Archive for the ‘Strata Information’ Category

Council goes against strata act

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Council defied strata act with cameras

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata council has just purchased and installed eight cameras in our main entry, and parking entry to try and address a growing security problem in our community.

At first, council refused to disclose how much was paid for the cameras and monitoring service or any of the details of the monitoring. However, after a group of our owners demanded a hearing and challenged council on its actions, it disclosed the total cost of the equipment purchased is $11,000, and it signed a service agreement for $2,000 a year for five years. 

We were told that because the funds came from a surplus account, council did not require the approval of the strata owners.

The details of all of these contracts are still being challenged, but generally, our owners are very unhappy with this action and want to know what our options are. 

Candice K.  

Dear Candice:

Your strata council has acted contrary to the Strata Property Act and the Personal Information Protection Act.

Before your strata activates your system, it must convene a special general meeting to seek the approval of the owners or determine the next actions. Whenever a strata corporation acquires or disposes of personal property that exceeds $1,000 in market value, it is required to first obtain a three-quarters vote of the owners at a properly convened annual or special general meeting. This amount may be increased if a strata corporation amends its bylaws approving a greater amount.

As the value of the surveillance cameras and equipment exceeds the authorized amount, your strata council was required to convene a general meeting of the owners to approve the expense, regardless of which account or fund this money was drawn from. 

The other violation that must be addressed is the action of conducting surveillance. If a strata corporation intends on conducting surveillance through video monitoring, FOBS or other tracking systems, it requires the consent of the owners of the corporation. This is approved through a bylaw and the bylaw requirements are set out by the Personal Information Protection Act.

The office of the privacy commissioner provides an excellent guide for setting up a privacy policy and surveillance bylaw.  

Generally, a strata corporation’s privacy policy or policies should address the following:

  • The only purposes for which the personal information collected by the video surveillance system and/or access control system will be used;
  • Who is authorized to view the surveillance footage or access control records and under what circumstances;
  • The location of video surveillance cameras. (They should not be positioned, internally or externally, to monitor areas beyond the strata corporation property or capture images peripherally or directly through the windows of adjacent strata buildings. Video equipment should not monitor areas where owners, tenants, visitors and employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as change rooms and washrooms);
  • The times when the cameras will be operating;
  • The length of time the video recordings and access control records will be retained;
  • How the video surveillance records and access control records will be securely stored and destroyed;
  • How the strata corporation will respond to requests under PIPA for access to the personal information contained in video surveillance records or access control records;
  • How owners, tenants and visitors will be given notice that the premises are being monitored by video surveillance; and
  • How owners will be given notice that their movements may be monitored by the key fob system. 

Download a copy of the guide and consult with a lawyer on setting up a privacy and surveillance bylaw. Go to: opic.bc.ca or for a direct copy of the guide: https://www.oipc.bc.ca/guidance-documents/1455

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Wording of any bylaw vote resolution must be included with the meeting notice

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Unanimity, or three-quarter vote?

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

What happens when bylaws are amended in a mixed-use strata corporation?

The strata council at our AGM proposed a new bylaw that prohibits smoking or use of any types of combustible substances on common property or strata lots. Of the 12 commercial units, only one attended the meeting and voted in favour of the bylaw amendment.

Since the meeting, we received a letter from a lawyer advising the bylaw did not pass because it required the unanimous approval of all commercial strata lots. Our manager told us at the meeting that it only required a three-quarter vote of the residential units and a three-quarter vote of the commercial units, which passed as everyone from both sides attending the meeting voted in favour and the bylaw was filed in the Land Title Registry.

Are we missing something?

Mark H., Burnaby

Dear Mark:

There is a quirky provision in the Strata Property Act that permits a developer or a strata corporation to amend the bylaws altering the voting thresholds for bylaw amendments for commercial (non-residential) strata lots.  Under the bylaw amendment procedures of the act, any bylaws that are amended by commercial strata lots are approved by a three-quarter vote resolution or as otherwise provided for in the bylaws. 

