In order to understand the nuances of how retroactive fines work and when they may be deemed improper, we can look to the example of a recent case, Shen v The Owners, Strata Plan LMS 970, 2020 BCCRT 953. In this case, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) found that retroactive fines were not proper in this particular instance due to the strata’s failure to properly notify the owner of the intended fines.
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In a dispute between a strata owner and strata, the owner filed a dispute against the strata issuing $19,500 in fines from the owner. The owner had been renting out her strata lot without seeking permission to do so first, and in November of 2019, the strata sent a letter informing the owner that she was in breach of strata bylaws. When the owner did not respond, a second letter was sent in December of 2019. This letter warned the owner that the council planned to impose retroactive fines from June 1st, 2019. On April 21st, 2020, the strata informed the owner that retroactive fines totaling $19,500 were owed (this being a fine of $500 every week from June 1st, 2019 to March 1st, 2020). The owner disputed the fines and the CRT ruled that much of the retroactive fining was not proper, cutting down the fines owing to $6,000.
The reason why the CRT judged that the retroactive fines were not valid was because the strata did not bring up the idea of considering retroactive fines until the letter issued in December of 2019. The CRT stated that a strata owner must be given the particulars of a complaint, as well as a reasonable opportunity for a hearing before retroactive fines can be issued. Given this decision, the owner was found responsible for an initial fine of $500 on November 29, 2019, and a continuing fine of $500 every week for 11 weeks until February 20, 2020, the date that the Dispute Notice was issued.
Impact Going Forward
Although CRT decisions are not binding, the results of this case will likely influence future disputes regarding retroactive fines and gives a template for how stratas should go about properly notifying owners in order to issue and collect retroactive fines without dispute. If you believe that you have had retroactive fines issued improperly, speak to a lawyer today to determine your next steps.