The problem with condominium (strata) ownership

As noted in my last post, we recently moved out of strata living to a freehold house. I should first point out that while the rest of the country has some form of Condominium home ownership law, in British Columbia, densified housing ownership may be governed by the Strata Property Act. In BC, we refer to our condominiums as just “Strata” living, and that includes any property registered under that Act.

In more than 25 year of Strata living I have come to see the pitfall. The majority of owners, and the majority of people who volunteer (and not always selflessly) to be on council, simply do not understand law, or their own bylaws. This creates the problem of pitting neighbour against neighbour and can cause some pretty uncomfortable situations.

Take the case at our last home where people had converted their garages to living space. There was a covenant from the Township of Langley (“TOL”) against this. People had to sign a document, when they bought in, to say they would abide by these covenants. Yet, although we went to a lawyer to get advice on that purchase, never once did we see the covenants. It was only through volunteering with the Willoughby Residents Association that I found out what they were. Townhouses were sold with pictures showing converted garages, and nobody did anything about it.

Why?

Because in the TOL, they don’t enforce the covenants. They expect the Strata council to enforce it. And the Strata council can only act on a written complaint. So the end result? You have rules with no enforcement and nobody seems to care.

Except for the neighbours where there are noise complaints.

Noise complaints can take months to resolve. We had a “party house” beside us in one location. Although we complained weekly toward the end of the situation, the Strata council did nothing except send a letter to the owner (who didn’t live there). We started calling the RCMP weekly with the complaint and the result was the RCMP sat around after one complaint and when the noise started up again, hit everyone with undesirable consequences for ignoring the direction of a police officer. Sad, though, that it had to come to that because we endured vandalism and abuse in the meantime.

And some of the owners are so abusive it can take years to resolve but the abuse and illegal activity can cause mental health issues, as cited by this case of a Burnaby strata.

How does this relate to what I do, you ask? It’s all just part of my experience. It has helped me to see what works and what doesn’t in parts of my new endeavour – where to look for supportive behaviour and, like the Desiderata say, how to quickly ascertain that I should avoid loud and aggressive people.

But mostly, it has taught me that sometimes we need to quickly seek help of outside sources, like CHOA and the RCMP and not to let bad situations fester. And mostly, like Ontario, we need to start providing education to those who sit on Strata council. We need to make sure that if, as a community, we are going to provide living space in close quarters that we support the people who are managing the spaces, instead of leaving them to sink or swim.

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