Is strata living ‘your cup of tea’?
by Agnes Chung
After years of savings, you finally bought your dream condo in a friendly complex. Beautifully landscaped, nicely appointed, close to work, and at an affordable price! But two months into enjoying your new home, the unit below you sold, and a chain-smoker moved in. Every night, you smell cigarette smoke wafting into your bedroom while you sleep. You had an amicable talk with your new neighbour, and raised the issue with your strata council, but the problem persisted.
Strata living or community-style living can come with drawbacks like this scenario, but there are some real perks, too. In Metro Vancouver’s sizzling hot real estate market, where land value continues to skyrocket, strata living has become a popular lifestyle choice.
What is Strata Living?
“Living in a strata is a different lifestyle from single family detached. Think of the condo or your townhouse as a collective of owners sharing a building structure, common grounds, amenities, and parking garages,” says Tony Gioventu, Executive Director of Condominium Home Owners Association of BC (CHOA).
In strata housing, owners own their individual lots (condo units, townhouses, duplexes, fractional vacation properties), but share the ownership of the common property and assets. These also include electrical and plumbing lines running in a common property zone, and building attachments like doors and windows, and structures (like ceilings and walls the owner shares with neighbouring units). Generally, anything within the walls of the owner’s lot is deemed as personal property, and under the owner’s care.
Who Manages Strata Affairs?
All owners together form the strata corporation, which normally meets annually to vote for a council. With the support from the corporation’s appointed strata management company, the elected strata council manages the corporation’s affairs in accordance to the BC Strata Property Act and Regulations as well as the Strata Building Bylaws and Rules. Most strata council members are not paid for their work. While it can be a rewarding experience making certain decisions on the corporation’s behalf and contributing towards community betterment – it can also be challenging if you’re working with uncooperative peers and difficult owners.
Council members are typically volunteer owners who may or may not have experience. There are educational programs including public seminars and forums that individuals can attend. CHOA, a non-profit association offers weekend and evening seminars starting at $30 per session. The seminars are practical and very informative.
Advantages and Drawbacks
“Strata owners share the benefits of community living and often find they have services like swimming pools and recreation facilities, the collective security of larger communities and the sharing of operating costs,” adds Gioventu. “A key benefit of the collective is contracted services for landscaping, gutter cleaning and building maintenance.
With the introduction of the Civil Resolution Tribunal to resolve strata disputes, owners now have quick affordable access to resolve conflicts within a strata quickly.”
Strata living involves cooperation and compromise to relish your lifestyle choice. The decision ultimately lies in the individual preferences and acceptance levels. Before signing on the dotted line, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons to explore if strata living is your cup of tea.
• Affordability – costs less than a detached home.
• Community – live in community with shared maintenance responsibilities; live in close proximity to neighbourhood support, family and friends.
• Convenience – access to public transportation, shopping, entertainment, and medical.
• Shared home maintenance cost – common property and assets maintenance shared by owners.
• Social network – opportunity to meet new people
• Recreational facilities – private pool, fitness centre or even golf course.
• Shared facilities – parking garage cannot be converted to your own repair shop or storage space. Restrictions on party times and use of common space.
• Pet limitation – some stratas do not allow pets or limit the size.
• Proximity living – living so close to neighbours means possible issues with smoke and noise.
• Decision-making – reliant on the strata council or the majority owners. Giving up independent decision-making and freedoms to abide by a set of regulations.