Strata ownership comes with its own unique rewards and challenges. Explore legal issues related to strata ownership here.
You have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of your strata unit. But what happens when that ability is interfered with by your neighbours?
Your ability to rent your unit will be generally determined by the strata’s bylaws. Most strata’s bylaws are based on the default bylaws which can be found here.
Damage to your strata lot is a regrettable but not uncommon issue. Damage from water, fire, smoke, or even physical trauma can occur. A strata owner is always well advised to have proper insurance in place protecting their strata lot. This can protect a strata owner who may have no other recourse. But what happens when the damage is a result of someone else’s carelessness. Where the damage is a result of the strata corporation’s carelessness, the strata owner has a right to claim for the cost of repairs against the strata corporation and, if necessary, sue. This might be the situation where, for example, a strata corporation has failed to properly maintain domestic water lines in the building, leaks have occurred and water seeps from the common property into the strata lot, causing water damage.
A strata council has the right to levy fines against a strata owner or a tenant of a strata lot for conduct that is in breach of the bylaws. However, it is important to remember that for a strata council to be in a position to pursue legal action in relation to fines, the strata council must prove the underlying conduct that gives basis for the fine. In other words, it is not enough for council to allege that a given owner’s dog made a mess in one of the elevators, council must prove it.
The Strata Property Act defines a strata lot as a ‘lot shown on a strata plan’: s. 1(1). Generally, the strata lot’s boundaries are the centre lines of the floor, the ceiling and the surrounding walls: s. 68(1). When one buys a strata property, primarily they are purchasing a strata lot. An owner’s interest in a strata lot can be affected by easements and other charges against the individual strata lot. Generally, the owner’s right to enjoy his or her strata lot is limited by the Strata Property Act and the strata’s bylaws.
The Strata Property Act defines the common property as ‘that part of the land and buildings shown on a strata plan that is not part of a strata lot’: s. 1(1). The Act also defines the common property as including pipes, wires, cables, chutes, etc… running in between strata lots and/or to be used for other strata lots or the common property. When one purchases a strata property, in addition to the strata lot, they are purchasing a partial share in the common property. In this fashion, the common property is held in common by the owners of a given strata property. The collective interest of the owners in the common property can also be affected by easements and other charges against the common property. The use of the common property is governed by the Strata Property Act and the strata’s bylaws.
The Strata Property Act defines limited common property as ‘common property designated for the exclusive use of the owners of one or more strata lots’: s. 1(1). When one purchases a strata property, one may purchase a strata lot with attached rights over limited common property, most often a deck or patio assigned to the strata lot. In such circumstances, while the limited common property is owned by all owners in common, right of use is restricted to only certain owners. In the example of a deck, exclusive use would generally be restricted to the owners of the related strata lot.