More B.C. residents are ending up in residential strata units with the growth in multifamily condo buildings.

Top 10 tips for strata home buyers

B.C. notaries offer essential advice to avoid future strata trouble before signing on the dotted line

More than 1.5 million B.C. residents live in residential stratas – more than a third of the province’s population – but the rules imposed by strata councils can be a dangerous minefield for new buyers.

With that in mind, the Society of Notaries of B.C. has issued a top 10 list of essential tips for potential strata unit buyers to consider:

1. Carefully read through the strata’s bylaws and find out if any new bylaws are being proposed at an upcoming Annual General Meeting or Special General Meeting.

2. Parking can be contentious, so find out if the parking stalls are owned by the strata lot, or are limited common property with the right to exclusive use that can be assigned to the buyer by the seller, or are common property whose use can be re-assigned by the strata council upon sale.

3. Find out whether an engineering report has been obtained to determine any current or potential problems – if so, review the findings and ask what will be done to address problems.

4. Keep in mind B.C.’s leaky condo crisis, and discover whether there have been previous problems with water ingression in the building envelope, and whether it has been professionally remediated.

5. Ask whether major maintenance work is required in the future (eg. replacing the roof, balconies, re-plumbing, etc.).

6. Look into whether any legal action against the building or strata is in progress.

7. Find out how much money is in the contingency reserve.

8. Smoking can be an issue, so look into what you could do about an adjacent owner smoking on his or her patio or balcony.

9. Seek the advice of experienced real estate and legal professionals before you invest in a strata home.

10. Make an offer to purchase a property conditional upon your notary or lawyer’s approval.

Delta-based notary and society president John Eastwood said strata councils are “local mini-governments” that administer the Strata Property Act and the strata’s own set of rules.

The lower maintenance, shared amenities and relative affordability of condos, townhomes and other strata properties as compared to single-family homes offer benefits for many B.C. home buyers.

“But, like any major purchase, it’s important buyers ensure they really understand the rules and regulations specific to each strata property,” added David Watts, a notary in downtown Vancouver.

The bylaws can include restrictions on age, pets, rentals, and other factors intended to benefit all owners, but they also impose limitations on the owners’ use of their property, Eastwood says.

“In some cases, the bylaws are updated every few years, which may introduce further, unexpected restrictions.”

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