Archive for the ‘Strata Information’ Category

Eligible voters should have chance to discuss proposed resolutions

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

The Strata Property Act does not permit mail-in ballots

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata council has decided to avoid holding a meeting to discuss a major change in the use of our property. We are a gated community and the current council doesn’t want to pay for the gate maintenance any longer and wants to remove the gate. They have sent out a notice with a proxy form and mail-in ballot that requires each owner to vote yes or no. They advise they will inform the owners of the decision by Nov. 15. 

Is this permitted?

Daria B., Vernon

Dear Daria: 

The Strata Property Act does not permit mail-in balloted or proxy vote-only meetings. 

The intention of the legislation is to ensure eligible voters have the opportunity to discuss the proposed resolutions or, at the very least, require every eligible voter to consent to waiving notice of a meeting and any proposed resolutions. 

Any significant change in the use or appearance of common property or a common asset requires a three-quarters vote at an annual or special general meeting. The exact wording of what is being approved or altered must be included in the wording of the resolution to confirm the strata council has the authority to proceed with the changes if the resolution passes. 

If a strata corporation is unable to hold a meeting due to time constraints or in the case of vacation properties, where owners are only present in the summer, the strata corporation may issue a notice of waiver of meeting.  A notice of waiver works well for small strata corporations as it enables expedient decisions, but for large strata corporations such as yours, over 100 units, it is difficult for the waiver to pass. A notice of waiver requires every eligible voter to agree in writing that they are waiving notice of a meeting and that they agree to the resolution.

In addition, if there is more than one person on title, all of them must consent to the waiver of meeting and the resolution. If one strata lot does not agree or simply does not respond, the proposed resolution does not pass. 

I would advise anyone implementing a wavier of notice to confirm your ownership list is up to date or it may be necessary to conduct title searches to confirm the names of all owners on title. When the strata corporation issues a form that indicates this is a waiver of notice of meeting, it requires all eligible voters, including multiple owners, to sign, consent and return the form. The strata corporation must retain copies of the waivers and consents. 

Any owner, tenant or person authorized in writing by the owner or tenant is entitled view or request a copy of the waivers and consents. 

If a Form B Information Certificate is requested during this period, the strata corporation must disclose if a waiver of notice has been issued for a three-quarters vote, and any three-quarters  resolution that has been passed but not yet filed in the Land Title Registry if required. 

A wavier of notice proceeding is much more complicated then simply sending out a notice. Speak to a professional before you send out your waiver. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Maintaining common property is the responsibility of the strata

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Common property a responsibility of the strata

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our council hired a contractor to clean our gutters and roof areas, as we have several large maple trees around our property. The contractor removed the debris from the upper areas and simply dumped it on our balconies and patios. The council has informed owners that patios and balconies are the responsibility of each owner and we are required to remove the debris.

Many of our owners are seniors and not capable of clearing the materials from their balconies. 

As a result of the debris being dumped and blocking drains, several patio areas flooded in the heavy rains, causing damage to three units on the ground level.

Can our strata council make owners responsible for maintaining and repairing decks and patios? 

Judith M., North Vancouver

Dear Judith:

There are two considerations when answering your question: what the legislation and your bylaws require and what is common sense. 

First, the legislative side. Most decks, patios and balconies are either common property or limited common property. Any areas that are common property must be maintained and repaired by the strata corporation.

On your strata plan, the balconies and patios are shown as common property. Your strata corporation must maintain and repair the common property; this includes the removal of the debris and washing of the decks and balconies. Strata corporations are not permitted to adopt bylaws that require owners to maintain and repair common property.  

If an area is limited common property, the duties are defined in the bylaws of the strata corporation. Under the Standard Bylaws of the Strata Property Act, owners are responsible to conduct maintenance on their allocated area of limited common property for duties that would occur once a year or more often, and the strata corporation is responsible to maintain and repair the area for items that occur less than once a year. 

As for common sense, one of the benefits of living in a strata corporation is the ability to share the service costs for routine maintenance. Hiring a service provider to clear the gutters, debris, decks and balconies is a lower cost and ensures your strata can hire a reliable, insured contractor with resources to effectively maintain your property without placing your residents at risk. 