When your strata plan was filed in the Land Title Registry, the owner developer filed amended bylaws that required a unanimous vote of the commercial strata lots one to 12 to approve any amendments to the bylaws.  

Technically, you would have been required to obtain a three-quarter vote of those residential units that attended in person or by proxy and did not abstain from voting, and separately, all 12 of the commercial strata lots, totalling 24.77 votes.

I have seen this amendment on several occasions with mixed commercial residential and also exclusively strata corporations with only commercial strata lots. It was often intended by the developers to prevent a group of commercial owners and residential owners from unfairly imposing conditions that could affect one or two of the commercial units.

There are also commercial strata corporations that have adopted a similar bylaw to ensure all the strata lots reach consensus for all amendments. The down side to a unanimous vote is the simple act of not attending a meeting results in a no vote, and with mixed-use strata corporations, the balance of power is not evenly distributed. 

When any strata corporation is considering bylaw amendments, it is always prudent to review all of your existing bylaws to confirm the proposed changes are consistent with your current bylaws, are not contrary to the act, contrary to any other enactment of law or the B.C. Human Rights Code, and that the intended resolution provides the planned results.

Are you amending a current bylaw, repealing any bylaws, or approving a new bylaw? Remember that the exact wording of a three-quarter vote resolution that includes the proposed bylaws being amended, repealed or adopted must be issued with the notice of meeting. 

It is essential that you issue voting cards that identify strata-lot numbers when there are any non-residential strata lots as you will be required to identify those strata lots and their voting entitlement when you calculate the outcomes of each vote. Non-residential strata lots are not allocated one vote per lot. You must review the Schedule of Voting entitlement to confirm each number of votes allocated to each non residential strata lot.

It is possible that with the current provincial and local government smoking regulations, such a bylaw would benefit everyone and likely be successful. Try to contact each commercial property owner directly for their support, either by proxy or attendance. Always have a copy of your complete bylaws on hand at every council meeting and general meeting.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

Condo Smarts: No one answer to water damage issues

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

No one answer to water damage issues

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

We are confused about the responsibility for repairing a strata lot when there is a minor leak causing damage.

For example, a bird nest plugged one of our drains, resulting in a gutter overflowing and a unit being damaged because an owner left their window open. The owner demanded we do the repairs to their unit, which cost $3,500, well below our water deductible of $10,000.

On another occasion, an owner overflowed her bathtub and the unit below had $6,000 of water damage. We were told by our manager that it was our responsibility to repair the unit and the strata would claim the $6,000 against the upstairs owner.

We are now being told by an owner that we are not responsible for these repairs and had no authority to spend the money of the strata corporation on repairs that were the responsibility of the owners.

When does the strata conduct repairs and when does the insurance apply to a claim? What if the strata does not want to file a claim and just pay for the repairs?

Marco F., Victoria

Dear Marco:

There is often a great deal of confusion between the responsibility to maintain and repair or whether an insurance claim is processed and who pays the costs.

Everyone would like one solution to apply to all circumstances, yet there are several variables to consider. The answer is partly determined by your bylaws and ultimately who or what was responsible for the claim. Before you can determine this responsibility, you must always review your bylaws.

The Schedule of Standard Bylaws of the Strata Property Act defines that the maintenance and repairs of a strata lot are the responsibility of a strata-lot owner; however, this is a bylaw and not part of the act, and strata corporations have amended this provision. 

The standard bylaw determines that in the circumstances such as the overflowing bathtub or the gutter overflow through the open window, the owner of each strata lot is responsible for the damages in their unit. If the amount was above the insurance deductible value a claim could have been filed and in the case of the roof overflow, the deductible would have been paid as a common expense of the corporation, and in the case of the overflowing bathtub, the strata corporation pays the deductible and then recovers the $10,000 deductible from the owner who caused the claim.

