Strata Alert: There is No Limitation Period for Collecting Fines But Don’t Wait Too Long

There is No Limitation Period for Collecting Fines But Don’t Wait Too Long
[Revised on 18-05-07]

By Alex Chang, Associate

It is a common misconception that if a strata corporation imposes a fine for breach of the bylaws and does not sue to collect the fine within 2 years then the right to bring such a claim is extinguished by the Limitation Act. This is true if a claim is brought in the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) to collect or challenge fines but it is not true for fine claims brought in court or through arbitration.

Court claims for fines are not covered under the Limitation Act because they are actions to enforce penalties and not claims to remedy injury, loss or damage. The Limitation Act provides that “a court proceeding in respect of a claim must not be commenced more than 2 years after the day on which the claim is discovered.” The Limitation Act defines a “claim” as “a claim to remedy an injury, loss or damage” but does not include a penalty. Courts generally regard fines as punitive and s. 135(3) of the Strata Property Act specifically characterizes a fine as a “penalty”. Since a fine/penalty is not included in the definition of a “claim” in the Limitation Act a claim for fines is not caught by its 2 year limitation period.

The Supreme Court of BC in The Owners, Strata Plan KAS 3549 v. 0738039 B.C. Ltd., 2015 BCSC 2273 affirmed in 2016 BCCA 370, confirmed that a claim to enforce a penalty under the Strata Property Act is not caught by the Limitation Act. In that case the court ruled that an action to enforce a penalty against an owner developer by the strata corporation was not barred by the limitation period, holding:

There is no merit to the respondent’s position on the Limitation Act. I find that to be so because the Limitation Act applies to a “claim to remedy an injury, loss or damage that occurred as a result of an act or omission”: Limitation Act, s. 1. The petitioner’s claim is for payment of a penalty – it is not a claim to remedy an injury, loss, or damage.

Although, actions to enforce fines are not barred after 2 years by the Limitation Act, there are reasons why strata corporations and individual owners should not necessarily delay if they wish to collect or challenge fines respectively.

The primary reason is that the right to seek a judgement on fines in the CRT will expire after 2 years. This is because under the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act (CRT Act), the CRT takes a broader views of what “claims” are caught by the 2 year limitation period. The CRT Act deems that a ‘claim’ as interpreted under the Limitation Act brought in the CRT includes a “claim” under the CRT Act. Under the CRT Act a “claim”, “includes any matter that may be resolved by the tribunal”. Since the CRT has jurisdiction to grant a judgment on fines and to order a strata corporation reverse fines, the CRT will not hear those claims past the 2 year limitation period.

Although strata corporations may not seek a judgement for fines in the CRT after two years, the CRT does not have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to strata claims. Thus, the right to claim fines does not extinguished generally. Strata corporations still have a right to sue for fines in Provincial Small Claims Court, Supreme Court or through arbitration.

Thus, there is a strong incentive on owners to be proactive about challenging improper fines because owners cannot just wait for the strata corporation’s claim for fines to expire generally pursuant to the Limitation Act.

Letting fines sit on an owner’s strata accounts may result in their strata corporation withholding a Certificate of Payment (Form F) which is required to sell a strata lot. Since the right to claim fines does not expire generally under the Limitation Act, the right to withhold a Form F also does not expire.  The Form F then may only be released if the owner pays the fines or commences a claim to dispute the fine and pays the disputed amount into trust.

The best option for an owner that wants to challenge fines and maintain their right to sell their strata lot is to bring a CRT claim challenging the fines within two years of being notified of the fine. Individual owners who let the CRT limitation period pass may still challenge the fines through arbitration or a Supreme Court Action, but those latter processes are much more expensive and complicated. Provincial Small Claims Court does not have jurisdiction to order a strata corporation to reverse a fine. Thus, owners wanting to challenge fines should bring their claims in the CRT within 2 years of being notified of the imposition of the fine.

A strata corporation may also want to claim a judgement for fines within 2 years if the claim for fines is associated with a claim for a chargeback for losses or damage because the Limitation Act does apply to those associated claims. For example, if an owner was fined for vandalizing the common property then the strata may sue for the fine after two years but the claim to recover the cost of repairing the damage may be barred by the Limitation Act.

Stratas should also not delay because the courts may be concerned with the equities of enforcing a fine that was imposed years ago. It may also be more difficult to prove the breach of the bylaws years after the fact because often memories fade and evidence can get lost. Thus, it remains a good general practice for strata corporations to consider bringing actions to enforce fines within two years.

Courts have also long held that the imposition of fines does not serve to correct, remedy or cure violations of bylaws but, rather, their purpose is to discourage violations of the bylaws. Thus, where repeated fines are not effective in curbing the breaches of the bylaws the court may find that the strata corporation must proceed to seek an order to enforce the bylaws and is not entitled to continue fining indefinitely.

Finally, if a fine is disputed the strata corporation may also want to seek its judgement in the CRT before the limitation period expires in the CRT in order to get some certainty that the fine was justified. Claiming through the CRT early may avoid a more costly dispute through arbitration or the courts later.

Although, parties must represent themselves in the CRT it is advisable that they seek legal advice before submitting their claims. The CRT is also quite new and in is evolving. The CRT is issuing many decisions and the BC Legislature is already contemplating changes to its legislation and regulations including, Bill 22 – The Civil Resolution Tribunal Amendment Act, 2018. Thus, legal advice is also recommended as the law with respect to the CRT remains fluid.

WHAT WE DO:  Lesperance Mendes advises clients on all aspects of strata disputes.  If you need help with a CRT or strata matter, contact Paul G Mendes, (p:  604-685-4894 / e: or Alex J. Chang (p:  604-685-1255 / e:

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on without independent legal advice with respect to the specific facts of your case.