Throwing the debris on lower levels not only causes increased maintenance; it is also a safety hazard.

As winter approaches, apply the same consideration to snow removal and de-icing.  It is much more economical and to everyone’s benefit to plan for snow removal and maintenance of roads, sidewalks and driveways. 

Check your strata plan and bylaws before you try to download maintenance on your owners. In most townhouses and apartment-style strata corporations, driveways, sidewalks and roadways are common property and must be maintained and repaired by the strata corporation. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Easing of cannabis laws creates questions for condos

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Easing of cannabis laws creates questions for strata corporations

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata council is very confused about the new marijuana legislation and all the hype that has been published in the media. With seven volunteers cruising through the Internet, we have naturally developed seven different opinions on what we can do or what we have to do to protect out strata.

Our strata is a simple 16-unit townhouse complex, but I also own a rental unit in a 171-unit highrise and have concerns about activities that could affect the comfort of my tenants and our investment.

Please explain what we need to do if we want to stop the consumption of marijuana in our properties.

Sylvia M., Port Moody

Dear Sylvia:

Yes, the current legalization of cannabis permits limited possession and consumption of products and a limited growth of plants per occupant. However, strata corporations are permitted to adopt bylaws that prohibit cultivation of plants and prohibit forms of consumption or behaviour that may result in nuisance, harm or risk of endangerment to other occupants or property. 

The Schedule of Standard Bylaws of the Strata Property Act already contains a bylaw that addresses issues of nuisance. If I am conducting an activity in my strata lot or on common property that causes a nuisance to an owner, tenant or occupant, the strata corporation may apply the current standard nuisance bylaw. 

Many strata corporations where the homes are attached and share walls, floors and ceilings or ventilation systems have already adopted bylaws that strictly limit or prohibit smoking of any types of products on common property, limited common property and within strata lots.

Remember: when you live in a strata, your home is not your castle. If your activities are likely to cause or are causing a nuisance to a neighbour, your strata council will enforce nuisance bylaws. This applies not only to smoking or vaping, but it may also apply to other activities, such as the use of barbecues.

A strata corporation may adopt a defined bylaw that restricts or prohibits smoking of any type of substance and may prohibit the cultivation of plants, with the exception of those persons with medical licence exemptions. 

If your strata corporation is not restricting cultivation of plants, there may be unforeseen consequences and damages if someone exceeds their limits or reasonable growing conditions. In order for plants to reach successful maturity, they require significant growing/daylight hours, fertilizers, increased watering or hydroponic conditions and ventilation.

With five to 10 plants in a strata lot, compounded conditions may result in high levels of humidity in the unit and adjacent areas, unsafe demands on electrical loads, fire hazards, odors and the increased risk of mould. If your building is not limiting or restricting cultivation, it would be valuable to monitor building interior conditions on a routine schedule to ensure no one has exceeded the permitted limits, resulting in a full-blown grow op. 

You cannot restrict or prohibit the types of substances that people consume. What people consume is their business, how they consume a product within your residential strata corporation may be controlled in your bylaws. Edible cannabis products are legal and no different than someone coming home with a bottle of liquor. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

New finishes at odds with building appearance

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Condo Smarts: New finishes at odds with building appearance

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

In October 2017, our strata corporation held a SGM and approved a special levy of over $1.2 million to replace the membrane over our parking garage.

At that time, the owners approved specific design plans that stated “all finishing materials had to match the existing structure”.  During discussion at the SGM, the owners made it clear they would not approve the project if this stipulation was not met. 

In June 2018, our strata council president and another member of council signed a change order. This order approved a significant change to the existing slump block finish and instead agreed to a smooth poured concrete finish.

These finishes look very different. The smooth walls have significantly altered the original, iconic appearance of our building. Council reluctantly notified the owners of this critical change in their strata council meeting minutes of July, 2018. 

Is a council allowed to do this? What recourse do we owners have? Who pays to remedy the situation? 

Patricia, Victoria 

Dear Patricia:

While the Strata Property Act sets out the condition “significant change in use or appearance of common property or common assets”, it does not establish a definition.

The principle reason: each strata corporation is unique and the circumstances that may result in a significant change in use or appearance that could affect one property may vary greatly from another property depending on the reasons for the change, the location and the result. 