There have been attempts to prevent owners from filing claims on the strata insurance to avoid increased insurance costs or increased deductible amounts; however, an owner and tenant are deemed by the act to be named insureds on the strata policy, and as a named insured, the owner or tenant is entitled to file a claim. While strata corporations try to amend their bylaws to prevent owner or tenant claims as named insureds, the result would be an unenforceable bylaw as it does not comply with the act.

The most important question a strata council or manager needs to pose is: “Where did we get the authority to spend this money?” If an owner’s unit has been damaged by a loss, where did the strata get the authority to spend strata funds on an item clearly the responsibility of the owner under the bylaws? 

A leaking tub that damages someone’s ceiling is generally not the responsibility of the strata corporation. There may be circumstances such as a broken common-property water line where the strata corporation is required to enter a unit, open a wall and then repair the pipe. The damage was caused by a failure of a common-property component and required the strata corporation to intervene and cause damage that required restoration.

If it was an insurable claim, the deductible is a common expense of the corporation with no counter claim for the deductible, and if it is below the deductible, the corporation repairs this item as an emergency expense. 

As an owner, remember if your unit was the responsible for the claim for damages or an insurance claim, you may be liable for these costs. Purchase homeowner/landlord insurance to cover your personal contents, betterments and improvements to your strata lot, your personal liability and most important, a deductible coverage in the event you are responsible for a strata claim.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

Difficult for stratas to put limits on proxies

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Limiting proxies violates owner?s rights

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata corporation is made up of 78 apartments and 16 townhomes. 

Every year when we vote on repairs and maintenance, there is an owner in the apartment building who collects proxies and votes against any townhouse maintenance and supports all the apartment maintenance. After the last five years, nothing has been done to the townhouses and the townhouse owners are fed up.

Is there any way we can resolve this problem or prevent the number of proxies a person can hold? Is there some way to lobby government to limit the number of proxies a person can hold? 

Jim S., Surrey

Dear Jim:

Since 2013, the B.C. Law Institute has hosted a research project focused on the reform of the Strata Property Act. There was a committee of volunteers that administered the research from the real estate industry, lawyers, land titles, consumers and government. 

After a period of extensive meetings, research and discussions, a consultation paper was issued for public review.

One of the public reviews addressed governance for strata corporations. In the summary, there was a discussion over the question of proxies and possible limits to proxies. While the issue on proxies was debated, there are significant limitations to the legislation as the proxy is not an instrument issued by the corporation, but by each owner.

There are many complications that would make it difficult for the strata corporation to control a limitation on proxies as it would end up violating owners’ voting rights without the knowledge of the owner. As a result, the importance of unrestricted proxies is to protect voting rights of owners. 

Unfortunately, there are individuals who abuse the power of proxies. Owners who issue proxies need to remember one important issue. Your proxy assignment (the proxy holder) may vote at their discretion if a secret ballot is called unless your proxy is specifically restricted.

As an owner, if you want to control the outcome, don’t issue a proxy. Show up at meetings and exercise your voting rights and obligations. 

There are other options to consider. If the townhouse units are being neglected at the expense of the apartment units, townhouse owners may apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal to obtain a decision ordering the corporation to repair the common property, including the townhouse units. 

Your strata corporation is not rare when it comes to unfair repair and maintenance of common property. The tribunal has the authority to order a strata corporation to conduct repairs if it is acting unfairly or not complying with the Strata Property Act or bylaws of the corporation. 

The BCLI project has just posted its final report on Common Property, Land Titles, and Fundamental Changes for Stratas. Since 2013, there have been five reports published, 206 recommendations made to government, one report implemented to amend the Act for Terminating a Strata, support of 18 participating committee members, 60 monthly meetings, nine project funders and 596 responses to public consultations. To read a copy of the final report go to: www.bcli.org

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Several options are available to address needed repairs

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Owners of strata property have options if council fail to approve repairs

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony: The parking garage under our strata corporation has been leaking for several years and our owners continue to defeat the resolutions to approve the necessary repairs. A three-quarters vote is impossible to pass.

