What is a condominium?
A condominium is essentially a parcel of land with a building subdivided under a condominium act that typically consists of parts or units used as dwellings, with the remainder (roofs, gardens, corridors, elevators, recreation amenities, etc.), forming the common property. In British Columbia, a strata title created under the province’s Strata Property Act enables land to be divided into what are called strata lots.
The owner of the individual strata lot has an estate in fee simple in respect of a described part of the building, designated air space (vertical ownership), or bare land, as well as an interest as a tenant in common in respect of the remaining common areas. The term ‘strata’ is used in British Columbia, while it is called a ‘condominium’ in other North American provinces.
What is a strata council?
The Strata Property Act requires all condos to have a strata council which acts as a managing body responsible for the management and upkeep of the condo building. The council exercises the power and performs the duties of the strata corporation, including the enforcement of bylaws and rules. Every year is held a general meeting where the strata council is elected, which is determined by the bylaws and usually consists of three to seven members. The documentation of these meetings are called ‘minutes’, and record every event that occurs. These minutes are required to be handed over to the homebuyer upon transfer.
What are strata fees?
Every condo owner is required to pay a monthly strata fee that pays for the annual budget expense as set by the strata corporation. The fee is determined through what is called a Schedule of Unit Entitlement which factors in the square footage of your strata lot as registered in the strata plan. The monthly fee forms part of the Operating Fund, and covers maintenance for the common areas (landscaping, cleaning, etc.), as well as the Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF) which is set aside as savings for long-term improvements or repairs to the property. Your strata fee will depend on a variety of factors (square footage, building size, etc.), which averages anywhere from $200 to $400 and up.
The fees are due and payable on or before the first day of the month. If the fee is not paid by the strata lot owner, the strata corporation may register a lien in the Land Title Office against their strata lot, which may result in court action for the sale of the owner’s strata lot to pay the amount owing under the lien.
What is a strata plan?
When the developer subdivides the land into strata lots and common property, a document called the strata plan must be filed at the Land Titles Office. A Strata Corporation is formed through filing this document. Anyone can access these records through BCOnline, and it is advised you do so to verify the details of your property.
What is a special assessment?
One of the inherent risks of condo ownership is the unforeseeable problem of structural integrity. An example is what is referred to as the Leaky Condo Crisis in British Columbia, where shoddy building practices and inadequate building codes have led to a malfunction in the building’s envelope system (exterior weather proofing), resulting in thousands of dollars worth of damage that the strata lot owners must pay to fix. The special assessment is calculated proportionately by the strata lot’s square footage, and can sometimes amount to five figures.