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Considering Strata living?

One of the challenges faced by Strata Corporations is the addition of first time strata owners that have lived in a single family home their entire life. These owners move into a strata complex without an appreciation of the change in lifestyle this represents. Generally speaking, the strata concept is communal living in which the majority of owners dictate and determine the direction of the Strata Corporation.

However, some owners feel that that they are the King or Queen of their own castle. Much friction is caused between owners and/or between an owner and a Strata Council when the concept of communal living clashes with an owner’s individual rights.

The general rule in a Strata Corporation is “You are all in it together”. Our courts do not generally interfere with the democratic process of the Strata Council. The idea is that those who choose communal living in Strata life are bound by the reality of all being in it together for better or worse. Personal interest must give way to the best interests of the strata as a whole. Disputes are settled through procedures set out in the Strata Property Act. If owners ignore a strata corporation’s bylaws, or the Strata Property Act, and do whatever they want, a form of anarchy may ensue.

Although these are simple concepts, some owners decide that their strata lot is their kingdom and they can do as they please, with no regard for the rules or other owners. Often, this turns simple disputes over issues such as smoking, pets, parking spots and renovations into long, expensive legal battles: common sense goes out the window when parties try to force their will upon others.

Whether a party wins or loses a legal battle is irrelevant. Often, these disputes pit neighbour against neighbour and cause unnecessary stress for other owners and strata council members. The bad feelings linger on long after the legal battle ends and life at home can be miserable.
So for those transitioning from a single family home to strata living, get informed!! Do not rely on one source of information. A realtor may have good information but do not just rely on others: do your own research.

Some of the information that could assist you is the following:

  1. Speak to Council members or owners to get a sense of life (or “personality”) in the complex and if it works for you;
  2. Review the bylaws;
    1. Do they create problems for you – i.e. are you a smoker, do you own pets, etcetera; and
    2. Are they outdated? Updated bylaws indicate a pro-active Strata Council.
  3. Review any engineering reports/depreciation reports recommending/detailing any major repairs completed on the building: has it been done? If not, why not? If so, did a reputable builder do the work?
  4. What is the makeup of the owners? Is it a rental building? Is it a holiday-type strata complex that is used seasonally by partiers? Or, is it occupied by owners?

These are just a few of the issues you should investigate before buying. Purchasing a strata lot is a significant investment. Do your homework before making the decision to buy, not only to protect your investment but to keep your expectations in line with the reality of community living. By doing this, you will be happier and be a better neighbour.

To find out more about our strata practice, please contact Silvano Todesco at 250-763-4323 or [email protected].