We have several owners who claim they could do the repairs for much less than has been estimated by our consultants, but every alternate proposal fails to have specific details of the construction, fixed pricing or supervision of an independent consultant to ensure we are not swindled.

We also have 18 owner vehicles that have been seriously damaged from the leaks over their vehicles and there are no spare dry parking spaces.

As one of the owners I have had enough. The value of our property is being affected, our car is in one of the damaged parking spaces and we have serious concerns over the long-term structure of our parking garage if nothing is done. What can we do? 

Jeremy T.

 Dear Jeremy: There are several options available to owners for strata corporations who fail to approve the funds and projects to maintain and repair their properties.

The first option, which is voluntary, takes a bit of planning, but it makes it possible to proceed within a one-year period. If a strata corporation has a depreciation report and the depreciation report recommends a specific repair, the strata corporation may approve the expense from its contingency reserve fund by a majority vote.

While many strata corporations often do not have sufficient funds in their contingency account to be approved by majority vote, then, like approving expenses from the contingency fund, they are only required to approve contingency contributions as part of the annual general meeting by a majority vote. There is no limit to the amount.

Several strata corporations have already approved a substantial contingency contribution to move forward with major repairs. While the ideal option would have been to contribute sufficient funds over the years to plan for this event, this is really no different than a special levy.

The result is for a one-year period and everyone pays their special levy through their strata fees. This may have a significant psychological impact on sales, but unapproved special levies also have the same effect.  

In your strata corporation of 104 units, for a $1.3 million levy, the contingency contribution would average to $1,041 per unit monthly for one year. It is essentially the same as a special levy, except the payment dates are fixed with the monthly strata fees. 

 Other options result in court intervention or an application to the Civil Resolution Tribunal. The tribunal has the authority to issue an order to an owner, tenant or strata corporation to do something or stop doing something. Any owner may apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal seeking an order for the repairs.

The strata council may also apply to the Supreme Court of B.C. for an order for the repairs and the special levy if, at the time the three-quarters vote is taken and does not pass, more than half the votes cast were in favour. 

At your recent special general meeting, 66 per cent of those who voted on the resolution voted in favour of the special levy. Your council has the authority now to consult with a lawyer and proceed with a Supreme Court application for the repairs.

This is one of the most common applications and remedies for failing to proceed with necessary maintenance and repairs to buildings. 

If you do not reach more than half of the owners voting in favour, the two other court options would be for an owner to make an application to Supreme Court for a Tadeson order, where the court orders the repairs and levies, or where a strata corporation cannot no longer competently function and an application is made to the courts by an owner(s) where an administrator is appointed to manage either the project or the corporation.

My recommendation is always to take control of your projects, hire reliable consultants, consult with a lawyer on your resolutions and contracts and do whatever is necessary to approve your own funding. Otherwise the owners will be wasting time and money on disputes and failing to repair their property.

© 2019 Postmedia Network Inc.

Condo Smarts: Council has a duty to keep building secure

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Council has a duty to keep all building systems secure

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

How does a strata corporation manage access to common areas that contain mechanical equipment or which is not intended for recreational or casual use?

We have a council member who is insisting he be given common-area keys to the electrical rooms, the elevator shafts, the boiler rooms and our rooftop. As a 30-floor highrise, we have complicated operating systems, and the only services on our rooftop are our fresh-air intake and hallway blower system.

Our roof does not have guard rails and because of the wind, can be extremely dangerous at times. Our building manager has access to these areas and escorts contractors and service technicians when they require access or to review access if requested by a council member.

We have intentionally restricted keys and access to only the building manager and property manager to maintain security and safety. The council member is threatening court action if we don’t give him keys and access. How do we handle this?

Gary M., Vancouver

Dear Gary:

No council member has the exclusive right of access to the common service facilities of a highrise or apartment building. Who has access, how the areas are accessed and the procedures for access are all set by the strata council. This is a majority-vote decision at a council meeting.

You may want to develop your policy into a published rule the owners approve at a general meeting. This would require the policies you set would be maintained in the future. 

