With 23 years experience in strata living, Sylvia amassed help to topple a rogue council, then spent 4 years on council herself.
Have a few choice words for a member of your strata council? With all the bullying, thieving, and unauthorized decisions, you’d like to see said strata council member wiped off the face of the Earth. Why are they allowed to continue?
British Columbia’s strata property act (SPA) assumes council members have no special education (lay-people) and are unpaid (volunteers). In other words, according to the judge, these wonderful souls are acting out of the goodness of their hearts. Hence, the circumstances in which you can bring a board member to justice are limited, with many claims dismissed.
While the following SPA law sounds good, its subjectivity makes it difficult to prove theft and negligence, thereby protecting strata council members.
Council member’s standard of care:
31 In exercising the powers and performing the duties of the strata corporation, each council member must
(a) act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the strata corporation, and
(b) exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person in comparable circumstances.
Why Doesn’t the Property Manager Do Anything?
If the property manager catches wind of a council member’s rogue dealings, s/he sends an email warning of the legalities. With that, s/he’s circumvented being accountable. Further interference would be costly, time consuming and may cost the property manager his/her job.
The strata council has the power to hire and fire the property management company with an easily passed ¾ vote at a general meeting. It’s in property manager’s best interest to keep the strata council happy. You cannot count on the overworked property manager to:
- Prevent theft
- Bring a board member to justice
- Pursue full recovery of stolen money
Property managers are paid “per door,” meaning, the bigger the strata, the more the income.
Let’s take a look at three different scenarios. In the example below, each property manager is responsible for 1000 doors, and earns the same paycheque. The difference is how many strata corporations (and strata councils) those 1000 doors are spread over.
These Property Managers Take Home the Same Paycheque
|Property Manager||Strata Corporations||Suites per Strata|
Betsy has an easy job!
1000 suites over 3 strata corporations
300, 350, 350
Maria does more than twice the work
1000 suites over 7 strata corporations
230, 150, 150, 150, 150, 85, 85
Ellen is ready for the funny farm!
1000 suites over 12 strata corporations
100, 100, 100, 100, 75, 75, 75, 75, 70, 70, 80, 80
Remember, each strata corporation has:
- One strata council to deal with.
- 6–12 council meetings to attend.
- An annual general meeting to run.
- Possible special general meetings to run
If the property manager knows a strata board is planning something in violation of their bylaws or the SPA, s/he emails them a warning regarding the legalities. Thus, s/he and the property management company are off the hook. They save themselves time and aggravation by looking the other way.
While this allows strata councils to do whatever they please, there are seven ways to stop them.
1. Control the Strata Council Through Direction or Restriction
You and all the owners are the strata corporation. You can control the council by using British Columbia's SPA Section 27. But you’ll need to know your stuff, harangue the rest of the owners to see your side of the situation, and vote.
Control of council
27 (1) The strata corporation may direct or restrict the council in its exercise of powers and performance of duties by a resolution passed by a majority vote at an annual or special general meeting.
Of course you’ll need to abide by these limitations.
(2) The strata corporation may not direct or restrict the council under subsection (1) if the direction or restriction
(a) is contrary to this Act, the regulations or the bylaws, or
(b) interferes with the council's discretion to determine, based on the facts of a particular case,
(i) whether a person has contravened a bylaw or rule,
(ii) whether a person should be fined, and the amount of the fine,
(iii) whether a person should be denied access to a recreational facility,
(iv) whether a person should be required under section 133 (2) to pay the reasonable costs of remedying a contravention of the bylaws or rules, or
(v) whether an owner should be exempted under section 144 from a bylaw that prohibits or limits rentals.
2. Prove That the Council Member Is Ineligible to Sit on the Board
Check British Columbia's SPA Section 28. Is the council member ineligible to sit on the board? Yes! Bring it to everyone’s attention.
However, to obtain personal information, like the council member’s outstanding debt to the strata corporation, you’d need to be on council yourself. Not to mention the debt would actually have to exist.
Eligibility for council
28 (1) The only persons who may be council members are the following:
(3) Despite this section, a strata corporation may, by bylaw, provide that no person may stand for council or continue to be on council with respect to a strata lot if the strata corporation is entitled to register a lien against that strata lot under section 116 (1).
3. Keep the Council Member From Regaining Their Seat
British Columbia's SPA Section 29 allows the strata corporations bylaws to limit the number of people who can sit on the board.
How many council members do your bylaws allow?
At an annual general meeting, you could keep said council member from regaining a seat by taking up all the spots yourself along with other owners noble to your cause.
Membership on council
29 (1) The number of persons on council is determined by the bylaws.
4. Drag the Council Member Through Litigation
Ooh! That would be so satisfying, wouldn’t it?
British Columbia's SPA Section 32 outlines the correct procedure if a conflict of interest exists. If a council member engages in a matter while hiding this conflict of interest—you’ve got ‘em! However, proof is required.
