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).
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