Your obligation as strata council is to act in the best interest of the strata owners and tenants and to maintain and repair common assets and common property. That schedule of maintenance includes the security of your assets.

You must also ensure activities comply with fire safety regulations, building codes, local government bylaws and provincial regulations administered through Technical Safety BC and WorkSafe. 

Unless a council member is escorting a service technician, inspector or emergency personnel, there should be no reason to access your building systems. Either the property manager or council will be responsible to verify service reports and logs to approve invoicing and payments. Copies of these reports should be included on invoicing to support approval.

Access for servicing to elevator shafts or your fire safety systems are only performed by certified technicians under contract. The same conditions should apply to roofing systems. Volunteer council members, owners and tenants are not covered by WorkSafe and in the event of an injury or fatality, the strata corporation will bear the liability of related claims. The limited coverage for such liability under your strata insurance policy is only for general volunteer maintenance.

The whole point of living in a strata corporation is the collective benefits of contracting services. When you live in a multi-family building, the regulatory authorities apply much higher standards of care and safety. 

The fireworks festival is the perfect example of why access to rooftops not intended for occupancy must be restricted. While everyone at the time is lured by the exclusive viewing of a rooftop seat, damage to roofing systems and the risk of a tragic incident is not worth the risk. The combination of an unprotected area and alcohol will never end well.  

It is your duty as the corporation and council to maintain the security of your building systems.  Convene a council meeting and establish procedures and policies for access to operational facilities.

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Condo Smarts: Strata act spells out rules regarding interest

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Strata act spells out rules regarding interest

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata corporation has just issued its final accounting report on a special levy that was collected over two years for a major building upgrade. The account collected $3.8 million and shows every strata lot owner as paid; however, there was a significant delay between the payments and contracting and owners are demanding to know why there is no interest generated.

Our original resolution approved in 2016 required the council to invest the special levy into term deposits so we could compensate for inflation. We also noted several owners were charged interest at a rate of 10 per cent annually when they paid their instalments late. None of this interest is shown and no one is disclosing where the funds were invested.

We have found out that as part of our contract, the interest collected was paid to our management company in addition to a three-per-cent fee to administer the project. How do we find out how much interested was generated?

Kevin W., Surrey

Dear Kevin:

The Strata Property Act clearly defines how interest is managed, how it is reported, where it must be deposited and how fees are approved. 

In addition to interest generated from investments of special levy funds, a strata corporation may charge a rate of interest that does not exceed 10 per cent annually. The rate is calculated monthly and compounded annually. This may be approved in either a bylaw or as part of a special levy resolution. 

When interest is generated as part of the late payment of special levies, that interest forms part of the special levy. Any interest earned by the special levy investment or late payment of fees becomes part of the reported income and expenditures of the special levy.

In addition to the financial statement showing the revenues of the special levy of the strata corporation as part of the annual financial report, the interest will generate a tax statement which forms part of the tax return that includes the financial statement updated to the end of the fiscal year. Owners may request copies of the bank statements and investment certificates for all accounts of the strata corporation, including special levy accounts, and may request a copy of the annual income tax return and the financial statement. Both types of interest generated from these sources must be shown.

If the strata corporation has contracted to pay a share of interest either from a special levy or a contingency reserve account to their management company, that amount must be approved by the owners at a general meeting by a three-quarters vote if the funds are paid directly from the special levy or contingency fund, or by a majority vote if the funds are paid from the operating fund. 

Bluntly put, no one gets to quietly contract a skimming of interest funds from the contingency fund or special levy fund without reporting the fee to the owners and obtaining their approval for the payment. A strata management contract does not override the three-quarters vote requirements for approval of special levy expenses or contingency expenses.

If your strata corporation or management company does not provide disclosure of the fees and interest calculated and paid out, 20 per cent your owners may either file a petition demanding a special general meeting to address this matter or any owner may file a complaint with the Civil Resolution Tribunal to obtain and order for provision of the records. Go to civilresolutionbc.ca to file a claim.

