B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has begun taking "early intake" applications for strata property disputes.
Canada's first online tribunal is not yet fully operational, and is testing its application process. The tribunal has 18 lawyers and mediation experts who will adjudicate strata property and small claims disputes without going to court.
Legislation to create the tribunal was passed in the spring of 2015. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said at the time that the tribunal and its early resolution process "will help to resolve disputes faster and with more lasting outcomes, while saving people time and money."
The tribunal is expecting a large spike of strata-related claims as it starts up, and warns that it could take several months to resolve claims as it continues to add staff and develop its technology.
The tribunal has a guide to its service on its website. The application begins with a "solutions explorer" where people describe the nature of their dispute and then receive detailed information about their options under B.C. law.
The first suggestion is to use form letters to contact the other party in the dispute directly, to see if it can be settled without a formal application to the tribunal.
[See video introduction below.]
Most strata claims have a two-year limitation period, after which they can't be taken to the tribunal or to court. If an early intake application is accepted, it may stop the countdown and allow the case to be prepared for when tribunal members begin hearing cases.
If applicants are accepted and then change their minds and want to go to court instead, approval of the tribunal is required.