British Columbia

Charter rights don't apply to strata disputes, says B.C. Supreme Court

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a White Rock man's attempt to invoke Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a dispute with his strata corporation.

White Rock man claimed strata's threat to sell condo violated his right to security of person

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected a bid to invoke Charter rights in relations to a White Rock man's dispute with his strata council. (Canadian Press)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed a White Rock man's attempt to invoke Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a dispute with his strata corporation.

In an ongoing court battle, Roderick Louis claimed a bid by his strata to force the sale of his condo violated his right to security of the person.

But Justice Trevor Armstrong dismissed the attempt because the Charter only applies to forms of government — and strata corporations don't fit the bill.

"The threshold question is whether the strata is by nature a government entity or controlled by government," Armstrong wrote in a 50-page decision.

"This is a private relationship that is not government or government-controlled activity."

'Mutual dislike'

The ruling is part of a complicated and bitter dispute between Louis and the strata, which is seeking an order for the sale of a condo registered to his brother and the executrix of his mother's will.

Louis has occupied the condo since 1999 and pays all the associated costs. Although he gained the right to attend strata meetings as a proxy, the managers refused to give him notices and minutes.

As a result, Louis disputed the strata's right to collect fees. He stopped paying in 2012 for reasons dating back to a 2008 dispute over payments and his right to live in the condominium.

Armstrong notes a "mutual dislike" between Louis and the other occupants of the 17-suite, three-floor property. 

In 2013, a provincial court judge imposed a peace bond — which has since expired — to stop Louis videotaping or taking photographs of other residents; Louis disputes those findings and is appealing the decision.

In 2013, the strata filed a petition for judgement on the debt owing for fees and levies and for an order for the sale of the condo.

Louis responded with a multi-pronged Charter argument, challenging the constitutionality of the parts of the Strata Property Act which allow stratas to strip owners of voting rights, prohibit them from seeking office and sell or threaten to force the sale of properties.

Not government

B.C.'s Attorney General entered into the fray, arguing against Louis's right to invoke the Charter, which they claimed is limited to the affairs of parliament, legislatures and the governments of Canada and the provinces.

Armstrong agreed.

"The overarching duty of a strata corporation is to facilitate the shared ownership of land and space to accommodate the private interests of owners," he wrote.

"The real threat to Mr. Louis is the loss of his home due to unpaid strata fees. Although he has been denied participation in the management of the strata, this is, in essence, a dispute that deals with his financial responsibility and not Charter protected rights."

The ruling was a partial win for Louis; Armstrong found that the strata should recognize his proxy. But because he's an 'interested person' as opposed to 'an owner,' the extent of the victory is limited.

The strata has to provide him with future notices of meetings as well as past minutes. Armstrong also said three-quarters of strata members have to vote in favour of continuing the lawsuit, for the petition to sell the condo to proceed. 

Read the B.C. Supreme Court decision.

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