If your strata community agreed to the renovation based on an assurance that finishes would not be changed, and the strata council subsequently acted contrary to those limitations, any owner could dispute the decision and file a court application, commence an arbitration or start a claim with the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The decisions of the courts or the tribunal are specific to each strata corporation, however, most decisions have been a result of in a loss or change in conditions that affect the of use and enjoyment, of either common property, a common asset or limited common property, loss of value of property or altered access.

Here are some helpful examples of obvious significant changes that have occurred over the years: a change in landscaping or removal of trees without the approval of the owners, which resulted in a loss of privacy; diminished access or a dramatic change to the exterior appearance, such as a balcony enclosure that resulted in the blocking of ocean views for three adjacent strata lots; the change of colour of a paint scheme from green to burgundy; the construction of a pergola in front of two strata lots, blocking their yard access; moving a rooftop ventilation system from the area over a hallway to an area over a strata lot, resulting in a dramatic noise increase; owners changing their windows to an entirely different design and colour; or the strata council removing designated special needs parking.

Many of these types of changes can be reversed; however, major construction is extremely difficult to undo without significant cost. 

Legal assistance is essential when writing resolutions for special levies and major repairs. If the resolutions had been worded sufficiently, the conditions or authority to approve changes in use or appearance could have been defined in the resolutions and the council may have likely been granted authority to make decisions under certain conditions, such as product availability, design problems or building code issues. For an effective claim, it will be necessary to identify how the change affected use, enjoyment, access or current or future value of your property. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Undisclosed fees and commissions a growing problem

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Undisclosed fees a growing problem

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

I am a commercial broker concerned about a problem occurring for strata owners considering a windup and liquidation of their corporation.

Our office was recently approached by a strata manager who indicated a strata client was looking for an opportunity to wind up their corporation. We were requested to submit a proposal to the manager, with a specific deadline and copy of the terms of our representation agreement.

A week before the deadline, we were contacted by the strata manager, who indicated we could be on the short list if we were prepared to confidentially split our commission 50/50 with the management company in the event the windup was successful. Up to this point, we were never informed of the identity of the strata corporation, other than the number of units.

Our concern relates to two problems. The first is every location is different and requires a unique level of assessment in detail and marketing. As a result, rates may vary, depending on the projected work or site studies that may be required.

The second is a greater concern. If the strata management company is demanding a split commission in exchange for a short-list result, it is obvious this is not condoned by the strata corporation; otherwise, we would have been told the name and location of the strata and the contact information for the council members.

Clearly, the company is withholding critical information to leverage an undisclosed commission or fee on behalf of its client, which is both unethical and in violation of the Real Estate Services Act. At this time, we informed them we would not pay any commissions or submit a proposal without the explicit consent and details and their client.

CB

Dear CB:

Thank you for coming forward. A serious flaw in our real estate legislation is that there is no whistle-blower protection, so many violations in the industry go unreported for fear of recrimination. I urge you to file a complaint with the Real Estate Council of B.C. on behalf of consumer interest and the reputation of the industry.

Strata managers are not contracted as brokers or as the liquidator for the purpose of winding up a strata corporation. They are contracted to provide services for operations, maintenance, financial management and general administration. They are contracted under an “agency” agreement, which conveys the authority of the strata corporation to enable your manager to act on your behalf for the purposes of operations.

Unless otherwise agreed in your agency agreement, they act solely for your strata corporation, and any fees, commissions or benefits they receive that are not directly from the strata corporation must be disclosed to the corporation. Undisclosed fees and commissions are a growing problem within the strata-management industry and strata councils have a right to demand their strata-management companies inform them of any fees or commissions they have received.

A simple disclosure in the service agreement that a company “may” receive fees from time to time does not meet the requirements of disclosure. The company must disclose the amount of the fees, percentage of a gross fee or other interests where it receives a benefit. While it is acting as your agent, it is not acting as an agent for other parties unless you agree.    

When an agent of one party pressures a third-party service provider to provide a fee in exchange for the undisclosed privilege of an awarded contract, it is a form of racketeering. Unlawful on many levels and certainly not in anyone’s interest but the agent.

