Condo buyers kept in dark

Sunday, September 21st, 2008


Each day that B.C.’s elected representatives fail to resume their seats in the Legislature serves as a reminder to the rest of us that our politicians have failed in their commitment to serve the people.

One example of their neglect is the failure of then-Liberal finance minister Gary Collins in 2003 to make good on a promise to revamp the inadequate and antiquated Strata Property Act.

It’s been five years and they’ve done diddly squat.

So much for the hundreds of thousands of condo owners and potential strata buyers in B.C. who aren’t getting the homeowners’ protection that is their right.

Indeed, the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association says many of the more than 460,000 residents in B.C. with condo-property investments are at risk because of strata provisions that haven’t been publicly scrutinized or updated since 1998.

In the meantime, strata home ownership has increased to represent one in four taxable properties in B.C. — generating a sizeable chunk of revenue for the surplus-bloated provincial government.

Victoria‘s insouciance means B.C. is lagging behind other provinces in failing to keep up with the massive changes that have occurred in the strata-ownership market, especially on the West Coast, over the years.

There are a host of key deficiencies in our legislation — according to the association whose extensive review is available at — that create hassles and hurdles for condo owners seeking information from, or about, strata councils and developers.

These inadequacies are responsible for many dysfunctional strata communities. They cause stress on owners, particularly first-time buyers and retirees, and help erode the market value of condos. They include: n Lack of adequate requirements for disclosure of property condition and financial data.

n Lack of prosecution or penalties for developers who ignore or breach the law.

n Lack of an adequate dispute-resolution process; the current one does more to indulge irresponsible actions than address them.

n Lack of protection of the rights of strata homeowners due to inadequate standards for licensing strata managers.

One of the most important recommendations brought to the government’s attention by the island association is the need for a dispute-resolution process for strata condo owners similar to the one offered by B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch for landlords and tenants.

“Strata owners require simple, direct and affordable access to due process for enforcing the [act] and resolving issues,” the report states.

“The transparency and accountability needed in strata legislation should start with the process used to develop it.” Indeed, condo owners and prospective strata-property buyers have been waiting too long for government to clean up its Act, particularly considering the hefty Property Transfer Tax they’re required to pay the B.C. government on every purchase.

Government estimates of revenue from the PPT for fiscal 2008-09 run as high as $1 billion, a substantial chunk of that money will come from the sales of new and previously owned strata condos.

Their owners deserve better.

© The Vancouver Province 2008


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