British Columbia is establishing Canada’s first online dispute resolution body. The innovative Civil Resolution Tribunal will address small claims and strata property disputes.

The Tribunal is expected to launch later this year. The Civil Resolution Tribunal Act was passed in 2012 and amendments to the Act passed third reading on April 21, 2015.

The Tribunal aims to increase accessibility and cost-effectiveness, and encourage speedier and more collaborative resolutions.

The initial phase, known as “Solutions Explorer”, will offer resources and guidance on preventing and resolving specific disputes.

The next phases will facilitate negotiations between disputing parties and provide case management assistance. If parties reach an agreement, a case manager will turn the settlement into an order.

The final phase will involve a hearing and adjudication. An adjudicator will issue a decision with the same force and effect as a court decision.

Once fully implemented, the Tribunal procedure will be mandatory for many small claims disputes and most strata disputes.

For example, a party claiming debt or damages or recovery of personal property will be required to use the Tribunal process instead of the current Provincial Court Small Claims process.

Disputes regarding the non-payment of strata fees, common property, and the enforcement of strata bylaws will also be within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, among other strata issues.

The Tribunal will not decide matters affecting land, such as an order for the sale of a strata lot or an order regarding to the development of phased strata plans.

Although the Tribunal will have exclusive jurisdiction over its matters, parties will have access to certain mechanisms to seek review of a decision by a court.

Some of the concerns raised with the new process include the need for computer and internet access, as well as language barriers to individuals unable to read English. However, the Tribunal will offer telephone assistance and interpretation to address these concerns.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.

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