In all of the windup proceedings I have been involved with, the strata managers play the least role. The lawyer acting solely for the strata corporation will provide the greatest level of service and continuity as they will review the commercial-agency contract, notices and resolutions for meetings that will authorize the strata council to engage a broker and proceed with a marketing or negotiation process, attend information meetings and meetings with council to negotiate the terms of any of the offers, and finally the preparation of the notice package, including the resolutions for the 80-percent vote, the court application to approve the windup and the appointment of the liquidator. 

Your commercial broker plays a significant role and negotiates the sale of your property. It is their contracted responsibility to assess, evaluate and market your property to the broadest audience in the effort of obtaining you the best price for your property.

Your strata manager will have additional work ahead of them as the strata corporation moves through the windup process and should be compensated as set out in the schedule of fees for the cost of additional meetings and an hourly service.

A strata-management agreement signed by a strata council that pays a commission to a strata-management company in the event of a windup still requires the approval of the owners at a general meeting. If you want to pay an additional fee or commission to your strata manager, it must be disclosed and approved by the owners, as you will be paying out part of their proceeds of sale.

Finally, if anyone advises a strata council against a lawyer experienced with strata windups, they are likely protecting their own interests. Consumers deserve the best price and terms of sale for their property. Keep your strata corporation in control of the windup process where your strata council works directly with your lawyer and the commercial broker, and all stages of progress are reported to the owners. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Strata residents not obliged to provide council with keys

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Owners? consent needed for lot access

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony: 

Without the knowledge of most owners and tenants in our complex, our strata council is holding a master key for every unit and insists that when anyone changes ownership or occupancy, the key must be changed to include the master key system. 

At our annual general meeting last week, the council president, who was accused of misusing keys and entering an owner’s unit without permission or notice, was not re-elected to council. This person has refused to pass over the keys to the strata common areas or the master key to the building.

Our council has always struggled with the concept of a master key and once again, we have a good reason to eliminate the master key access. Does the strata council have a right to demand owners provide key access to their units? 

Doreen Chalmers

Dear Doreen: 

No, the strata corporation does not have the authority to demand a key or maintain master key access.

Your council should immediately advise your owners and tenants of the breach in security, and contact your lawyer to ensure the past president is notified of the breach and the liability he is exposed to. If he does not immediately return the keys, it may be necessary to re-key everyone’s strata lots and the common areas and file a claim with the Civil Resolution Tribunal against the past president to recover the cost.

Even if the strata corporation has a bylaw regarding the provisions of strata lot keys and use of master keys, owners and tenants must consent to access. 

There are many strata corporations who secretly hold master keys and do not disclose that information to the strata lot owner, occupants or tenants. If you apply some common sense, it is obvious that even under the most ideal circumstances, owner, occupant and tenant personal safety, security and privacy are compromised when the strata corporation is holding keys to their strata lots. 

If your strata council, an employee or contractor of the strata corporation enters a strata lot without consent, they are essentially breaking and entering. There have been several instances in strata corporations involving investigations where valuable pieces of art, coin collections, guns and ammunition, jewelry and other personal property has gone missing from strata lots with no signs of forced entry, only to discover the strata corporation possessed master keys and not informed the owners or tenants.

The other serious risk that few councils are willing to admit is there is no way to prevent the duplication and misuse of keys.     

Each owner’s strata lot is their private residence, and while the strata corporation may be required to access strata lots for maintenance or inspection under the bylaws, the owner or tenant is not obliged to provide a key.

Unless there is an emergency that requires immediate access by emergency services or a person authorized by the strata corporation, no one should be permitted to access a strata lot without the consent of the owner or tenant and with proper notice that defines the reason for access,as set out in the bylaws. 

The standard bylaw requires 48 hours written notice to access strata lots, which also means the notice period of four days is also imposed under most circumstances. If an owner or tenant does not provide access on proper notice for a valid reason, the strata corporation has the option to enforce the bylaws, which may result in fines, the possible recovery of costs associated with delayed maintenance or servicing, or an application to the CRT to order the owner or tenant comply with the bylaws.  

