First Appeal from the Civil Resolution Tribunal

The Civil Resolution Tribunal (the “CRT”) is Canada’s first online tribunal. Presently the CRT has authority to hear disputes about strata property issues and is set at the time of the writing of this article, to shortly begin hearing small claims disputes.

From the outset, the creation of the CRT caused some concern among lawyers and other stakeholders as s. 20 of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act (the “Act”) provides that parties are generally to represent themselves. In other words, they generally are unable to have a lawyer represent them.

A further concern raised in respect of the CRT was how the courts would treat appeals from decisions of the CRT. Under s. 56.5 of the Act, appeals of final decisions in a property dispute are for questions of law and are made to the Supreme Court. Further, an appeal may be made only if all parties consent or leave is granted by the Court.

The Owners, Strata Plan BCS 1721 v Watson, 2017 BCSC 763 (CanLII) is purportedly the first appeal from the CRT made further to s. 56.5 of the Act.

The facts of the case, succinctly, were that:

  • Mr. Watson rented a unit in a strata;
  • Mr. Watson’s roommate moved out and a new one moved in;
  • later Mr. Watson’s girlfriend moved in;
  • the strata had a $100 moving charge, but no fee was levied in respect of any of the moves;
  • months later, the strata property manager disabled the key fobs for Mr. Watson’s unit in order to exact payment of moving fees the strata was then claiming; and
  • there were disputes about whether the move-in fees were proper in the circumstances or were significantly unfair within the meaning of s. 164(1) of the Strata Property Act.

Arguments on the appeal were intended to focused on whether the CRT had properly applied the applicable legal tests in arriving at its decision. In seeking leave to appeal, the Court was called upon to consider the criteria for leave set out in s. 56.5 of the Act which are:

  1. whether an issue raised by the claim or dispute that is the subject of the appeal is of such importance that it would benefit from being resolved by the Supreme Court to establish a precedent;
  2. whether an issue raised by the claim or dispute relates to the constitution or the Human Rights Code;
  3. the importance of the issue to the parties, or to a class of persons of which one of the parties is a member; and
  4. the principle of proportionality.

The Supreme Court observed that the CRT potentially misapplied the legal tests for objective reasonableness of the moving fee bylaw, incorrectly approached the analysis of the remedy for when strata corporations’ actions are found to be significantly unfair and errored in law in failing to address whether the tenant had standing to commence CRT proceedings.

Ordinarily the case would not have been granted leave given the small amount of money involved; however, the Supreme Court held that leave to appeal was appropriate since it was important to establish precedent as to how the Supreme Court will craft the process of reviewing future decisions of the CRT and whether those decisions contained appealable errors of law.

In the result, it is expected that The Owners, Strata Plan BCS 1721 v Watson may shortly give us further guidance on the law and principals applicable to the CRT and appeals therefrom.

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