With COVID-19 forcing the global economy to a slow crawl, our court system is matching the pace, with some exceptions.
On March 27, 2020, the British Columbia provincial government issued Ministerial Order No. M086, “Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order” under the Emergency Program Act, [R.S.B.C. 1996] c. 111, which suspended limitation periods for civil or family matters in British Columbia’s Provincial Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The suspension will stay until the province’s state of emergency, which started on March 18, 2020, is declared over. Notably, the Order does not stop limitation periods in relation to matters within the jurisdiction of tribunals or other statutory bodies (i.e. the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Human Rights Tribunal, etc.). Instead, it leaves that decision up to each respective entity’s discretion.
On April 8, 2020, the above order was replaced by Ministerial Order No. M098, “Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2”. Order No. 2 substantially retains the language of the first Order. The only items that have been affected under Order No. 2, relates to limitation periods established under:
- the Builders Lien Act, [S.B.C. 1997] c. 45, and
- Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act, [S.B.C. 1998] c. 43, which deals with builders liens and other charges on strata property.
This means that the mandatory timelines within the above statutes must be adhered to. For more information on obligations under the Builders Lien Act, please see our companion blog post here.
With respect to the ongoing limitation period dates under the Strata Property Act, Order No. 2 may be relevant if you are an owner and developer of a strata property, if you recently purchased or are about to purchase a strata lot from a property developer, or if you are completing renovation and/or construction work at a strata lot.
If a potential construction dispute arises in relation to your strata property, dates to keep in mind include (but are not limited to) the following:
- when a claim of lien against a strata lot or strata lot’s share in the common property must be filed;
- when a holdback account must be retained until;
- when an action relating to a builders lien trust fund must be initiated; and/or
- when an action to enforce a claim of lien against a strata lot must be initiated.
In light of the foregoing, the province is signaling to potential litigants that their rights will be protected despite the slowdown in court operations and the economy.
Nonetheless, presumably because construction work is deemed an essential service by the provincial government at this time and is still ongoing subject to health guidelines, limitation periods relating to builders liens are not being suspended. This similarly applies to the tribunals and statutory bodies which conduct many of their operations electronically. Of course, the situation may change as our government works to address the unfolding crisis.
If you have any questions with respect to the provincial orders set out above and how they may affect your rights, property or business, please contact any member of our firm’s Strata Property Group.