For an information guide on keys and access, go to www.choa.bc.ca and enter “keys” into the search category.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Chat room risks outweigh benefits

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Strata council may encounter problems that will fuel conflicts, face potential lawsuits

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Two of our strata council members started a Facebook page in 2016 and it has been nothing but a source of conflict ever since.

A good example would be the “pool incident” this past August. Our strata corporation is multiple buildings over 200 units with a variety of cultures and traditions and not everyone uses the recreational facilities in the same manner. But we do have a published rule that everyone must be appropriately dressed at all times when in the pool, hot tubs or steam rooms.

As a result of a dispute over what is “appropriate”, one owner decided to take photographs of several residents at the pool, post them on our Facebook account and ask for everyone’s feedback of which bathing suits or clothing would be deemed appropriate. The residents whose pictures were posted were furious and threatened to sue the strata corporation. The whole thing ignited another round of cultural and racial exchanges.

This is only one of many problems that has been caused by our Facebook page. How do we force council to close down our Facebook page? 

Allen Donaldson

Dear Allen:

The risks with Facebook or any website where users may add, post or respond to information is that it is impossible to prevent misuse of the site. As a result, the strata corporation may encounter a series of problems that will fuel conflicts and discrimination and place your strata corporation in a position where the individuals who have been targeted and identified may have a valid claim against the strata corporation.

These claims could be for potential human rights violations, privacy breaches, security breaches, and claims for damages where an owner, tenant, occupant or visitor may have experienced some level of personal loss or damages. Everyone in a strata corporation needs to remember that when your strata corporation is sued, you all pay.

If your owners want the site closed or council wants to close a site that is not hosted by the corporation but is representing your strata corporation, petition for or convene a special general meeting to vote by majority vote to cancel or remove the site. If the parties don’t comply, file a claim with the Civil Resolution Tribunal ordering the site be closed.

Websites are excellent resources for strata corporations. If they are maintained by the strata corporation, changes of council or management will not affect the site.

Websites are best used to store historic and active documents to ensure a strata corporation has a corporate memory and to facilitate operations and management. They can also be used to communicate with owners and tenants and provide a portal for owners and tenants to notify the strata council or strata manager if there are maintenance issues.

While the concept of providing a chat room for owners always starts out with the right intentions, it inevitably winds up being hijacked by an owner who is using the site to discredit or harass the strata council, the manager or to target specific owners. The risks of misuse on chat sites far outweighs the benefits.

Before your strata council creates a Facebook page or any other public media format, establish terms and conditions that address the following issues: the type of information that will be posted to the site, who will have access to the site, whether the site will contain a chat room, if the site will be used to relay general information to owners, tenants and occupants, and terms defining under what conditions a user may have their access revoked.

Strata corporations manage significant amounts of personal and proprietary information. Do not publish any personal information or information that may be in violation of the Personal Information Protection Act or pose a security risk to the owners, tenants and occupants of your community. 

One of the problems that frequently occurs with strata social media or from strata websites is the assumption that the information on those sites is accurate and potential buyers may rely upon the information posted to the site. Clearly identify on your site that any information hosted on the website is not to be used for the purpose of disclosure or to replace a Form B Information Certificate and that buyers are advised to contact the strata corporation or strata manager to obtain official documents.

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Rules are your ally against council bullies

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Owners can hold harmonious meetings by following proper bylaws and Strata Property Act

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our recent AGM lasted only 20 minutes before the owners engaged in a massive confrontation with the president of our council. He started the meeting by stating the room was only booked for one hour at the community centre and as a result he limited debate on any agenda items to five minutes. He then proceeded to decide that proxies could not be used for the election of council and would not accept any amendments to the annual budget.  The owners accused him of bullying and demanded he remove himself from the meeting at which time he declared the meeting over and left with no business conducted. He is refusing to respond to any owners or current council members.

This is the second condo I have lived in where a council president has acted like a bully. What is a reasonable method of dealing with these people?  CW Walters, Esquimalt 

Dear CW:

There is nothing in the act or bylaws that gives a chairperson absolute authority. Anything the chairperson declares is subject to the owners challenging the decision. This is done by challenging the chair. Section 50 of the Strata Property Act deems that at annual or special general meetings, matters are decided by a majority vote of the eligible voters present in person or by proxy unless a higher voting threshold is required.

