Reforming Strata Management Licensing in BC
My July 10 letter to Premier Clark
I have been following strata issues in BC since 2004. In our province, 30% of taxable properties are strata properties. In Victoria and large parts of the lower mainland (Burnaby, Langley, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Vancouver, White Rock) over 50% of taxable properties are strata properties with some as high as 60%. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of strata owners in the province the government seems indifferent to the need to give owners the legislation they need to protect their rights. (The last time strata legislation received a comprehensive review was in 1998.) However, I was recently encouraged to hear that your government has recognized that the Real Estate Industry is incapable of governing itself and that you have committed the government to implementing all the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group. Potentially, this could benefit strata owners.
In respect of strata management licensing, the RECBC has been failing to act in the public interest for many years. As far back as May, 2008 a report of the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, based on input from a series of public meetings with hundreds of strata owners, told the government caucus and Ministers the following:
The Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) licenses strata managers. Under section 5-1(5.1)(a.1) of its Rules, the RECBC has set standards for strata management contracts that do not ensure a strata council has a mechanism to get out of a strata management relationship that is not working. Also, the RECBC has a general policy of taking complaints from strata councils while discouraging complaints from individual strata owners. These shortcomings mean that strata owners are not being adequately protected from incompetent, unprofessional or unscrupulous strata management companies who advise, and sometimes control, strata councils. Realtors dominate the membership of the governing Council of the RECBC and there are no Council members representing strata owners. This reflects the fact that strata manager licensing is a very small part of the operations of the Council. The RECBC’s Annual Report fails to adequately disclose licensing and complaint statistics on its strata management licensing operations. The RECBC is beyond the reach of the general powers of the Auditor General. (Page 8, section B.2 of Beyond the Sales Pitch: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in BC Strata Developments).
Eight years later, the situation described in the VISOA report remains unchanged except that the RECBC can appoint one (and only one) strata owner to be part of the 17 member Council. It is significant that this council member is appointed by the real estate industry's Council and is neither elected by strata owners nor appointed by any organization representing strata owners. Furthermore, on September 12, 2012 Tony Gioventu (Executive Director of the Condominium Home Owners' Association and a member of the recent Independent Advisory Group) wrote, in the Times Colonist and in reference to strata managers, that "we need effective consequences for offenders who abuse consumers' trust, resources and assets".
Having read the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group it is unclear to me which of the recommendations (other than #12) would be applied to the licensing of strata managers by the RECBC. I have three questions about how your government intends to move forward:
1. Which of the recommendations does your government intend to apply to the licensing of strata managers?
2. How will your government ensure that a new RECBC will not become pre-occupied with corrupt realtor issues and ignore corrupt strata manager issues?
3. In 2009 the government passed legislation that promised to give strata owners access to the provincial Small Claims Court to resolve strata disputes. This legislation was subsequently repealed and replaced with another promise to create an accessible and affordable Civil Resolution Tribunal to resolve strata disputes. It is now 7 years since the initial promise and there is still no functioning entity to resolve strata disputes. Will the reform of real estate licensing take this long or will you take immediate steps to make it happen in 2017?Deryk Norton Editor
Note to reader: For the complete report with all recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group click here. Please send me an email if you have any questions or comments about this subject.Also, please share this posting with other strata owners.