COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Update #18

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Dear Strata Councils,

This week was very challenging for many of you, with rising case numbers of COVID-19, increased isolation and the turning of the weather.  You are no doubt weary of Strata Corporation matters being placed before you.

However, we are compelled to write to you with important information about the anticipated Order from the Provincial Health Officer.  On November 19th, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix held a press conference and announced a new order mandating that masks be worn by all capable individuals in all indoor public spaces.  A day later, the Province formally confirmed that Strata common areas such as hallways, lobbies and elevators are subject to the Order.  We have drafted the attached generic notices which you may use in your properties to advise Residents of the new Order.  Many of you had already passed Rules which require guests, trades people and others to wear masks- this new mandate applies to everyone.

It is unclear how enforcement of this new mandate will work, and we encourage you to exercise patience while these details are being worked on by the authorities.  The notices we have attached are purposefully silent on the subject of enforcement, to avoid the expectation that the Strata Council will necessarily fine individuals seen without masks.  Some Strata Councils may be tempted to pass new Rules to mirror the Order- requiring masks for residents.  We do not take a position on such measures, though we will point out that this is likely to create enforcement challenges for you and your site staff.  All anyone needs to do is open a social media app or a newspaper to see the controversy that can come with enforcement of mask mandates.  As it stands, without a Strata Corporation Rule the enforcement of the Order may only fall to the Provincial authorities.  We also can share with you that in the short time since the Order was announced, our office has been inundated with calls and emails insisting that Strata Councils enforce the Order- you are likely to see a great deal of correspondence come your way on this subject from concerned residents.

That said, it’s important to note that most Strata Corporations have some version of a Bylaw which prohibits any “illegal” behaviour.  This bylaw may be cited by Residents who are upset to see their neighbours failing to wear a mask as required.  Time will tell whether or not Strata Councils can utilize this bylaw to enforce the mask mandate.  The Province has already suggested that retail establishments will be responsible for enforcing the mandate and it is possible that they will expect Strata Councils to do so.  If so, we will do our best to assist you, as always, with strong guidance and the most up to date information we obtain from industry stakeholders.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important bulletin.