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Posts tagged ‘bylaws’

What is a Strata Duplex – And Why Are They So Great?

I’ve always been a fan of strata duplexes – and I’ve never understood why some people shy away from them. Often, I find the same people who would not buy a duplex would quite readily buy a townhouse, which seems counter-intuitive to me.

A strata duplex is a duplex which is registered under the Strata Property Act. The purpose of such registration is to allow each side to have a separate title, and therefore, enable each side to belong to different owners. You could think of a strata duplex as a 2-unit condo or townhouse complex. Each side is a separate strata lot (like each unit in a condo building), and the common property is the exterior of the building including the roof, and sometimes, a common driveway. Usually the yard area is designated as limited common property: common property designated for the exclusive use of a certain strata lot.

The difference between a strata duplex and a condo or townhouse lies in the way the Strata Property Act affects the owners. Typically, strata duplexes are much less formal than condos or townhouses. Technically, they are subject to the same rules and regulations as any other strata – they must have a council, records, bylaws, collect strata fees, and contribute to a contingency fund. However, in practice, most strata duplexes do none of this. Beyond splitting the cost for insurance (a fire/earthquake policy covering the exterior of the building and common property liability) and common property maintenance and repairs (cleaning gutters, roof maintenance, etc), there is very little strata-like business that goes on in a strata duplex.

Strata duplexes are great because they are often larger and cheaper than a comparable townhouse, and don’t have some of the potential headaches that come with strata property ownership. Instead of 50 other owners to deal with and make happy, there are two. Good neighbour policy will prevail in most cases and the owners will come to an agreement about repairs and maintenance. In addition, you will often find that strata duplexes have much larger lots than the tiny postage-stamp that you’d have in a townhouse.

Sometimes, you can find a half duplex with a rental suite in it, making it ever-more-affordable and potentially attractive from an investor’s standpoint. It’s important to note, however, that most suites in duplexes are unauthorized.

If you’re considering buying a townhome or condo, you should look into a half duplex – you might be surprised to find a great alternative. If you decide to buy a half duplex, it would be wise to inquire with the owner of the other half about maintenance responsibilities. Obviously, it’s no good to replace just your half of the roof if the whole thing is getting to the point of replacement and the other owner refuses or doesn’t have the money. You’ll want to ensure the other owner is on the same page as you about replacing it.

If you’ve got a strata duplex to sell, and want an agent who understands this market segment, I’d love an interview. For more information about strata duplexes, including current listings, contact me.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Is Sunriver Estates in Sooke a Strata?

Sunriver Estates in Sooke has many different home designs, including this Riverstone plan.

This is a question I get all the time from people who are interested in buying a home in Sooke’s popular Sunriver Estates subdivision.

The answer is no, Sunriver is not a strata. There are no councils, meetings, minutes, or strata fees. Each detached home in the development is a fee simple title, which is the same as most other detached homes in British Columbia. However, there is a townhouse complex at Sunriver, which is a strata with the usual implications thereof.

What Sunriver is, is a planned community, meaning that you can’t simply purchase a lot and build whatever home you please on it. The developer at Sunriver has the exclusive rights to sell the lots, and will only do so with the purchase of a building contract to go with it. There are a number of different home designs to choose from, both single level and two-storey, and almost all the homes can have a basement built under them for an extra level.

 While Sunriver Estates in Sooke is not a strata, people often ask me about the “rules” for the community. A common rumour is that you’re not allowed to have a boat or RV in your driveway at Sunriver. This isn’t exactly accurate. All homes at Sunriver have a building scheme registered on title. A building scheme is a set of restrictions that a developer will register on the title to the lots to ensure a community that is uniform in appearance and neat and tidy. For example, it’s common for a developer that is selling only building lots to stipulate a minimum size for the homes or that mobile homes are not allowed.

Sunriver’s building scheme has a few stipulations about boats and RVs at Sunriver. Basically, they want them out of sight. Keep them in the back yard or screened behind a fence or lattice and you’ll have no problems. That being said, there is always the question of who enforces a building scheme, how they would do that, what the penalty would be for violation, and under what conditions would they enforce it, i.e., would it take a complaint from a neighbour?

Take a drive around Sunriver – you’ll see plenty of examples of boats and RVs in various states of compliance or non-compliance with the building scheme.

