This is an exciting development in the world of ADR – Alternate Dispute Resolution.  Dispute resolution practitioners, and I’m one of them, applaud this kind of “thinking outside the box” that gives people more options for resolving disputes.  If I have one concern with this new process it is that, with few exceptions, the parties cannot be represented by a lawyer.  I’m all for processes that do not require a lawyer but I think that any person should have the ability to choose to be represented by a lawyer.  Lawyers could still be consulted for advice and preparation.

The Provincial Government passed legislation in May 2012 to create a new dispute resolution tribunal called the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT).  The CRT is intended to be a less formal, less expensive forum for resolving small claims and strata property disputes.  A key feature of this new process is that it operates online and so is available equally to everyone in the Province.  The CRT was created to improve access to justice by providing a forum that would be available 24/7 and would be cheaper and faster than Small Claims Court.

The CRT will handle disputes in the following areas:

• small claims disputes up to a maximum value of $25,000 for:
• debt or damages;
• recovery of personal property;
• specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services; or
• relief from opposing claims to personal property.
• strata disputes between owners of strata properties and strata corporations for a wide variety of matters such as:
• non-payment of monthly strata fees or fines;
• unfair actions by the strata corporation or by people owning more than half of the strata lots in a complex;
• uneven, arbitrary or non-enforcement of strata bylaws (such as noise, pets, parking, rentals);
• issues of financial responsibility for repairs and the choice of bids for services;
• irregularities in the conduct of meetings, voting, minutes or other matters;
• interpretation of the legislation, regulations or bylaws; and
• issues regarding the common property.

The new CRT process has four stages:

1. Information to help parties resolve disputes before they get out of hand.  This stage is free.
2. On line negotiation – the parties will follow an on line negotiation guide.  If no agreement is reached within a specified period then the parties can advance to the next stage.  One party can request this service and all parties must agree to participate.  This stage has a fee.
3. Case management and facilitated settlement discussions – this stage is similar to mediation.  A case manager is appointed who contacts the parties and conducts a mediation online or by telephone.   The mediation involves exchanging information, defining the issues to be resolved, canvassing the parties’ goals for resolution and exploring options for settlement.  If no settlement is reached the case manager helps prepare the parties for adjudication.  One party can request mediation and all parties must agree to the process.  Strata corporations can be compelled to participate.  This stage has a fee
4. Adjudication – an adjudication is a hearing (similar to a trial or arbitration).  An adjudicator is appointed who will review the evidence, hear submissions and give a binding decision.  The hearings will mostly be conducted on line.  The adjudicators have the discretion to hold telephone or video hearings and, very rarely, face-to-face hearings.  This stage has a fee.

The adjudicators’ decisions and orders can be filed with Provincial Court or Supreme Court and enforced as an order of that court.  That means that collection procedures such as garnishment, seizure of assets or registering a judgment against real property would be available.

A detailed description of the process is available at http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/civil-resolution-tribunal-act/pdfs/CRT-Business-Model.pdf

The wording of the new Civil Resolution Tribunal Act can be found at http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov44-1.htm .  The Act is intended to come into force in 2014.

Small Claims Court remains available and has a user friendly set of rules.  Information on small claims disputes can be found at http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/types-of-cases/small-claims-matters

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.