Choosing to buy strata property is becoming very popular in BC. According to the BC Government’s website, more one million British Columbians living in strata housing, although not all of these are owners. There seems to be, however, some confusion about what exactly strata housing is, and what the rights of strata owners are. At DBM, we have been providing expertise and answering questions for clients who are considering buying strata.
If you are considering buying strata housing, here are some key facts you should know about your rights and responsibilities.
1. What is strata housing?
The most well known form of strata housing is condo — apartment style dwellings housed in a building or several buildings jointly owned by all the condo owners. But nowadays, strata housing includes many different kinds of strata housing and strata corporations: duplexes, townhouses, vacation properties, even single family homes built on land owned by the corporation.
When you buy strata housing, you also become a co-owner of the strata corporation. As an owner, you have rights, and obligations.
2. What are the obligations?
There are many regulations for strata corporation owners as well as owners of individual units. You can find a detailed list here, but in essence, you are responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, repairs and general appearance of the entire strata. You also share responsibility for the administration of the corporation, including taxation and adherence to the Strata Property Act.
Strata Corporations have an elected Board of Directors, sometimes called a Strata Council, and usually the Council or the Corporation contracts property maintenance and accounting duties to outside companies.
To pay for all these services, owners pay monthly Strata fees.
Buying and owning strata property can be very complex. At DBM we recommend contacting a law firm with particular expertise in strata real estate.
3. I hear there are rules to follow, even as an owner. Is that true?
Yes. Strata corporations have the right to establish bylaws that all individual residents, whether they are owners or renters, must follow.
For example, they can restrict the age of residents, set quiet hours, ban smoking in common areas, allow only certain kinds of pets, forbid the rental of residential units, or even dictate the type of window coverings.
If you are considering buying strata property, make sure you read the bylaws carefully. Once you’re an owner, you must comply with them, or face disciplinary measures, including fines.
4. What are my rights as a strata owner?
You have several rights to make sure you have a voice, and that the strata corporation is not overstepping its authority in matters concerning the entire strata property or individual units and owners.
You have the right to:
vote at any general meeting.
request and receive certain records from the strata council.
instruct the strata council by majority vote at general meetings.
limit the power of the strata council by majority vote at general
call for general meetings with a petition of a certain percentage of
add items to the agenda at general meetings with a petition of a
certain percentage of the owners.
seek a court or arbitration order against unfair acts of the strata
corporation or strata council.
go to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, to enforce the strata council to
follow the Strata Property Act, regulations, bylaws or rules.
For many people, buying strata property is an affordable way to own their own home. But it can potentially be more complicated than buying and owning non-strata property.
Remember, you have many of the same rights as an owner of traditional housing, but you are also a co-owner of a corporation, so in a way, your fellow owners are your business partners. That means you have obligations, too.
We cannot suggest strongly enough that you seek expert legal advice if you are considering becoming a strata owner. Know your obligations, and especially, know your rights.
Lewis Nguyen is an Associate at DBM in the Tri-Cities area.