Disclosure of conflict of interest
32 A council member who has a direct or indirect interest in
(a) a contract or transaction with the strata corporation, or
(b) a matter that is or is to be the subject of consideration by the council, if that interest could result in the creation of a duty or interest that materially conflicts with that council member's duty or interest as a council member, must
(c) disclose fully and promptly to the council the nature and extent of the interest,
(d) abstain from voting on the contract, transaction or matter, and
(e) leave the council meeting
(i) while the contract, transaction or matter is discussed, unless asked by council to be present to provide information, and
(ii) while the council votes on the contract, transaction or matter.
British Columbia's SPA Section 33 is where you’ll gain the most traction. This allows a strata corporation or an owner to apply to the court for relief from a council member failing to comply with the conflict of interest procedures.
33 (1) If a council member who has an interest in a contract or transaction fails to comply with section 32, the strata corporation or an owner may apply for an order under subsection (3) of this section to a court having jurisdiction unless, after full disclosure of the nature and extent of the council member's interest in the contract or transaction, the contract or transaction is ratified by a resolution passed by a 3/4 vote at an annual or special general meeting.
(2) For the purposes of the 3/4 vote referred to in subsection (1), a person who has an interest in the contract or transaction is not an eligible voter.
(3) If, on application under subsection (1), the court finds that the contract or transaction was unreasonable or unfair to the strata corporation at the time it was entered into, the court may do one or more of the following:
(a) set aside the contract or transaction if no significant injustice will be caused to third parties;
(b) if the council member has not acted honestly and in good faith, require the council member to compensate the strata corporation or any other person for a loss arising from the contract or transaction, or from the setting aside of the contract or transaction;
(c) require the council member to pay to the strata corporation any profit the council member makes as a consequence of the contract or transaction.
It’s important to note, this will take tremendous work—massive drudgery on your part. However, all compensation will go to the strata corporation. Sure you may receive some funds, but they'll be limited to your unit entitlement.
Hence, be aware, at the end of litigation, there’s no large pay out.
5. Remove the Council Member
Not all is lost! You can still use all the drudgery that’s gone into proving Section 33. Remove the strata council member from a particular office (president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary) by council’s majority vote at a properly convened council meeting.
Or better yet, remove said council member from strata council altogether by a majority vote of the owners at a general meeting.
But be ready to take over, because some chump has to do the job.
6. Drag the Council Member Through Criminal Litigation
The rogue council member has stolen money! You’re absolutely sure? Still, you must provide proof to pursue justice.
So, in the case of theft, you could probably prove it with a forensic audit. However, forensic audits are expensive.
Are you willing to use your personal funds? No!
Then you’ll need a ¾ vote at a general meeting to launch the strata corporation into a lawsuit. That could mean a special levy. So first, you’ll have to take on the gargantuan task of convincing your neighbours.
Even then, you may not win much.
The courts look unfavourably upon strata corporations going after an individual, especially a volunteer who has donated his/her time. So, even if she is found guilty, the penalty may be minimal.
7. Use British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal
Civil Resolution Tribunal has a section for strata property dwellers. Start with the Strata Solution Explorer and go through the portal describing your role in the strata corporation:
- Strata Council or Section Executive
- Strata Owner and Tenants
Through a series of questions, you’ll discover the best path for your situation. The website explains limitations, and takes you through the procedure.
In closing, whatever you choose to do, move forward with your eyes open. Bringing a council member to justice requires herculean effort taking up your time, patience, sanity, and possibly your finances, without any direct benefit to you.
Your best bet is prevention through being involved. Furthermore, you'll never go wrong with due diligence. Knowledge is power! Give yourself an edge and place yourself in a superior position by thoroughly reading and understanding both:
- Your strata corporation's bylaws
- British Columbia’s Strata Property Act (SPA)
- If you live outside of British Columbia, check the property laws in your area.
More Information on Strata Council Difficulties
Do you Have an Individual Question or Concern?
Strata difficulties are so numerous, I can no longer discuss individual concerns. Your best bet for help with strata issues is to join the Facebook page entitled, Strata Council: Theft, Bullying & Unauthorized Decisions.
We're getting close to a thousand members, many who are helpful, knowledgeable, and incredible people. To ward off bullying, the page is set to "private" so only members can see the posts.
Click on the link above and answer all four questions. Moderators will add you to the page, and you can get help with your concerns. Thank you and good luck!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 Sylvia Leong
Sylvia Leong (author) from North Vancouver, Canada on March 15, 2021:
Sounds like you've had experience with a rogue strata council. It's never fun.
Thanks for the comment.
Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on March 14, 2021:
I did a quick review of your article and it sounds like you are on top of this.. alas, its an organized miniature mafia with someone having either an agenda or personal interest, or money pot scheme.