Strata Alert: Was your strata general meeting rigged?

Was your strata general meeting rigged?


Paul G. Mendes, Partner
Phone:  604-685-4894



Wu v. PSCC 826, 2018 ONSC 2027

Despite the frequency of complaints I receive about elections and vote rigging in stratas, I have yet to come across a case of proven voter fraud in any strata.  My investigations into such complaints usually reveal that the winners are simply better than the losers at getting votes and proxies. While it is certainly true that strata general meetings sometimes have “voting irregularities”, those irregularities are usually small enough to have had no impact on the outcome of a particular vote.

In Wu v. PSCC 826, 2018 ONSC 2027, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently considered the effect of so-called irregularities in the context of proxy solicitations and council elections.  In that case, the plaintiff (a former council member) sued his Condominium Corporation (that is what they call stratas in Ontario) to overturn the results of a board election in which his preferred candidate lost by a narrow margin.

The plaintiff obtained a pre-trial order from the Court forcing the condo corporation to preserve the ballots and proxies from that election. In the end, the Court found that although there were a few irregularities in the solicitation of proxies, they were not significant enough to warrant overturning the election. The irregularities consisted mainly of incorrectly dated proxies, and only one owner denied signing one of the impugned proxies.  Another owner’s signature did not match other evidence of his or her signature on other documents, but there was no evidence from that owner stating that he or she did not give proxy in favor of the winning candidate. As a result, the plaintiff’s claim was well on its way to being dismissed, so he applied to the Court to discontinue his lawsuit.

By that time, however, the condo corporation had spent approximately $78,000 in legal fees fighting the plaintiff’s lawsuit, and it wanted compensation for this expense.  In the end, the Court denied the condo corporation its due, and after some fancy math reduced the condo corporation’s claim for costs to zero.

Factoring in the judge’s decision was the condo board’s curious reaction to the plaintiff’s efforts to question the legitimacy of the election.  Rather than investigating his complaints, the board took the position that the plaintiff’s conduct was a nuisance to the other owners and a contravention of the condominium’s declaration (similar to the strata bylaws in B.C.).  It went so far as to threaten him with legal action.  The Court characterized the condo board’s response as  “dismissive” of the plaintiff’s concerns, and further characterized the plaintiff’s lawsuit as having “…rendered some service to the Condominium and the other owners by raising issues as to the electoral process….”  He did, after all, expose some irregularities in the proxies used for the election.

There are some takeaways from this case with application to stratas in British Columbia.

  1. The Court will not override democratic government of a strata unless absolutely necessary: Lum et al. v. The Owners, Strata Plan VR519, 2001 BCSC 493.
    Further, a finding of voting irregularities will not void a vote or an election unless removing those irregular votes from the count would overturn the result: The Owners, Strata Plan LMS 3259 v. Sze Hang Holding Inc., 2016 BCSC 32 and Azura Management (Kelowna) Corp. v. The Owners, Strata Plan KAS24282009 BCSC 506.
  2. If you are an owner who is concerned about voting irregularities at meetings, you need more than a conspiracy theory. You need evidence. Getting that evidence will not be easy, because the Strata Property Act does not require a strata to keep copies of ballots, sign-in sheets, or proxies used at general meetings.  If you have concerns about these documents, and your strata does not have a practice of keeping copies of them, you may need an order from the Civil Resolution Tribunal to preserve that evidence for your inspection.
  3. If you are a strata council confronted with an allegation of voting irregularities at meetings, take the complaint seriously and investigate it. How much investigating you need to do depends on the allegation. You should avoid, however, engaging in conduct which puts winds in the sails of the conspiracy theorists, such as not allowing people to scrutinize vote counts during the meeting and refusing to provide access to the records that you do keep.
  4. If you have frequent allegations of malfeasance at general meetings, consider hiring a neutral third party to oversee registration and chair your meetings. Most strata lawyers chair meetings upon request.  Given the subject matter of the meeting, however, it may make more sense to have the meeting chaired by a strata lawyer who does not regularly represent your strata or the council.
  5. It also goes without saying that if you are concerned about voting irregularities at meetings, you should avoid publicly accusing council members and the strata manager of fraud and cheating. An unproven allegation of fraud or cheating could be defamation, and it would certainly be a contravention of strata’s bylaws.  Everyone in a strata has the right to be free from frequently repeated unfounded allegations.

WHAT WE DO: Lesperance Mendes has been advising strata corporations on strata governance matters since 1997.  If your strata is having difficulty running meetings and conducting elections, consider having one of our strata lawyers attend to chair your meeting. Our chairperson services ensure that your meeting is conducted fairly and according to the Strata Property Act and your strata’s bylaws.  If you would like to find out about our strata meeting services, please contact Paul G Mendes, Partner at 604-685-4894 or email Paul at

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on without independent legal advice.