The Issues

Based on public meetings held by the VISOA with strata owners, many strata legislation issues were identified. They are summarized below under 6 categories.

A. Strata Governance: The complexities of shared ownership in a strata development require owners and strata councils to have access to relevant and authoritative information on the requirements of the Strata Property Act. It also requires penalties for those who refuse to follow the Act in order to deter irresponsible actions. Presently, neither is in place.

B. Strata Management Licensees:In 2006 it became a legal requirement for a strata manager to be licensed by the industry-run Real Estate Council of BC.   After 5 years with this arrangement it is clear to many strata owners that it is not adequately protecting them from improper actions of “licensees”. Current legislation sets the same "rules" for strata managers as for realtors and does not include a specific code of ethics for strata managers.   Consequently, there is no requirement for a strata manager to comply with the Strata Property Act or to refrain from knowingly assisting non-compliance by a strata corporation.   Nor does a strata owner have effective access to the disciplinary process. Licensees are in a position of trust in advising strata councils but too often the advice is either incompetent or self-serving.   Undue influence by a strata manager can make it impossible for a strata council to pass the required motion for making a complaint to the Real Estate Council.   For too many situations the "rules" are weak or unenforceable or both.

C. Disclosure: Purchasers are not getting all the information they need to make an informed choice when considering a strata property.    Some of this information is not even available to existing owners because there is no requirement to maintain it or it is being concealed from them.    When documents are accessible the recipient may lack the skills or time to retrieve and interpret them while regulatory barriers prevent the recipient from hiring a specialist to do it.    Furthermore, owners do not have a statutory right to attend strata council meetings as observers."

D. Strata Development Approvals & Accountability: Serious irregularities have been found in some strata developments. The expense and stress of legal action put the strata owner at a big disadvantage when seeking recourse for unfair actions of large, well-funded developers. Developers are generally not accountable for actions that, through ignorance, neglect or even fraudulent misrepresentation, victimize strata buyers. Why? Because of weak penalties for non-compliance with the Real Estate Development Marketing Act and too few provisions to protect strata purchasers.

E. Property Taxation: Some strata corporations are required to contract privately for some services that are provided to other types of residential properties by the municipal government out of property taxes (eg. garbage pick-up, street cleaning). Where this occurs it means that strata homeowners are paying twice for the service. In some cases it appears reasonable for a municipal government to refuse a specific service to a strata property. In other cases the refusal is questionable.

F. Strata Fee Equity: Most stratas are required to divide up their costs among owners on the basis of a formula established when the strata was created. Some have found the formula to be unfair for some types of units in the strata. Often the unfairness could have been reasonably foreseen when the strata was created but weak oversight enabled the formula to be registered.

For further details on 30 specific issues and possible legislation alternatives for each one, please see the complete VISOA report “Beyond the Sales Pitch: Ensuring transparency & Accountability in BC Strata Developments” at: VISOA Beyond the Sales Pitch