Strata ownership not for everyone, warns advocacy group

Consumers must understand the most important difference of all: in a strata, you’re all in it together.

As housing prices in B.C. continue to climb, prospective owners look to cheaper alternatives, such as a strata, for their new home. But before signing a sales contract, there are a few things to consider, warns an advocacy group.

At nearly half the price of a single home, strata developments have sprouted up throughout the province.

But there is a difference between owning a strata and a single-family home, says Sandy Wagner, president of the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, noting that consumers must first understand the most important difference of all: in a strata, you’re all in it together.

“If it’s your own home and your roof is leaking, or your basement is flooding, it doesn’t affect anyone else but you. In a strata, it affects everybody, and everybody’s in it together,” she says.

Wagner suggests to ask for several years worth of strata council meeting minutes to get a better idea of any ongoing or upcoming issues or repairs that new owners would be subject to.

“It’s not required by law to supply those to prospective purchasers. They have to know to ask for them,” she says, adding some owners feel blindsided by certain issues in the strata that would otherwise been known if they had read the minutes beforehand.

A strata purchaser is also entitled to a document called a Form B, which has all the rules and a copy of all the financial statements, about parking assignments, planned special levies, strata fees and if there’s any debt for the strata lot.

This includes a depreciation report, which shows a 30-year projection of expenses for the large part of the complex, such as the roof, the structure and the boiler.

Strata council meeting minutes also highlight recent projects or issues the strata is dealing with.

The rules are also different from the bylaws set by the strata.

“The bylaws may say that the owners are responsible for repairing their own patios, or it can say that the strata corporation is responsible for that,” Wagner says, adding that it varies from strata to strata.

It’s certainly a lot to watch out for though, such as in the case of owners of a strata on Townsend Road in Sooke, who have to collectively pay thousands of dollars to rectify a poor drainage system that floods their backyards in fall and winter.