Knowledge is Power: The Role of Education in Achieving a Peaceful Strata Community

For most people, buying a home is one of the biggest investments they will make in their lifetime. Investing in a strata property has become especially popular on the West Coast with first time buyers looking for a more affordable way to get into the Vancouver real estate market. Baby boomers looking to downsize from a single family home also find condo ownership to be a more convenient and hassle-free way of owning a home.

But while most investors wouldn’t even think of spending 6 figures or more before conducting a thorough investment analysis, buyers of strata property often make their purchase decision before carefully examining and fully understanding the specific conditions, expectations and restrictions of their new investment. This can lead to some rather unpleasant and even costly surprises down the road.

Once the dust from moving into that “perfect condo” has settled, new owners are often surprised to learn that their rights as an owner to use and enjoy their property is limited by various rules, bylaws and decisions of the strata corporation. From the Strata Property Act (SPA) to the specific bylaws of each individual strata corporation, strata lot owners can have significantly greater obligations and limitations placed on them than owners of non-strata titled homes.

Take, for instance, a new owner moving into a condo with plans to remove the carpeting and install hardwood floors. These plans would come to an abrupt halt if the strata corporation enforces a bylaw that prohibits the installation of hardwood flooring (for the purpose of controlling noise between strata lots).

Although the initial investment for buying a condo can be significantly lower than when purchasing a single family home, owners that fail to understand their role and responsibilities within the strata corporation can incur extra expenses down the road. This can range from penalty charges for breaking a bylaw, or special assessments for the renovation or repair of common property.

For example, a strata building might have a roof in need of repair. All strata lot owners must pay their share, regardless of whether they would rather delay the repairs or whether or not they can even afford it, since getting the roof fixed is in the interest of the strata community.

Many strata home owners also fail to understand the role and responsibilities of their strata council, or how important it is for them as owners to stay informed about what’s happening in their strata corporation. An owner may volunteer to become a council member, only to find out that they have more responsibility than they first anticipated. Or uninformed strata lot owners may skip out on attending AGMs, which can mean missing out on opportunities to vote on important strata matters, such as amendments to bylaws or building repairs.

With all of the complexities of “strata living,” it can get rather confusing and difficult for new owners to understand and fully protect their investment.

So what’s the solution?

Luckily, there are various non-profit associations and institutes that have been created to help strata owners better understand their responsibilities and what they can do to prevent disasters from happening in their strata community. These organizations are run by knowledgeable strata experts who care about B.C.’s strata community. They are dedicated to helping strata owners better understand their responsibilities and encourage everyone to work together to create a successful strata community.

Some helpful organizations include:

Although navigating the complex world of strata living can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience, educating strata owners and council members can go a long way towards eliminating most of the problems associated with strata living and ensuring a peaceful strata community.