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Strata looks for guidance over federal election signs

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Political signs must be allowed

Tony Gioventu
Times Colonist

Dear Tony:

With the federal election in the fall, our strata council, which manages more than 500 units, is discussing a plan to manage political signs and requests from candidates who want to address owners and residents.

During the last provincial election, our building hosted a successful candidates’ debate night. However, council advised owners that our rules only permitted residents to display a sign no larger than a sheet of paper in their windows. That resulted in a number of protests from residents and several complaints about everyone’s right to express their political beliefs.

Marjorie T.

Dear Marjorie:

A strata corporation cannot prohibit election signs during federal, provincial, or municipal elections that are displayed from a strata lot.

Section 228.1 of the Election Act permits a landlord, a person or a strata/condo corporation to limit the size of a sign by setting reasonable conditions. However, for a strata corporation to set conditions on a lot requires a duly ratified bylaw — by a 3Ú4 vote at a general meeting — registered in the Land Title Registry before it is enforceable.

There is a chronic misunderstanding about the purpose and the role of rules in strata corporations. Rules cannot be used in connection with the application or use of a strata lot. Their intent is use and enjoyment of common/limited common property and common amenities. For example, the hours of the pool, or use of parking and storage lockers that are designated as common property.

A strata corporation may prohibit signs, or restrict them in size or location on common property including common areas within a building. A rule is approved by council by majority vote at a council meeting, then must be ratified at the next general meeting by a majority vote to continue to be enforceable.

The strata must also inform owners and tenants of any new rules or bylaws as soon as feasible after they are passed or ratified. It is important for each strata corporation to consider the type of strata you live in, before you adopt new rules or bylaws. The limitations of a highrise building will vary greatly from a bareland strata where each strata lot is five acres. A sign no larger than a piece of letter paper is not reasonable as it cannot be seen. If it cannot be seen, it is not freedom of expression.

A reasonable limitation permitting election signs will discourage residents from attaching or posting a 4 x 8 sign on their balcony, where a sign that is up to one metre square can be easily displayed from a strata lot window and may be a reasonable solution for the duration of an election period.

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Variations apply to strata rental bylaws

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Condo Smarts: Variations apply to bylaw rentals

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

If a strata corporation has a bylaw that limits the number of rentals to 10 out of 100, how are they counted? Our strata council has advised owners there are no rental spaces available; however, I am included as one of the rentals and my unit is exempt from the bylaws.

The strata corporation adopted a bylaw that sets all rentals included with the total count of rentals, but we were under the impression there were different types of rentals and they were counted separately. At this time, we have no one on the waiting list to rent a unit, but if there is a request, as a council member I want to confirm we are administering our bylaws correctly. 

Natalie Rasek

Dear Natalie:

A strata corporation is permitted to adopt a bylaw that limits the number of rentals in a strata corporation, either by a specific number or percentage. Unfortunately, this is often confused with the total number of rentals reported on a Form B Information Certificate.

There are four variations of rentals if a rental bylaw applies. The first is those owners who have no exemption and are permitted rentals under the bylaw. The second is an exemption of a family rental. (Family rentals are exempt from the bylaw for children or parents as tenants of the owner or the owner’s spouse.)

The third are hardship rentals. (Hardship rentals apply where an owner has made an application to the strata for an exemption based on a hardship.) The fourth is the owner developer rental exemptions created when the developer filed a Rental Disclosure Statement. Prior to 2010, the exemption applied to the first purchaser, and as of January 1, 2010, the exemption applies to all strata lots identified on the rental disclosure for the time period set out in the filed form.  Every strata corporation must have a copy of a rental disclosure if one was ever filed as it must be attached to a Form B Information Certificate.  

If properly administered, a strata corporation maintains a rental inventory based on the different exemptions and those that are captured under a rental bylaw. The total number of rentals is what is reported on a Form B, as a buyer has an interest in the total number of rentals to determine the nature of the building occupancy before they invest or reside. 