If you have any questions about Sunriver Estates, please take a moment to email me at Tim@TimAyres.ca, call me at 250-885-0512, or fill in my contact form – I’m always happy to help.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #3 – Maintenance Responsibilities

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

Spiderman Survives the Recession

Spiderman Survives the Recession

Q. Who is responsible for the exterior maintenance of a strata complex (including washing windows)?

A. The easy answer here is it depends, but usually it’s the strata corporation who is in charge of the exterior maintenance of a strata complex like a condominium or townhouse.

When you own a condo or townhouse, you own the strata lot and a share of the common property of the strata corporation. Your strata lot is basically everything inside the walls of your unit and sometimes a parking space and/or storage locker. The common property is the strata building itself including the roof, windows, balconies, exterior walls, driveways, landscaping, hallways, elevators, and so on. Everyone pays strata fees, the amounts proportional to the size of their strata lot, which are used to insure, maintain and repair the common property.

The BC Strata Property Act, Part 2, Section 3 says:

Responsibilities of strata corporation

3 Except as otherwise provided in this Act, the strata corporation is responsible for managing and maintaining the common property and common assets of the strata corporation for the benefit of the owners.

Usually this means that the strata corporation would be responsible for paying to have the exterior of the building cleaned and the windows washed. Most responsible complexes have this done a couple of times a year. However, sometimes there are bylaws in place that place the duty to maintain the exterior of the strata buildings on the shoulders of the individual owners. A good example of this would be a detached townhouse complex where each owner would be responsible for replacing his or her own roof, since it only directly benefits that owner.

Part 5, Division 1, Section 72 of the BC Strata Property Act says: (emphasis mine)

Repair of property

72 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the strata corporation must repair and maintain common property and common assets.
(2) The strata corporation may, by bylaw, make an owner responsible for the repair and maintenance of

(a) limited common property that the owner has a right to use, or
(b) common property other than limited common property only if identified in the regulations and subject to prescribed restrictions.

(3) The strata corporation may, by bylaw, take responsibility for the repair and maintenance of specified portions of a strata lot.

The Strata Property Act Standard Bylaws say: (emphasis mine)

Repair and maintenance of property by owner

2 (1) An owner must repair and maintain the owner’s strata lot, except for repair and maintenance that is the responsibility of the strata corporation under these bylaws

(2) An owner who has the use of limited common property must repair and maintain it, except for repair and maintenance that is the responsibility of the strata corporation under these bylaws.

and;

Repair and maintenance of property by strata corporation

8 The strata corporation must repair and maintain all of the following:

(a) common assets of the strata corporation;
(b) common property that has not been designated as limited common property;
(c) limited common property, but the duty to repair and maintain it is restricted to

(i)  repair and maintenance that in the ordinary course of events occurs less often than once a year, and
(ii)  the following, no matter how often the repair or maintenance ordinarily occurs:

(A)  the structure of a building;
(B)  the exterior of a building;
(C)  chimneys, stairs, balconies and other things attached to the exterior of a building;
(D)  doors, windows and skylights on the exterior of a building or that front on the common property;
(E)  fences, railings and similar structures that enclose patios, balconies and yards;

(d) a strata lot in a strata plan that is not a bare land strata plan, but the duty to repair and maintain it is restricted to

(i)  the structure of a building,
(ii)  the exterior of a building,
(iii)  chimneys, stairs, balconies and other things attached to the exterior of a building,
(iv)  doors, windows and skylights on the exterior of a building or that front on the common property,
(v)  fences, railings and similar structures that enclose patios, balconies and yards.

So, while the standard bylaws and the Act say that it’s the strata corporation’s responsibility for exterior maintenance,  it’s possible that your strata complex may have enacted a bylaw that requires the owners to wash their own windows, maintain their own landscaping, or perform other exterior maintenance. To be sure, you’ll have to read your strata corporation bylaws carefully.

If you have a question about strata property, or any other real estate matter, please e-mail me at Tim@TimAyres.ca or fill in my contact form. I can also be reached by phone at 250-885-0512

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #1: Bare Land Stratas

bareland-strata

Inspired by my most recent First-Time-Buyer Friday post, I have decided to dedicate a new tag on this blog to covering strata issues. So, without further ado, we have the first weekly, but much less alliterative, Strata Mondays.

Q. When searching Realtor.ca the other day, I saw a property listed as a bare land strata. What’s that all about?

A bare land strata is a type of strata corporation where instead of a large building being divided up into strata lots (condos or townhouses) to facilitate individual ownership of the units, a large tract of land is divided up into strata lots. In this case, the strata lot is quite literally, a vacant lot.

