Here are 9 common strata council problems (and some solutions!):
Communication – Or Lack Thereof
Everyone in the strata (including the homeowners) aren’t open with each other. Emails are lost in cyberspace, and you and the rest of the council don’t know what the main issues are (is the elevator broken? Does the underground parking door freeze?)
You’re at your wits’ end. How do you get people to communicate properly?
Here are some tips for you:
- Check your emails regularly – Set a time each day to check emails (everyone on the council should do this). We suggest doing it just before lunch to avoid interrupting your productive morning hours.
- Answer your emails – Respond to EVERY email, even if it’s just to confirm that you read it. When owners don’t get responses to their emails, they lose trust in the council. You’d be surprised at what type of unrelated issues get solved when there’s a strong relationship between owners and the council.
- Consistent council meetings – Set consistent council meetings to go over all owner concerns that have been discussed or emailed in.
- Meeting minutes – Send all meeting minutes to owners (they need to know what’s going on, too!). Within 2 weeks is a good timeframe.
Legislation Changes Right When You Got Comfortable
You’re finally familiar with all the rules and regulations out there.
But then the government decides, “Hey! Let’s change some stuff. Like make cannabis legal!”
Then they change another law, and another one…
There’s a constant worry over what’s changing.
We constantly have to update our knowledge for all our strata clients. Here are the resources that we’re currently using:
If you don’t want to spend time checking for legislation changes, a property manager can take care of that for you.
Miscommunicated Bylaws = Accidentally Breaking The Strata Property Act
You try to set some bylaws, but you’re not certain which bylaws are required by the Strata Property Act, and which aren’t. Not complying with the Act can lead to repercussions like an expensive court case.
To get more of an idea of how bylaws in strata work, you can visit the BC government’s site.
Some of what the site tells you:
- What subject areas you can create bylaws in (e.g. who can or can’t be a council member, rental restrictions)
- What bylaws you NEED to have in place (e.g. such as the responsibility of strata to repair and maintain development, strata fee payments)
If the task of creating bylaws is daunting for you and your council, you can hire a property manager to aid you. While a manager can’t officially word your bylaws for you (only lawyers can help you with that), they can advise and give you examples of bylaws other strata corporations have drafted.
Drama Between Owners And Council Members – Oh My!
Not everyone agrees on everything.
Sometimes the owners in a strata dislike what your council is doing. Or two owners butt heads and create a tense situation.
How can you avoid this?
- Actually listen – All opinions have value, even if they’re coming from someone you don’t really like. Listening closely to all concerns and suggestions can solve many strata issues before they become worse. Plus, just the mere act of showing that you’re listening (paraphrasing their concerns back to them) can resolve issues (even if you don’t offer any real solutions).
- Concise meetings – Follow a set agenda during meetings (give someone the authority to keep the conversation on track).
- Meeting minutes – Be sure to send all meeting minutes to owners so they’re kept in the loop. This tells owners that you’re working on all current issues. Always get minutes to owners within 2 weeks after the meeting.
As a property management company, we have experienced our share of drama. All of our managers have undergone professional conflict resolution training so they can better aid strata corporations and douse drama before it gets out of control.
You could consider getting this type of training for your council members (though we’ve found it difficult to convince an entire council to do that).
Financials Are Jumbled
Your developer gave your treasurer a cheque meant for the strata fees, but when it was deposited, it was labelled as ‘unknown.’
Later, your council began to hound the developer for his payment. He, of course, was bemused. “I already paid!”
This is just one example of “messy accounting”. Other issues include:
- Invoices getting lost.
- No one knows how to bill for envelope projects (such as a new roof)
- There’s no contingency fund set in place
- An owner is trying to sell their unit, but the council has no idea if they have any outstanding fees with the strata (you can’t sell if your fees aren’t all paid up!)
