What is a Strata?
[Strata 101 Series]
When people ask the question, what is a strata? (or “condominium/divided co-property” outside of BC), the common answer is to talk about condos. But the reality is, there are MANY different types of stratas. Strata can include apartments, duplexes, vacation homes, townhomes, single houses on bare land strata…you name it.
But you’re probably wondering, what makes all these living arrangements a strata? We’ve got you covered. We have prepared everything you need to know about what a strata is, pros and cons of different types of ownership (strata, freehold, leasehold) and how to determine what is (and isn’t) a strata.
What is a strata?
A strata is a group of individual owners that are part of a whole. The whole they create is a separate legal entity and should be looked at as an “individual”. Under this strata arrangement, owners own their individual strata lots while together owning the common property and common assets as a strata corporation.
Take an apartment building for example. Apartment buildings are composed of many individual units (strata lots), and areas such as the lobby and parking lot are shared spaces (common property).
What is a strata corporation?
A strata corporation is the legal term for strata. A strata is created when a developer registers it with the Land Title Office and receives a strata plan such as “LMS1234” or “EPS1234”. Strata plans help map out what is common property, what is limited common property and what is a part of a strata lot.
Once incorporated as a strata corporation, it has the power to operate as its own entity. This means that it can represent all the owners, and like a human, can make decisions and even sign contracts. All strata plans in BC are held with the Land Title & Survey Authority.
How do you determine what is considered a strata?
So now the BIG question is…how do you tell what is and what isn’t a strata? The size? The units? The answer is: you can’t tell by simply looking at the physical attributes of a property.
Instead, you must ask about the governance and legal structure of the property. If a property has been designated as a strata, it would have been filed with the Land Title Office by the developers.
Note: All stratas are governed by the Strata Property Act and a set of province-wide regulations (See next section).
What is the Strata Property Act?
The Strata Property Act is a legislative document that governs all stratas. It covers important information about governance, records, contracts, meetings, voting, property, finances, bylaws, insurance and more.
It dictates what should and should not be done and is a standard document that stratas should refer to if there are no amendments made in your community’s own bylaws.
However, when setting out the legal requirements for a strata corporation, there are multiple sources of information. The Strata Corporation’s bylaws and rules (which are often amended and adjusted) can be affected by any court decisions and the Civil Resolution Tribunal.
Finally, strata Council Members and Owners should also keep in mind any provincial legislation that can interact with the previous ones, including:
- The Homeowner Protection Act.
- The Human Rights Code.
- The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and more.
Note: If you have any questions about any of these acts or codes of conduct, please consult a licensed Strata Lawyer.
What are the different types of property ownership?
Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a property veteran, identifying the different types of properties that exist – and the type of ownership that comes with it – can help save you a lot of time and surprise later down the road. Here, we’ll cover three of the most common property types:
As discussed earlier, strata property is a type of community living where the building or land is divided amongst many owners. This gives you access to not only your individual unit but oftentimes, also common property like shared amenities and storage lockers. There are a few types of strata property:
- Residential – comprised of solely residential strata lots (such as housing)
Note: To learn about a common – and sometimes overlooked – type of residential strata, see the next section: What’s a bare land strata? [Link to section]
- Commercial – comprised of solely commercial or business strata lots (such as office space)
- Mixed – comprised of a mix of residential and commercial strata lots (such as buildings with retail stores and housing)
Note: When discussing the division of strata lots, you may also hear the term “air space parcel”. This term refers to a volume of space above one’s property, and can comprise of air, land, or even a building. This may be important to some owners as it plays a factor in their investment and ownership goals.
What are Easements?
Easements are legal titles of ownership that give one owner (the dominant owner) right to land over other owner(s) (the servient owner(s)). This comes into play when there may be more than one entity in a physical location.
For example, a mixed strata property comprising of retail stores (commercial strata lots) on the ground floor, and residential above it (residential strata lots) may share the same underground parking. In this case, the owners of the residential strata lots may be the dominant owners in the easement, allowing them rights to the common property over the commercial owners.
What’s a bare land strata?
Bare land strata is a type of strata where a large piece of land has been divided into individual lots. Similar to apartment buildings, each owner owns their individual strata lot (which may include the land and their house), and together, they make up a bare land strata.
A neighbourhood of individual homes may be sitting on strata land. Each house sits on an individually owned piece of land (strata lot), and areas such as roads and complex playgrounds are shared spaces (common property).
Freehold property is a type of living where owners own both the home and the land. The name “free from hold” means that the owners have complete ownership rights, and there are no additional restrictions when it comes to maintenance or transferring the ownership of the property.
An individual house that is owned by an owner is a freehold property. It can be used for whatever the owner wishes, giving owners of this property type both the freedom and responsibility to manage their own property.
Note: Freehold properties are commonly individual houses as opposed to apartment buildings or other forms of buildings.
Leasehold property is a type of living where owners own the home, but NOT the land. Under this arrangement, the land typically belongs to the government or a First Nations group and requires a contract as a means of “borrowing” the land to live on.
Take the University of British Columbia Leasehold Endowment Lands as an example. It is a beautiful neighbourhood close to the Pacific North West shores where the homes are owned by owners, but the land belongs to the government and Musqueam people. In this case, owners must sign a contract (that typically lasts for 99 years) and renegotiate terms once the contract expires to maintain the land.
What are strata fees?
While living in Strata may come with many additional perks: swimming pools, recreational facilities, and your own “personal gardener”, it does come at a cost…A.K.A maintenance fees.
Maintenance fees are amounts paid by all Owners to help contribute towards the expenses of running your community. This includes expenses incurred in common areas such as elevators, amenities, and anything outside of individual units.
In addition to strata fees, sometimes owners in a strata corporation will be required to pay special levies for additional or unexpected expenses such as capital expenditures on the common property like a roof replacement or upgrading an elevator.
Note: Hang Tight, we’re working on a Blog Post about Everything You Need to Know about Strata Fees…it’s coming soon!
Now that you’ve come this far, let’s do a recap of all the key ideas we covered in this blog:
- The definition of a strata/strata corporation
- The Strata Property Act and how it is relevant to your community
- The different types of ownership (strata property…and bare land Strata, freehold property, and leasehold property)
- The definition of air space parcels
- The definition of an easement
- The pros/cons of the different types of ownership
- How you can tell what is (and isn’t) a strata
- The costs to living in strata: strata fees
And don’t forget, this is just the cherry on top for the world of strata. There’s a lot to learn, and we’re here to help answer any questions.
Learn more about how a Strata Manager can help your strata
With the nitty-gritty of the world of strata, we know it can be a lot to take in. That’s where strata Managers can help.
Strata Managers help work on behalf of a group of Owners to protect their collective investment (ie. an entire housing corporation or strata building). From managing property/building maintenance to building management, administration, financials, and the community, they work to make sure your community is happy and healthy.
Here at Tribe, we refer to our property or Strata Managers as Community Managers. We think it better reflects our people-forward approach and how we care for your homes. Have questions about your community? Get in touch and receive your Free assessment today!