East Van Condos: Strata Properties

13.08.2013

What is a Strata Property and how is that related to a Condo?

This is a great question, with a simple answer and a long answer!

The Simple Answer: a strata property is any property where at least 2 owners share common space/roofs/walls/etc. This includes any condo building, townhouse complex or duplex (or triplex, fourplex, etc).

The Long Answer: In legal terms, a strata property is a “lot” in a building hat has multiple units available for ownership. Together, the owners own the common areas, including lobbies, elevators, hallways, walls, roofs, common rooms, etc. When you purchase a Strata Lot, you become part of the building’s Strata Corporation, and thus have a say in the maintenance and happenings in the building.

Continue to follow this blog, because I’ll be going through everything you need to know about Strata units including the Strata Corporation, the meetings and documents, the building amenities, the rules, and more. To start, I’ll go through some common terms to get you started.

Strata Title: It’s a form of ownership devised for multi-level apartments/condos and horizontal subdivisions (townhomes/duplexes) with shared areas. Title describes your legal possession of the home.

Strata Corporation: The ownership of the entire Strata building, which consists of all home owners as a group. Think of it as a corporation with investors (the owners), financials, rules, meetings, etc.

Strata Council: A small group of owners (who are elected by the entire Strata Corporation) who oversee the building and the corporation, and manage the day to day tasks and decisions. If you’re really invested in the health and management of your building, you want to be on your Strata Council so you know exactly what’s happening. It’s usually fairly easy as most people can’t be bothered to do the extra work necessary to be involved.

Strata DocumentsThese consist of meeting minutes, bylaws, rules, financial statements, budgets, Engineering Reports, etc detailing everything you need to know about how the building is being managed.

Meetings: Every Strata Corporation holds meetings to keep the owners informed on the major decisions relating to the building, as well as to discuss ongoing issues and updates  (i.e. a unit that had a recent leak, or discussing a better security system for the bike storage, or how to decorate the lobby). Some buildings have monthly meetings, some have only a few per year. Every Strata has Annual General Meetings (AGM’s) where important decisions require everyone to vote (i.e. which roofing company to use to redo the roof, whether to increase the number of pets allowed, electing the Strata Council, etc.)

Common Property: The areas of the Strata Building that are owned by all the owners together. These areas include (if applicable) the: roof, gardens, lobby, walkways/hallways, elevator, recreation areas, gyms, pools, common rooftop decks, etc. These areas are maintained by the Strata Corporation (usually by deciding which companies to pay to clean/upkeep the areas) through the Monthly Strata Fees paid by the owners.

Limited Common Property: Common property that is set aside for use by certain people, yet managed and maintained by the Strata Corporation (i.e. parking spots, your balcony, etc.). For example, your ground floor patio is for your use only, but is called “Limited Common” because the Strata may have to come on your property to maintain it – they will give you notice when they do this.

Unit Entitlement: This is how the percentage of ownership of common areas is divided between every owner (for financial and insurance reasons). If you own the biggest suite in the complex, you technically own the biggest percentage of “own-able” common property (i.e. your Strata fee is higher because you own and “maintain” a bigger area of the building).

Strata Maintenance Fee: A monthly fee that you pay to the Strata Corporation, used to pay for common bills, maintenance and upkeep of the building and the common areas. The Strata Fee is usually decided on a Square Footage basis (through Unit Entitlement) and is determined by the Strata Council. The Strata Fees are deposited into a bank account, and owners are allowed to request financial records. This information is also presented in the Strata Meetings.

Contingency Fund: Think of it as your building’s emergency bank account. Funds are pulled from here to pay for the building repairs and other big expenses. Sometime you’ll receive an assessment (request for funds that you have to pay) because a building repair will cost too much and deplete the contingency. If you’re buying into a building, you’ll want to see a good sized contingency fund (unless they just did major expensive repairs on the building, then I wouldn’t expect to see too much money in the fund.

In the next few posts, I’ll keep delving into the world of condo buildings and strata properties in East Van.

For detailed information about Strata’s, check out BC’s Strata Property Act Guideline and Resources.

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