Strata councils can impose peculiar rules

Strata councils can impose peculiar rules

If you don't like them, get yourself elected as a council member

Joey Thompson

The Province

Friday, February 25, 2005

Maureen Rieder has just joined the crush of first-time condo owners who too often find some neighbours relish running other people's lives.

While it seems the norm to pass outlandish restrictions in condo land, for this Vancouver grade-school teacher, the bylaw at her Fairview's Slopes complex banning her from having a roommate in her two-bedroom home without strata approval, or pay a $100 fine every week, was over the top.

Especially when almost half the 13 strata units in the building are rented, with no cap on the number allowed on the rental market.

Rieder joined an estimated one million condo owners in B.C. when she bought her west-side townhome in June. And boy, was she excited. After all, it was a big investment and a major move for this single lady. But after six months on her own, Rieder figured sharing the space with a pal had definite advantages.

Don't even go there, was the directive from the strata group, citing Bylaw 3.2: No one can have a paying resident or roomer unless the six council members say they can.

Now, this rule may not seem as out there as some, like the one asking residents to change their blinds to colour co-ordinate with the freshly painted forest green exterior, but it's preposterous nonetheless.

"I thought this bylaw to be a violation of my human rights and infringement on me as an owner to live with whomever I choose," Rieder told me. "What's weird is that if a unit is designated a rental property, the owner can rent to whoever they choose without getting approval. But since I live here, this bylaw gives them control over whether someone lives with me or not and that's intruding and wrong.

"What right does council have to tell me whether I am allowed to have someone move in with me?"

No right at all, says Tony Gioventu, head of the 50,000-member Condominium Homeowners Association. But the corporation does.

And there lies the difference. Strata corporations are made up of all the current owners of a complex. With a three-quarters "yes" vote the corporation can pass whatever usage limits it wants as long as the do's and don'ts comply with federal or provincial statutes.

But strata councils are, by law, elected by the corporations to enforce the bylaws, not design them.

Gioventu said the corporation could call a vote on the bylaw but Rieder's council can't call the shots as to who in the complex can have roommates and who can't.

"I would challenge whether that bylaw is even enforceable," he said.

The executive director said many first-time buyers don't bother reading the bylaws before buying in. And stratas should routinely renew and update them, anyway.

If owners aren't happy with the council, yard them out and elect a new slate, it's cheaper than arbitration or court.

And check them out first.

"There's lots of great homes in great neighbourhoods to choose from," he said.

Meanwhile, Rieder says changes are coming if she's elected at the coming annual general meeting.

 The Vancouver Province 2005