For example, a chairperson has decided to limit debate on an agenda item and the owners wish to continue discussing the item and asking more questions. Any eligible voter may challenge the decision of a chairperson by simply rising and saying, I challenge the chair and move that debate be continued. The chairperson calls for a seconder to the motion, and if there a seconder the chair calls for the vote and the majority decision prevails. If they vote yes to continue discussion the discussion continues, if they vote no the discussion ends and the vote on the resolution is called.  There is no debate on a motion to challenge the chair. The chairperson is not in the position to debate, they facilitate the procedures and the motions of the meeting. 

A limit of time to debate resolutions is a good idea if it is managed well. If the debate requires continued discussion, the chair decides whether it is reasonable to continue; however, any eligible voter may also make a motion to call the vote if the debate on the issue has been exhausted. Procedures that promote good decision making, comply with the Act and the bylaws of the strata corporation, and respect the voting rights of the owners are essential.  Only an owner issuing a proxy has the authority to limit the use of the proxy.  Instructions on a proxy direct the proxy holder to vote in a prescribed manner. That is entirely between the strata lot owner and the proxy holder. There is no way to monitor how a proxy holder has voted if a secret ballot has been called as a ballot must be issued for each voting card issued, and that includes proxies.  If an owner has restricted their proxy it will specifically be itemized on the proxy. For example, to prevent one person from gathering a controlling group of proxies and influencing the outcome of council elections, you will occasionally see owners who restrict proxies so they cannot be used for the election of council. 

Because you did not elect a new council at your meeting, your council members are required to convene a council meeting and issue a notice of  a special general meeting to be held within 30 days so the owners can vote on your annual budget and elect a new council. Bullies are only enabled if we give them our power. Aggressive behaviour, abusive language, manipulative tactics, withholding of information and character attacks on challengers are all signs of bullying. The best solution, don’t engage and elect alternate candidates to your strata council. If meetings are respectful, address resolutions and motions in a business-like manner and enable the participation of all owners, they will run smoothly and contribute significantly to the harmony of your community. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Incorrect owners’ lists could be a worry

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Accuracy essential if strata corporation intends to conduct business in a fair manner

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata corporation has 158 residential units. At our recent annual general meeting, we had complaints from 10 owners that they had not received the notice package. Luckily, a council member posted a reminder in the elevators a week before, so they showed up at the meeting. 

After the meeting, we had emails from seven other owners claiming they did not receive the notice package and as landlords, should have been mailed a package to the alternate address they provided for notices and correspondence.

When council double-checked the notice information, we discovered the addresses were dated by many years. As a result of changes from several management companies, the following companies inherited less-reliable lists.

We only had 42 votes represented at the meeting, so did not meet the quorum minimum, but our bylaws declare a meeting is a call to order within a half hour by those who are present in person or by proxy.

The problem is, we voted on two contentious bylaws and a special levy and now several owners are challenging the validity of the meeting.

How do determine if our owners’ list is accurate?

V.A. Lee, Richmond           

Dear Ms. Lee:

The accuracy of owners’ lists, notice/mailing lists and the schedules of unit entitlement and voting entitlement are essential if the strata corporation intends on conducting business in a fair manner to comply with the legislation and avoid complaints or actions in the Civil Resolution Tribunal or the courts.

While there may be ownership changes resulting in unintended occasional inaccuracies, 17 incorrect addresses indicates a serious problem with your records.

Provided a strata corporation has not removed or altered Standard Bylaw 4, “Inform the Strata Corporation”, of ownership or tenancy changes, an owner must give notice to the strata corporation within two weeks of becoming an owner and informing the strata corporation of their name, strata lot number and if there is any mailing address outside the strata corporation.

The same conditions apply in the circumstance of a tenancy, requiring the strata lot owner to provide a signed Form K Notice of Tenant’s responsibilities within two weeks of renting all or part of a residential strata lot.

If the owner/landlord intends on receiving notice at a separate address or supplying an email address for the purpose of receiving notices, they must provide that information to the strata corporation as well. Failure to issue proper notice could result in your motions being overturned or an order for another meeting. A potentially costly mistake for your strata. 

