Historically, the law allowed landowners to subdivide their land into two or more separate pieces. The owner of any piece of land also owned the buildings on it. But what if the owner of a building wanted to subdivide it into several parts with different owners? Although an owner could subdivide land, the law did not easily permit the owner to subdivide a building into separately owned parts. The strata concept is the solution.
What is a “strata” development? A strata development is a special way of subdividing a building, or sometimes land, into separate parts for individual ownership together with common property.
A strata development consists of strata lots, common property and sometimes common assets.
When a developer creates a strata development, it subdivides the relevant building, or in some cases land, into strata lots and common property. The parts created for individual ownership are called “strata lots.” This is what allows a person, for example, to own his or her apartment. Informally, we often call this part a “strata unit” or a “condominium.” The rest of the development consists of common property.
When a person acquires ownership of his or her strata lot, that person automatically also becomes a part-owner of the common property and common assets. According to the Strata Property Act, that owner, together with the owners of all the other strata lots, owns a proportionate interest in the common property as a tenant in common. Each owner’s proportionate share is set out in a document called the Schedule of Unit Entitlement.
Except as permitted by the Strata Property Act, an owner cannot separate his or her interest, as the owner of a strata lot, from the owner’s proportionate interest in the common property and common assets. Any document that deals with the strata lot automatically also deals with the owner’s share in the common property and common assets of the strata corporation. This means, for example, that a strata lot owner cannot sell his or her proportionate interest in the common property and common assets while keeping his or her interest in the strata lot.
In a strata development, all the owners contribute to common expenses. Life in the development is mainly governed by the Strata Property Act and regulations, and by the development’s bylaws and rules.
Every strata development has bylaws that reflect the strata community’s values, and these govern how owners and tenants may use their strata lots, the common property and common assets.
The Strata Corporation
The owners of the strata lots form the strata corporation. Every strata lot has a vote. Every year, eligible voters in the strata corporation elect a strata council to carry out the day-to-day work of the strata corporation. Major decisions that affect strata owners or their strata lots must be made by the eligible voters in general meetings. Among other things, eligible voters may, with sufficient community support, direct the activities of the strata council, requisition special general meetings or place items on a general meeting’s agenda.
The Strata Scheme is Self-Enforcing
There is no government body that regulates compliance with the strata legislation. There are no strata police.
To enforce the Strata Property Act, an owner’s first step is political. The owner may use the machinery in the Act by which he or she may call a general meeting. Using the steps necessary to place an item on the meeting’s agenda, the owner may put forward a resolution to cause the strata council to do what is necessary for the strata corporation to comply with the legislation. If, for some reason, the political remedy is not workable, the owner’s next step is legal. Any owner may apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for an order requiring the strata corporation to comply with the legislation. In addition, the Act permits owners and tenants to arbitrate certain disputes among themselves or with the strata corporation.
There is much more to know about strata but this gives you a good start.