Condo Smarts: Do-it-yourself approach to maintenance can be risky

Categories: Canada

Dear Tony:

Our townhouse complex is 58 units. Each has a separate attached garage, fenced-in backyards, and a series of mature trees throughout the complex. The homes are highly desirable because of location, size of units and our hillside designs. The community has maintained higher strata fees to ensure we had the resources to effectively manage our landscaping and building renewals over the past 23 years.

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Until the recent council was elected, services like snow removal, gutter cleaning, fence repairs, tree pruning, and landscape management were handled by third-party contractors.

The current council has terminated all services and is now paying themselves to perform the tasks, and the owners of the corporation are unhappy with the results.

The new council has also insisted that owners mow their backyard lawns and will be responsible for snow removal from their sidewalks and driveways this winter. And they refuse to respond to owner directions. We need to replace them. Help!

— Janice W.

Dear Janice:

Under the Strata Property Act and your bylaws, your strata corporation will likely be required to petition for a Special General Meeting to remove these council members and elect a new council.

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A petition for the removal of council requires persons holding at least 20 per cent of the strata corporation votes to demand a meeting and majority vote for their removal; however, bylaws to remove and elect new council may vary for your strata corporation.

Strata corporations may choose to administer certain obligations or duties on their own. Self-managed strata corporations often try to save costs by performing do-it-yourself services or have no other option due to location. Some services may have minimal impact or risk, such as janitorial maintenance.

The risk for a strata corporation increases dramatically when the strata self-administers duties that require a licensed service, such as an electrician, or activities that may result in injury or loss.

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Snow removal, gutter cleaning and landscape services must be performed by the strata corporation as a common expense if the areas are designated as common property.

The council members and strata corporation must be mindful of the significant limitations of any type of insurance or injury coverage in the event of an accident. Contact your insurance broker before any strata corporation considers administering services that pose a hazard or risk. Describe the services and determine what, if any insurance coverage there is for the party performing the work, and what type of liability may exist for the strata corporation.

If the strata fails to manage snow and ice removal effectively and a resident is injured, or a council member falls off a roof, or is injured during tree management, you may discover there is no liability or insurance coverage for their injuries or the result of their activities.

The BC Lotto line, “know your limit, play within it,” should be applied to strata council decisions as well.

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