Strata Alert: Can I Sue my Strata in Small Claims?

Lisa Frey, Phone: 604-685-3567

After spending time and money filing a claim against their strata, and spending a day in Court, many condo owners are sent back to square one.  This is exactly what happened to the plaintiffs in Corner et al. v. Strata Plan KAS833, 2014 BCPC 0206.

In that case, a group of owners was charged by their strata for certain drier vent alterations and cleaning.  They filed a claim in Small Claims Court to get their money back, arguing the strata had no right to charge them in the first place.  While on the surface their claim seemed financial, the Small Claims Court judge found that he was being asked to review whether a resolution was properly passed and whether the strata corporation is entitled to charge owners for maintenance and repair of the vents.  He, therefore, lacked jurisdiction on the matter, and the owners were told to start over again in Supreme Court.

The confusion arises because strata corporations can sue and be sued for the certain type of wrongs in Small Claims, such as negligence (see, for example, Paul et al. v. Riding and Strata Plan NW 612, 2013 B.C.P.C. 292.).  However, in many other types of disputes, sympathetic Small Claims judges can do nothing but tell owners to file again in Supreme Court.   The specific wording of the Strata Property Act is the reason their hands are tied in certain types of matters.

Some examples of orders which must be obtained at Supreme Court:

  1. reversing the actions of strata demonstrating significant unfairness towards an owner or group of owners;
  2. compelling strata to produce key documents that owners are entitled to see;
  3. forcing strata to comply with the Strata Property Act or its own bylaws;
  4. overturning a vote due to conflict of interest by council member; or
  5. requiring strata to meet its repair and maintenance obligations.

Unfortunately, Supreme Court is more formal than Small Claims Court, and the filing fees are more expensive.  The procedures are often more arcane and technical, and most parties retain lawyers to help navigate the system.

To add insult to injury, the owners in Corner were also ordered to pay some of the strata’s legal costs of getting the action kicked out of Small Claims.

Before suing your strata corporation, it may be worth getting some preliminary legal advice on how and where to bring your claim.

WHAT WE DO:  Since 1997 Lesperance Mendes has been advising strata corporations and condominium owners on a wide range of legal topics, including bylaw amendments and enforcement.  To find out more about our condominium and strata law practice, please contact Paul G. Mendes at 604-685-4894 or

Lesperance Mendes Lawyers
900 Howe St #550, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2M4
(604) 685-3567