Elected Strata Councils are placed in an unusual position in their duty to maintain the Strata’s Common Property, when compared with the same duties for properties owned by individuals. Where the latter can simply make decisions on how their property will be operated and maintained, the Council must ask for, and take direction from the Strata owners, most of whom have little, if any relevant experience in the maintenance requirements of multi-tenant properties.
Often, this lack of understanding leads to choices based on the demand from the owners to minimize their monthly Strata Fees. In doing so, the Council may be complying with the owners’ wishes, but it is not really acting in the long term interests of the owners or the property.
Maintaining a property is not only about cutting the grass, cleaning the gutters and making sure the garbage is taken away. It is also about planning for the property’s future needs and the major expenditures required to replace many of the Common Property building systems, as they reach the end of their useful operating life.
An elected Strata Council is compelled by the Strata Property Act to maintain the property to the benefit of all the owners. Many Councils find it difficult to overcome the demands for minimizing costs, because they don’t have the information necessary to support arguments for increased fees in order to cover the property’s long term funding requirements.
This information can only come through a clear appreciation of the property’s common systems, their maintenance requirements, their present condition and life expectancy. This is the basis of a Long Term Maintenance Plan, and from this Plan comes the understanding needed to develop the realistic budgets that reflect a property’s true maintenance costs.
It is virtually impossible for Strata Council members to convince the other owners, or themselves, that a Strata Fee increase of $100 per month is necessary, if they haven’t developed a Long Term Maintenance Plan to show why.
Each Strata Council is elected to govern, and good governance can only come through good planning.
John Grubb is a Property Maintenance Consultant serving Strata Corporations and building owners on Vancouver Island.
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