected strata council. With their physical structures and day-to-day occupant activity profiles, it is far too easy for a strata corporation to become a local health-related petri dish. ACT 3, 4, 20, 25, 26, and 68
Strata councils are responsible to exercise the duties and powers of their strata corporation; its members must do so by acting “in good faith with a view to the best interests of the strata corporation” and to “exercise the care, diligence, and skill of a reasonably prudent person in comparable circumstances.”