Non Conforming Stratas

If you’re in the market for a duplex or small townhouse complex, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “non conforming strata”. Typically the Listing Agent is insinuating that the Strata does not have an active strata council, they do not have meetings, they do not have strata fees, they do not hold an operating or Contingency fund and they do not follow standard bylaws.

HOWEVER – these Stratas might be non compliant with the Strata Property Act in certain ways, but they aren’t *allowed* to be non compliant. All Strata properties are still required to follow the Strata Property Act Regulations and Bylaws even though they choose not too. This means that, technically, owners can force other others in the Strata to follow the Strata Property Act and Bylaws so owners need to be weary if they don’t follow the rules despite living in a “non conforming strata”.

Here’s a CHOA Article to explain:

https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/800-243-02092016-Duplex-Woes.pdf

You may be wondering, how do they operate if they don’t follow the rules? These Stratas are all a bit different since the owners can dictate the style of management. I find a lot of decisions are made via email and informal meetings though I’ve also seen situations where some owners do things around the complex that they should be coordinating with the owner owners. It can be hard to gather information about these Stratas when there aren’t good records of past maintenance and management.

Maintenance

Any Strata (including non conforming) is still responsible for any common property and required maintenance to the common property. Common property includes the exterior and any common pipes/venting running between walls. Costs are shared between owners (typically based on the unit entitlement found on the strata plan) if regular maintenance is needed on common property.

All owners should agree in writing of the cost, company and other pertinent details related to common Strata maintenance. This need for agreement is why you hope all owners are of a similar mindset. Owners need to agree on regular maintenance every year: gardening, gutter cleaning, roof evaluations and maintenance, exterior cleaning, etc. Owners also need to agree on major projects, including roof replacement, exterior painting, new windows, etc. If the home needs maintenance and an owner isn’t willing to pay for it, you’ll likely have to gather proof that the maintenance is needed or pay for it if it’s an necessary repair, and then take the issue to the Civil Rights Tribunal (CRT) to recoup your money or force the repair – an annoying and potentially costly situation.

Helpful CHOA Article about forcing needed maintenance:

https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/800-260-12012017-How-do-we-get-our-Roof-Fixed.pdf

The Strata is also responsible to ensure there is an up to date Strata Insurance Policy on the common property. Every owner should also have personal insurance to cover their contents, updates, accidents, etc.

Helpful CHOA Article:

https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/pdf/300/300-335_062109_Duplex_insurance.pdf

Costs

All maintenance and common Strata costs should be split based on the Unit Entitlement. The Unit Entitlement is a calculation found on the registered Strata Plan. It dictates each unit’s ownership of the complex based on unit size. For example, duplex costs are not shared 50/50. They are shared based on the Unit Entitlement (for example, it may be a 55/45 ownership split).

Required maintenance and project costs are out of pocket costs if there is no Budget or Contingency Fund.

Bylaws

These small, non conforming Strata’s don’t often follow the standard BC Strata Property Act Bylaws. But they should. All Strata Properties are required to follow the BC Strata Property Act Bylaws. Legal amendments to the Strata Bylaws are required when Owners choose to operate outside of these Standard Bylaws.

For example, the Standard Property Act Bylaws only allows for 1 dog or cat. If you have 2 pets, you should get express permission from the Strata for both pets and should have the Bylaw legally amended. Opinions can change, so have the Bylaw amended immediately while you have at least 75% of owners in agreement. A new owner can force you to comply with the original Bylaws if the amendment was never filed. They can force you to get rid of your 2nd pet.

Here’s a link to the BC Strata Property Act Bylaws if you want to review what EVERY strata is legally required to follow. Potential Buyers should consider how many Strata Property Act Regulations and Bylaws the existing Strata does not follow. Be weary if the Strata seems to misunderstand their requirements when it comes to common property maintenance and repair.

Similar to maintenance issues, bylaw issues that can’t be resolved between Owners may need to be resolved through a Civil Rights Tribunal (CRT) .

Best Practice

Best practice would be for the Strata to follow the standard Strata Property Act Regulations and Bylaws This practice includes holding annual AGMs (and other meetings as necessary), crafting a budget, maintaining a common Strata bank account, keeping meeting and financial records and amending bylaws. Get a legal opinion with regards to how the strata should be run, especially if the Strata has been non conforming.

Helpful CHOA Article:

https://www.choa.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/pdf/800/800-157-18122014-Non-Conforming-Stratas.pdf

When a duplex or triplex unit is non conforming to the BC Strata Property Act, we’ll try to get as much information as possible. We’ll ask about the other neighbours, how they typically manage maintenance and issues, how much work they do themselves around the complex and who typically takes the lead.