For the purpose of the rental bylaws, it is common for a strata corporation to administer a bylaw with a limit of 10 rentals; however, when all of the types of rentals are identified, there may be 20 or 30 rentals. 

Under the Strata Property Act, a residential strata lot that has been rented is not considered as a rental unit in the limit of rentals if the strata lot is exempt for family and hardship exemptions, and owner developer exemptions are exempt from rental bylaws, and not included in the total count.

It would be common in a strata corporation like yours with a 10-unit rental limit to have the following rental profile. Permitted rentals (10), family rentals (four), hardship exemptions (two), owner developer exemptions (five), total rentals reported on a Form B: (21). 

If your strata corporation has adopted a rental limitation bylaw, you will require an active inventory of the different types of rental use. Many buildings still have original owners pre-2010 that are likely still exempt from rental bylaws, and post-2010, small strata corporations of less than 10 units frequently do not have filed rental disclosure exemptions.

Whether a strata corporation has adopted rental bylaws or every unit is exempted, every landlord must provide a strata corporation with a Form K, notice of tenant’s responsibilities, for every type of residential rental, and the strata corporation still reports all residential rentals.

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President can’t have total control at meeting

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Avoid confusion, challenges to meeting procedures

Tony Gioventu
The Province

Dear Tony:

Our strata corporation held their annual meeting last week and we were bogged down in simple meeting procedures with the meeting being terminated by the chair and no business conducted.

Unfortunately, our strata president is a control freak and insisted he was in control of the meeting and refused to permit the owners to vote on the approval of the agenda, the minutes of our last meeting or the scrutineers to count ballots during elections.

Everyone suspected he rigged the scrutineers to ensure he would somehow be re-elected to council, as he also controlled the registration and did not permit anyone to see the proxies presented for voting cards. 

What can the owners do to prevent this from happening at our next meeting? Every time we give notice of a new meeting it costs our community $2,500, and we must approve a budget and elect a new council. 

Louise C.  Surrey

Dear Louise: 

The basic principle of general meetings is found in the Strata Property Act. Section 50 of the Act. At an annual or special general meeting, matters are decided by majority vote unless a different voting threshold is required or permitted by the Act or the regulations.  Where the Act or your bylaws requires a procedural decision, those decisions are generally a majority vote. Whenever a person is acting as the registrar of the meeting, and issuing voting cards to themselves, and taking minutes of the meeting, and acting as the chairperson, there is the potential for conflict and manipulation of the meeting outcome and record. 

The owners in person or by proxy at the meeting determine matters by majority vote once the meeting has been called to order. There are often informal decisions where the owners approve items, such as the agenda, previous minutes, or appointment of scrutineers by unanimous consent. The minutes may show the scrutineers were introduced and the owners approved their appointment by unanimous consent with no objections; however, if any person does object and requests a vote on the matter, the chairperson of the meeting must call for a majority vote on.

By routine practice, to avoid any confusion or challenges to the meeting procedures, and to ensure the strata is complying with the Act, I always seek the approval of the eligible voters by majority vote on procedural items in addition to the resolutions. This ensures eligible voters are aware of what decision is being made, they have the opportunity to raise questions to the matter, and there is a clear decision being recorded in the minutes.

With the ease of access to challenge a meeting under the Civil Resolution Tribunal, it ensures your meetings procedures are bullet proof.  If you have a person other than the president or vice-president of council chairing the meeting, it also requires a majority vote to elect that person to chair the meeting, if they are eligible under your bylaws.

There are agenda items that may arise where the chairperson is required to make some decisions, such as certification of proxies and determining whether an amendment or correction to a three-quarter vote, 80 per cent vote or unanimous vote is permitted. Even under these circumstances it is still possible for the eligible voters to challenge the chair and override the chairperson’s decision; however, the owners risk the liability of such a decision.

Compliance with the Act will give you the best chance of fairness and accuracy. Always confirm your strata corporation has a complete copy of your current bylaws at your general meetings for reference. 

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