Ways you can avoid these:
- Review all financial information available ASAP
- Work with the council to straighten the mess by:
- Organising financials with proper labels
- Keeping them filed properly
- Keep everything in a safe place. If you don’t have a property manager, we suggest you have a secure, separate computer/filing cabinet for all important documents.
- Someone’s personal laptop isn’t the best place. Google drive is a free cloud solution that we recommend.
- Hold on to all invoices, receipts, etc. in a locked file cabinet, preferably with the Treasurer if you don’t have a property manager.
Some people choose to hire a property manager for financials. They can step in, organise the mess, and give the responsibility to their bookkeepers. Financials are taken out of your council’s hands by this point (other than payment authorizations).
There Are No Procedures For Your Council To Follow
The roof is leaking, the elevator broke down, and there’s not a single bylaw tenants follow (which can cause massive problems such as complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission).
When your council holds meetings, everyone sits there and shrugs their shoulders.
“We have no idea how to fix this mess!”
Ways you can save the day:
- Understand each council role and ensure council members take care of all their duties
- Set meetings to discuss putting processes in place for things like:
- General meeting agendas
- Bylaw infractions
- Fee collections
- Maintenance decisions
Do you feel like your council needs some guidance? Our Ultimate Guide To Strata Management can help you and your council recognize what needs to be done, and how to do it.
Unapproved Alterations Are Causing Dangerous Consequences (Like A Sagging Ceiling!)
The tenant below you took out a wall in their unit. Now your floor is sagging.
Whoever did the landscaping around the building didn’t do it properly – so when it rains, the ground floor units get flooded.
Another unit placed new hardwood down, but they didn’t install proper underlay – so the people below them hear everything they do.
How can you avoid this?
- Hire proper contractors
- Ensure contractors have Worksafe BC
- Supervise all work being done on the development
Get a lawyer-drafted document signed by owners which states that no alterations can take place without proper authorisation (from the council and an owner vote).
You Don’t Know How To Deal With Emergencies
Here are some examples of emergencies:
- Death (e.g. someone passed away in their sleep)
- Flooding from:
- Burst water pipes
- Leaking dishwashers and tubs
- Water cascading to the lower units from sprinklers above
- Sewage back-up
What does your council need to do when one of the above happens?
- Insurance – Get in touch with your insurance company
- Restoration – Immediately contact a restoration company if there is significant property damage (restoration companies rebuild destroyed developments)
- Fees – Determine all costs and add them to your existing strata fees (namely, the insurance deductible)
Doing all of the above is arduous. Especially when it’s a fire or flood – everyone’s emotions are high. Their homes have been destroyed!
A good property manager is able to deal with everything for you, from beginning the restoration process to figuring out insurance. The management company itself should also have a 24-hour emergency service available to you.
We recommend you get Proper Condo Insurance – so you won’t get stuck with a huge deductible from the first insurance when emergencies happen.
You Can’t Sell Your Unit Because Information’s Getting Lost
You’re about to sell your unit, and you thought everything was ready.
Until your conveyancer tells you that you need to get your Form F and Form B.
You don’t have a clue what those are, and your council declares you don’t need it (they claim that it’s personal information that no one else needs to know about).
Cue a long, frustrating game of tug a war between council and conveyancer.
To start with, it’s important to know the definitions of Form F and Form B:
Form B: an informational form that covers a number of details regarding the home/strata lot. It’s typically requested prior to the sale of a home. Some examples of what’s in this form:
- Strata fees
- Outstanding fees
- Special levies
- Amendments to bylaws
- Strata lot number
Form F: a form that’s required during the sale of a home. It formally states that there are no outstanding fees on that unit, and that the homeowner is in good standing with the Strata Corporation or Homeowners Corporation.
Now you see why your conveyancer needs it!
Ways a good property manager creates a seamless selling experience:
- They make sure the process is generated by the realtor (not you!)
- They keep the strata council fully trained (and aware that they do, in fact, need to give out Form B’s or F’s if asked)
- They take the nitty-gritty out of the council’s hands – all paperwork is only dealt with by your manager.