The doctrine of “let the buyer beware” is still the norm in Real Estate transactions in BC today. The duty is on the buyer to determine the state of each property being sold before purchasing. Although this is always the case, some think it is the sellers obligation to point out any potential problems. As this is not the case, this can cause the buyer to not receive the remedy for defaults on the property after the purchase.
One of the most important parts of the due diligence process is reviewing and fully understanding the Bylaws of the strata when purchasing a unit that has a particular strata system in place. There can be many unwanted surprises and harsh rules for homeowners down the road if these bylaws are not investigated thoroughly.
Most larger strata’s will have their own specific set of bylaws. Though they also have to adhere to a standard set of bylaws stated in Schedule “A” of the Strata Property Act. Any bylaw amendment must be brought up at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), or at a Special General Meeting (SGM), these amendments will be passed depending on the votes of the owners. A three quarter vote by the owners of the units is needed for any new amendments to be passed, and are only enforceable if registered with the Land Title Survey Authority (LTSA).
After the adoption of the new bylaws by the owners, there is no specific time limit in which the Strata Corporation needs to register at the LTSA. It is quite common for potential buyers to submit their offers without any subjects pertaining to the bylaws of the strata, but find out later on there are subjects they wish they had put in due to certain strata rules. In these cases , prospective buyers should always request a copy of the strata corporations registered bylaws. They can request these from the strata themselves or directly from the LTSA.
Below are five bylaws buyers should pay close attention to, as these may make up a big part of decision making when potentially purchasing a unit.
1. Pet Prohibition or Restrictions
Pet bylaws can vary quite a bit and in some cases can be as severe as complete pet exclusion. It is however more common for Strata’s to have resections of the type of pets allowed and the quantity of pets allowed. There are a set of standard bylaws in the Schedule “A” of the Strata Property Act, any changes made to those or any custom pet bylaws made by the strata would require pets to be pre-approved and registered with the Strata before they are allowed to be kept. These standard bylaws are as follows;
a. a reasonable number of fish or small aquarium animal
b. up to two caged birds
c. a reasonable number of small caged mammals
d. one dog OR one cat
2. Rental Restrictions or Rental Prohibition
This pertains particularly if the unit is bought as an investment property. In some cases Stratas have enacted bylaws that could prohibit the rental of the strata lots. They could also have passed bylaws limiting the number of strata units that are allowed to be used as rental properties, or the restriction on the length that lot could be rented out for. If purchasing a Strata unit with the intent to rent it out, please pay close attention to these bylaw before purchasing.
3. Short Term Accommodation Prohibition
Similar to renting out the entire unit as a rental property, some people also like to offer short term rental options if the owner travels often and/or has the unit empty a large amount of the time. Though some stratas limit or prohibit the property be used in such ways. Especially with the rise in Airbnb in Vancouver. There is however no grandfathering of the “use-of-property” bylaws. These bylaws that the specific stratas try to enforce are only in effect after they are registered with the LTSA.
4. Approval for Hardwood Flooring
Stratas will always contain some general provisions that require approval when it comes to alterations and/or renovations to a strata lot. In an attempt to reduce noise transmission between strata lots, most strata corporations have passed bylaws that regulate the changing of flooring in the units. It is important to research what types of alterations are available to be performed before purchasing a unit as a “fixer upper” or one you’d like to do improvements on.
5. Insurance Bylaws
Although stratas come with general insurance when it comes to the buildings as a whole. It is also important to purchase individual homeowner insurance to fill in any gaps left by the stratas insurance. One common issue faced by owners is the repair of water damage, which may fall on the homeowners responsibility to have corrected. It is important to check the wording of the bylaws to see what kind of liability the individual owners would be responsible for if any such issues were to arise. It is unfortunate, but many homeowners will only check these bylaws after a problem arises.