We’re going to continue diving into Strata Properties in East Van (aka Condos / Apartments). We discussed the general details of East Van Condo’s in our first post, but now we’ll start delving into the more specific details. First, the people who manage the condo building – Strata Corporations and Strata Councils.
What is a Strata Corporation?
The Strata Corporation of any condo building in East Van consists of the owners (you!) of each unit (also called a strata lot). Think of owning a condo unit like an investment – you’re buying shares of the corporation (the building). Since you are a “stockholder”, you have a voice regarding the common finances, the maintenance of the building, and how the entire corporation is being managed.
As part of your condo’s Strata Corporation, you’re allowed to see documents detailing this information, including updated financials and budgets, the strata plan (a map that details the ownership of the building, including parking, storage and the units), bylaws pertaining to what each owner is and is not allowed to do, minutes detailing what was discussed between owners during scheduled meetings, and more.
The Strata Corporation together decides how the building is maintained – both financially and structurally.
What is the Strata Council?
Strata buildings can have a few units (like a half duplex in East Van, or The Block in East Van), or it can have hundreds (like the buildings in East Van’s SoMa District: Uno, Social, Sophia, etc.). Since each condo owner has a rightful say in how their investment in the building is managed, there could be a lot of opinions about how to run a condo in East Van.
The Strata Council manages these opinions. The Council is a group of owners in each building who are elected (by the all of the owners) to make decisions for everyone. This group (typically less than 10 people) will make decisions on behalf of everyone’s best interest, specifically relating to the day to day tasks required to run the building. Often, the Strata Council will do the initial research required for various building issues, then will present the options to the entire Strata Corporation at meetings, where the issue is voted on.
Members of the Strata Council aren’t paid, so the owners elected to this group must accept the role and be willing to put in extra work to keep the building (and everyone’s investment) running smoothly.
What is the Property Management Company?
The Strata Council works closely with the Property Management Company, an outside company hired to guide the Strata Council and manage the intricacies of building maintenance (Stratawest, Rancho, Pacifica First, are all examples of Property Management Companies). The representative from the Property Management Company, the Property Manager, is present at all building meetings and acts as the head of the Council.
If your unit has an construction issue (like a water leak), if you want to do renovations (like installing new floors), if you want to rent out your unit or anything similar, you’ll have to contact the Strata Council so they are informed (read the building Bylaws to get a sense of what they require from all the owners). Strata Council members are NOT paid (though the Property Manager is paid), and are acting on your behalf to manage the health of their (and your) investment.
What are Strata Meetings?
Every condo building has regular Strata Meetings (monthly, or possibly less often for smaller Strata’s) to keep owners informed of the buildings happenings, to allow the owners to voice an opinion or to vote on a particular issue. These meetings can be boring, especially in buildings with many units (thus a lot more to talk about). However, this is where you learn how your investment is being managed. If you’re concerned with the maintenance or management of your building, go to these meetings so your voice can be heard.
Every Strata Corporation must hold at least one annual general meeting (AGM). This is the one meeting every year that you SHOULD go to because this is the meeting where the you elect the upcoming year’s strata council, where you vote on the yearly financial plan and where important building votes are held and decisions are made.
What are Strata Fees (aka Condo Fees)?
Every condo unit owner HAS to pay Strata fees as part of their contribution to the ongoing maintenance of the building including general expenses (i.e. yard work, garbage collection, etc) and the Contingency Reserve Fund (an fund to be used for bigger expenses and repairs like the roof). You’ll be fined if you don’t pay them and could run into legal trouble if your avoidance of paying them continues. The amount of your Strata fee is determined by the annual building budget (voted on at the AGM!) and the percentage of the building that you own (based on the amount of square footage that you own as a portion of the entire building’s square footage).
Certain building repairs (i.e. roof, rainscreen, etc) can be very costly, which is why you may also receive an assessment (aka special levy). This is a request for a certain amount of money the strata needs to complete necessary upgrades, and would be in addition to your regular strata fees. Special Levy’s are one reason why you never want to spend every dime you have on owning a home (you should always have some money set aside for unexpected bills).
Is everything starting to make sense? Keep following the blog – I’ll continue to describe everything you need to know about strata (condo / apartment or townhome) units that applies to condos in East Vancouver.