Tip #1: Follow due process requirements when seeking to levy a fine.
Strata councils and strata property managers will often seek to fine an owner or a tenant by issuing a simple letter informing the individual(s) in question of the breach and fact that the strata corporation has decided to levy a fine as a consequence. Such approach fails to adhere to the due process requirements of the Strata Property Act and is likely to cause the strata corporation difficulties when it seeks to collect outstanding amounts.
Before fining an owner or a tenant, the strata corporation must have received a complaint about the contravention and given the individual in question (1) the particulars of the complaint in writing and (2) a reasonable opportunity to answer the complaint either in writing or by requesting a hearing with the strata council. If the individual in question is a tenant, the strata corporation also has the duty to give notice of the complaint to the tenant’s landlord and to the owner of the strata lot. Finally, if the individual in question requests a hearing with the strata council or responds to the allegations otherwise, the strata council must subsequently issue a written decision on the matter following the hearing or the individual’s response.
Having complied with these rigorous procedural requirements, where there is a continuing contravention by an owner or a tenant of a specific bylaw or rule, the strata corporation may impose additional fines or penalties for the breach of that specific bylaw or rule without having to go through this process for each subsequent breach of the same bylaw.
Tip #2: Ensure that the strata corporation has explicit authority to charge back amounts.
When an owner refuses to undertake repair work within their own strata lot that is required by the bylaws, strata corporations often make the mistake of retaining a contractor themselves to undertake the repair work in the strata lot, believing that they will simply be able to charge back the costs of this work to the owner whom the strata corporation holds responsible. However, in absence of any explicit authority to do so and if certain procedural requirements are not fulfilled, the strata corporation will likely face difficulties in collecting such chargebacks.
Faced with such a bylaw contravention, the safest approach for the strata corporation is to apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal for an order to have the owner repair their own strata lot rather than undertaking the costs on behalf of the owner and trying to recover them after the repairs have already been performed. However, if it is a more time-sensitive matter, the strata corporation will have to review its bylaws to determine whether they explicitly allow for such chargebacks. Furthermore, the strata corporation will have to follow the due process requirements set out in the Strata Property Act before charging back an owner the costs of remedying a contravention of its bylaws.