The whole country has been forced to adapt to a new way of life thanks to COVID-19. From the way restaurants operate, to how we educate and care for our children, to the adoption of virtual hangs outs and meetings; nearly all industries and social experiences have been affected. This includes the manner in which business is conducted for BC’s strata corporations. Here is a summary of the recent BC Strata Property Act (SPA) amendments made to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.
The first amendment made to the Strata Property Act came into effect on April 17, 2020. The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued an order under the Emergency Program Act which enables all strata corporations to conduct meetings electronically, regardless of whether or not the strata has an existing bylaw allowing electronic meetings. That includes annual general meetings (AGMs), special general meetings (SGMs), and hearings that take place during a provincial state of emergency.
With restrictions on gathering ordered by the BC Public Health Officer, electronic meetings will allow strata corporations to comply and maintain the health and well being of owners. Electronic meetings can be held either by telephone conference calls or online video conferencing applications. For those without reliable access to a computer, they may choose to attend in person or participate via proxy.
The Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA) has further interpreted this Strata Property Act amendment and shared a helpful checklist for holding electronic meetings.
Alternative options to electronic meetings may include delaying, relocating, waiving an AGM, or using restricted proxy voting. More on this here.
There were two amendments to the Strata Property Act made via an Order-in-Council on May 29, 2020. First, strata corporations will be allowed an additional two months to hold an AGM or SGM if there is a local or provincial state of emergency in effect during the month before the statutory deadline for the meeting.
Example: To comply with the Strata Property Act, the strata corporation must hold an AGM by April 30. There is a state of emergency in BC that ends on April 15. The new deadline to hold the AGM is June 30.
This additional time will allow the strata council to develop and implement a new meeting format and effectively communicate the changes to owners.
The regulation change will apply to all future states of emergency and will provide flexibility during other unexpected disruptions such as floods and forest fires. More on this on the Government of BC’s website.
Paying For Insurance
The second amendment made via order-in-council on May 29th is intended to clarify that strata corporations may use their contingency reserve fund to pay for increased insurance premiums, without approval from owners, if payment is required before there is time to hold a general meeting.
The change will protect strata corporations who may not be able to approve a new budget during a scheduled AGM due to gathering restrictions or other delays caused by the pandemic. The ability to pay for unanticipated expenditures, such as increased insurance premiums or COVID-19 expenses, gives the strata corporation some flexibility to meet payment deadlines. It is only permissible to do so if there are reasonable grounds to justify an immediate expenditure, such as to ensure the safety of the corporation and owners, or to prevent significant loss or damage.
Since the contingency reserve fund is intended for future repairs and replacements, it is important that the strata corporation replenish the funds used for an urgent unapproved expenditure as soon as they can. This can be done either via a special levy, or an increase in strata fees. More about strata finances and strata fees here.
Business As Usual
Property Management and the work of strata corporations are essential services, now more than ever with much of the population spending increased time at home. That includes the 32,000+ strata corporations across the province. In support of strata communities, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Ministry of Finance, the Real Estate Council of BC, strata homeowner associations, and strata property managers are meeting regularly to determine best practices and share resources.
The Government of BC has compiled a comprehensive resource, interpreting the Strata Property Act during the pandemic and to share amendments to the Strata Property Act on their website: Information for COVID-19 Strata Housing.
Other useful resources have been put together by the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association (VISOA), including their COVID-19 Resources for Strata Corporations, and documents prepared by strata lawyers, COVID-19 and Strata Corporations and Guidance Regarding AGMs and SGMs.
CHOA also has compiled a lengthy list of bulletins and resources for managing during the COVID-19 pandemic, including specific information from BC’s Regional Health Authorities, WorksafeBC, the Real Estate Council of BC, and more.
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