Condo Smarts: Petition is quickest way to overturn rule banning flags

2012-Tony-Gioventu.jpgDear Tony: On June 1, our strata council decided to impose a new rule that prohibits any type of signage or flags, including any Canadian flags on Canada Day. 

 

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Sixty-five per cent of the owners have petitioned for a special general meeting to defeat this rule, but the earliest that meeting would be held is at the end of August — since the period when a meeting demanded by owners must be held has been extended from within 30 days to within 90 days.

Our annual meeting is routinely in February, so that is not an option, either. Is there a mechanism the owners could use to reverse this rule earlier?

Jenna M., Richmond

Flags, signage, balcony umbrellas and shades, hanging plants and outside furniture are a frequent subject of debate in most strata corporations.

The reason this is being considered is often just as important as the decision.

Strata corporations and strata councils typically consider new bylaws and rules that address chronic disputes or complaints.

In most circumstances, these involve some type of nuisance where a neighbour is blocking other owners’ use and enjoyment of their property, negatively affecting property values or causing damage to common property.

A petition that includes a resolution to defeat the proposed rule is your quickest method.

A common error made by strata councils involves the scope of authority that can extend from a rule (versus a bylaw).

Rules can only be adopted and ratified that apply to the use and enjoyment of common property.

Your strata corporation has adopted several rules, including the rule relating to signage and flags, that apply to both common property and strata lots. Any regulatory function that applies to a strata lot must be a bylaw.

And while strata corporations are permitted to adopt rules or bylaws that apply to the use and enjoyment of common property, they must remember that provincial and federal legislation can override any of these conditions.

For example, a generic bylaw or rule that applies to signs will also include real estate signs or elections signs.

Under federal and provincial elections legislation, a strata corporation cannot prohibit the display of election signs from a strata lot, although it can reasonably limit the size of the signs.

Freedom of political affiliation and expression is still a fundamental right of Canadians.

The Strata Property Act permits a strata corporation to limit or restrict signage that relates to real estate, but does not permit a strata corporation to prohibit the sale of a strata lot.

Many strata corporations have installed attractive real estate notice boards or sign trees to facilitate notice of listings.

In the same spirit, strata corporations have also installed flagpoles on common property.

Ultimately, ratification of rules by a majority vote at the next general meeting will determine the outcome.

If a rule applies to a common-area facility such as parking, storage lockers, electrical surcharge for vehicles or a marina slip, the user fees are not in force until the rule has been ratified at the next general meeting.

Before your strata corporation heads into a confrontation, perhaps a group of owners could request a hearing with council and determine the reason for the rule or the options.

Council can always agree to reverse the rule before it is ratified.

Once it is ratified at a general meeting, it would have to be repealed or amended at a subsequent general meeting.

Tony Gioventu is executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association.

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