Federal Election – Strata Owners’ Rights
With the federal election now underway, VISOA’s Helpline has already had several questions on strata owners’ rights to put up election signs, or canvassers’ rights to access the building.
The Strata Property Act 1998 is silent about federal, provincial, and municipal elections.
The Canada Elections Act 2000 applies only to federal elections. Provincial and municipal elections are not governed by the Canada Elections Act.
Under section 81 of the Canada Elections Act, strata corporations cannot restrict reasonable access to the property for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material. The Act further provides that this right of access is between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Strata corporations must therefore grant access to candidates or their authorized representatives between these hours.
The argument against canvassing in strata corporations is that strata corporations have an obligation to protect the privacy of owners, tenants, and occupants and to manage building security and liability.
The argument supporting canvassing in strata corporations is that canvassers provide voters with an opportunity to have a personal conversation about the candidate or political party and their election platform. In any democratic society, no one wants to interfere with the democratic process, and voters have a right to be informed and to participate in conversations related to the campaign and the election.
With the federal election underway, strata councils, managers, and caretakers are likely to encounter political canvassers requesting access to their buildings. A strata corporation that refuses access to canvassers is guilty of an “offence” under section 486 (2) of the Act.
The Act includes a punishment for the offence referred to in section 486, which is stated in section 500 of the Act.
Here are the rules applicable to canvassing and to electoral signs during a federal election.
Section 81 of the Act prohibits any person from preventing a candidate or representative from canvassing between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- (1) No person who is in control of an apartment building, condominium building or other multiple-residence building or a gated community may prevent a candidate or his or her representative from
- (a) in the case of an apartment building, condominium building or gated community, canvassing, between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., at the doors to the apartments, units or houses, as the case may be; or
- (b) in the case of a multiple-residence building, campaigning, between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., in a common area in the multiple residence.
Section 322 of the Act provides that no strata corporation or any of its agents may prohibit the owner, tenant, or occupant of a strata corporation from displaying electoral signs on the premises of his or her strata lot.
- (1) No landlord or person acting on their behalf may prohibit a tenant from displaying election advertising posters on the premises to which the lease relates and no condominium corporation or any of its agents may prohibit the owner of a condominium unit from displaying election advertising posters on the premises of his or her unit.
Section 486 of the Act states that the refusal to give access to a strata corporation is an offence under the Act.
- (1) [Repealed, 2014, c. 12, s. 91]
(2) Every person who contravenes subsection 81(1) (refusal to give access to building or gated community) or subsection 81.1(1) (refusal to give access to place open to the public) is guilty of an offence.
And section 500 states that any person who is guilty of offence concerning section 486 of the Act, is liable to a fine or to imprisonment or both.
- (1) Every person who is guilty of an offence under any of subsections 484(1), 486(1), 489(1), 491(1), 492(1), 495(1), 495.1(1), 495.2(1), 496(1), 497(1), 497.1(1), 497.2(1), 497.3(1), 497.4(1), 497.5(1) and 499(1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than three months, or to both.
With the federal election under way, strata corporations are likely to encounter
- The posting of election signs in strata lots and
- Political canvassers requesting access to their buildings.
They are required to oblige. Strata corporations that prohibit access to canvassers risk a fine, a possible prison sentence, or both.