Bare land stratas are quite common in semi-rural areas where all lots in a subdivision will share a common sewage treatment system, allowing the developer to subdivide the large tract into smaller lots this is because by sharing, each individual house does not need to have its own septic field, which takes up considerable amounts of room. Often, this is the sole reason for the strata, and as such, fees are generally very low, covering only things like maintenance and operation of the septic system, and insurance for the common property.

Common property, which is shared proportionally by all owners in the strata, is usually the septic field and/or its equipment, the road or shared driveway, and often some visitor parking areas.

Bareland stratas are usually much more casual than other strata corporations. Meetings are held informally and very infrequently. Often there is just a president and a treasurer that handle the corporation’s business, rather than a full strata council. By-laws are usually just the standard-form bylaws prescribed under the Strata Property Act. This can be both good and bad. Because they are so relaxed, you usually need not worry about being told what to do with your property or being constantly reminded of by-laws and worrying about infractions. However, this can also be taken advantage of by a bad neighbour or tenant who moves into and disrupts the neighbourhood by, say, parking a humongous boat, 2 other vehicles and a bunch of other junk on his or her front lawn. If the strata doesn’t have any by-laws about this, it may be forced to create some.

If you’re buying into a bare land strata, you should know that it’s very likely that there won’t be extensive financial records, by-laws, meeting minutes, and other documents you’d expect to find if you bought a townhouse or condo. A bank statement showing the amount in the strata account is often the extent of it.

One thing you should be aware of is whether or not the strata corporation owns the land upon which its sewage treatment system sits. Sometimes, this often sizable parcel is owned by the strata. In this case, if and when municipal sewers are extended to the strata and the sewage plant becomes redundant, the strata corporation can sell the land and equipment and the proceeds are then split among the owners. However, sometimes the strata is merely granted an easement or license to operate the septic system until such time as it becomes redundant. In this case, the strata can sell the equipment, but the land is up to the owner (often, the developer that built the subdivision).

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Some Interesting Victoria Condo Statistics

Cook Street Village in the Fall

Cook Street Village in the Fall

One of the things I like about our real estate market is that it’s small enough that I can be confident selling homes and acreages here in Sooke where I live, and also helping people move to other regions in the Victoria Area. I started selling real estate in Vancouver, and it is much harder to do, due to the vastly larger geographic area of the region.

One of the challenges of a career in real estate is dealing with unforeseen problems. Case in point, yesterday. I have some clients that were supposed to close and move into their first condo in Victoria yesterday. I helped get them a great price on a large two bedroom right in Cook Street Village – an awesome location. As their notary was about to register title, she was reading through the strata minutes and came upon a notice dated about 2 weeks ago (well after we’d finalized the contract and removed conditions) that the strata council had called a special general meeting for next week to consider a vote to restrict the building to those aged 55 and older. While the bylaw, if passed, wouldn’t affect my clients (they’d be “grandfathered”), it may affect their ability to sell the unit when the time comes. No one bothered to tell either the listing REALTOR® or I about the proposed change.

Naturally, they were quite upset about it, and investigated whether they had a legal right to walk away from the contract, which they didn’t want to do because this is the perfect place for them. Their legal rights are pretty slim, since the Contract doesn’t provide for this sort of a situation, and functionally, it’s the same as if the noticed was delivered the day after they moved in, which could happen at any time.

To help ease their minds, I ran a few statistics for 55+ condos vs regular condos in Victoria over the past year. I really couldn’t find a conclusive difference in the selling price; in fact, it appeared that 55+ units sold for more than this unit on a per-square-foot basis.

So I thought I’d look at it from a different angle. Surely, if you restrict a building to those aged 55 and older, you’re cutting out a good chunk of your market and it should take longer to sell, right? Wrong! I found virtually NO difference in the days on market for comparable 55+ condos and regular condos in Victoria. Average time on market is about 66 days for each in the past year.

That being said, I still think it’s a bad idea for condominiums and their strata councils to restrict places based on age unless it’s a specifically-designed retirement community (assisted living, for example). Any way you look at it, you’re cutting out a good portion of your market, and with the number of condos on the market in Victoria increasing all the time, your pool of potential buyers starts to get pretty thin.

Instead, why not deal with the issues directly? Is the problem that you’re worried about noise? Enact a noise bylaw and enforce it! Parties? Same thing – enforce a bylaw! Personally, I’d rather live in a building that has mostly older folks in it – I enjoy my peace and quiet. There are better ways to control the “problems” from younger residents than barring them completely.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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