Start with a complete review of your owners’ list and inform your owners of the necessity to update the owners’ list for accuracy. Review copies of any Form Ks that have been provided to the strata corporation for tenancies, and copies of any Form C Mortgagee’s Requests for Notification. 

Incorrect owner lists may also result in ineligible persons being elected to council, votes being cast by ineligible voters at general meetings or a failure of the strata corporation to provide proper notice to an owner prior to enforcing bylaws, filing liens for collections or issuing notice of court or tribunal disputes or notice of any general meetings that may have a serious impact on the outcome of your decisions.

I know from recent experience that prior to issuing a notice for a special general meeting for a strata corporation to proceed with an 80-per-cent vote to wind up the strata corporation, it is mandatory that the owners’ list is accurate.

An owner who is not represented in person or by proxy for 80-per-cent and 100-per-cent votes is automatically a no vote. Most important, how do you verify the owner or eligible voter if the owners’ list is not accurate?

This may be a prudent time to conduct title searches on all strata lots to ensure accurate information is maintained by the strata corporation. In light of the many property management changes in your strata corporation, obtain official documents representing owners’ lists and notification requirements, the registered strata plan, the schedules of voting entitlement and unit entitlement. 

© 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.

Changes to common property require scrutiny of strata council

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Condo Smarts: Changes to common property require scrutiny of strata council

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony: 

We would like to share a recent decision made by our council that seemed appropriate at the time. 

Given the bylaws, the type of request to alter common property and the advice of our manager to require the owner to sign an alteration indemnity, we assumed it couldn’t be more iron clad. We were very wrong.

An owner requested permission to install a skylight in their penthouse unit. They agreed to the conditions we set out and to assume any costs relating to the alteration. Our basic conditions were a requirement to use a credible contractor and contact our roofing company to ensure there were no warranty issues. 

That was back in April. We have since had rain on a few occasions and discovered the installation was not done correctly. The contractor was an unlicensed renovator and we are plagued with leaks and damage to the building.

In future, our council has decided no more alterations to the exterior of the building. Even if we are successful in recovering the costs, the stress and disruption this has caused to all of the owners and council is not worth it.

We definitely support the position that common property is owned by everyone, everyone shares in the responsibility and no one should be entitled to alter the area for their own benefit at the risk of the owners.

Frederick W., Kelowna

Dear Frederick:

Owners should not be permitted to alter common property without the close scrutiny and supervision of the strata council.

If an owner wishes to make an alteration to the common property or a common asset, the first discussion/request to council needs to include, not only a detail of the scope of the alteration, but a clear understanding of who is going to perform the alteration. 

The natural tendency of owners is to take short cuts and reduce costs wherever possible. I am yet to find an owner who chooses the best contractor over the cheapest.

Over the years, I have spoken to many councils facing obstinate owners who believe they have the right to convert a window to a door, install a skylight, enclose a balcony or remove structural walls within their units. When owners do their own alterations, it ultimately results in a failure to meet building codes, numerous WorkSafe violations, reduced or comprised standards of construction, hidden errors or modifications, and a lack of accurate reporting to the strata corporation of what was done. 

Owners may still request alterations to common property; however, the best solution and protection for the strata corporation and your owners is to insist the consultant and contractor must be selected or previously approved by the strata corporation before any construction begins. Because there are building code and safety implications to many alterations, a qualified consultant may be necessary.

There are several strata corporations that have adopted stringent alteration bylaws that permit alterations to common property. However, they require the strata corporation to manage the scope of work, negotiate the construction documents and legal agreements, obtain permits, select contractors, determine if the alteration is significant and requires a three-quarters vote of the owners at a general meeting, and require the owner provide full payment in advance of construction. This is the only really fail-safe method of ensuring the work is done to a reasonable standard and everyone is protected. 

Real estate flippers are the most common offenders of unauthorized work and our most common complaint. Their focus is profit and reselling the condo as soon as possible often with a total disregard for the strata corporation bylaws or their fellow owners.

Under the Standard Bylaws and most bylaws adopted by strata corporations, a strata council does not have to grant permission to alter common property. Before you approve an alteration to common property, do you know who is going to pay the bills if something goes wrong?   

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