Reviewing Strata Documents When Buying a Strata Lot

So, you decided to buy a strata condo or townhome somewhere in Greater Vancouver.  Congratulations!  The lock and leave lifestyle of a condo, along with prices that are more affordable than single family homes can make condos and townhomes in Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Coquitlam and North Shore very appealing.

After several months of looking, you found the perfect home and decide to make an offer with a few of the typical conditions including finance, inspection and review of strata docs.  Your mortgage broker is helping you with financing, the home inspector has been hired, and your real estate agent just sent you what seems like over a 1000 pages of strata documents.  It is important to review all relevant strata documentation when buying a strata property, such as information about the strata corporation and the strata lot including money a strata lot owner may owe to the strata corporation. 

There are several ways for strata purchasers or potential purchasers can get information about the strata lot and strata corporation before they buy.

What strata documents do I need to read as a buyer? Well, here is a look at the strata documents you need to go through!

Form B: the Information Certificate

The Form B tells you exact details of the unit’s square footage, strata fees, parking spots, storage lockers and financials. This is an important document to read over. It lists the building’s contingency fund and shows if there are any outstanding fees that need to be paid by the current owner such as for special levies coming up.

A Form B is merely a snapshot of the strata corporation for that specific period of time and could change the next day. Reading an updated Form B means you ensure no significant changes have happened.
The "Form B: Information Certificate" discloses a variety of information about a strata lot and the strata corporation. Typically it is requested when someone is considering buying a strata lot. It is important to use a current version of the Form B as it is regularly updated by the Province.

An owner, purchaser or person authorized by the owner or purchaser may request a Form B. The strata corporation is required to provide the Form B: Information Certificate within 7 days of a request. The maximum a strata corporation can charge for a Form B is $35 plus up to 25 cents per page for copying including photocopying or other means of reproduction. 

The strata corporation is responsible for providing the Form B. However, under the Strata Property Act, the strata council carries out the duties of the strata corporation. The following information with respect to the strata corporation and the strata lot must be disclosed and be current to the date on the Form B:

  • the monthly strata fees payable by the owner
  • any amount that the owner owes the strata corporation (other than an amount paid into court or to the strata corporation in trust)
  • any agreements by which the owner takes responsibility for expenses relating to alterations to a strata lot, the common property or the common assets
  • any amount that the owner is obligated to pay in the future for a special levy that has already been approved and the date by which the payment is to be made
  • any amount by which the expenses of the strata corporation for the current fiscal year are expected to exceed the expenses budgeted for the fiscal year;
  • the amount in the contingency reserve fund (CRF) minus any expenditures that have already been approved but not yet taken from the fund
  • any amendments to the bylaws that are not yet filed in the Land Title Office;
  • any resolution passed by a 3/4 vote or a unanimous vote that is required to be filed in the Land Title Office but that has not yet been filed in that office
  • any wind up (termination) resolution that has been passed
  • any notice that has been given for a resolution that has not been voted on, if the resolution requires a 3/4 vote, 80% vote or unanimous vote or deals with an amendment to the bylaws
  • confirmation of any court proceeding, arbitration or tribunal proceeding, in which the strata corporation is a party and any judgments or orders against the strata corporation
  • any notices or work orders received by the strata corporation that remain outstanding for the strata lot, the common property or the common assets
  • the number of strata lots in the strata plan that are rented
  • any details about any parking stalls and storage lockers allocated to the strata lot and their numbers
  • any other information required by the regulations

The "Form F: Certificate of Payment"

The "Form F: Certificate of Payment" provides information on whether the owner of a strata lot owes money to the strata corporation. The Form F is required by the Land Title Office when transferring a strata property to a new owner.

A buyer or seller should review the Form F well in advance of the completion of a sale to verify there are no monies owed to the strata corporation.

A strata corporation must issue a "Form F: Certificate of Payment" when requested if the owner does not owe money to the strata corporation or money is owed and the owner has:

paid the disputed amount into court if court proceedings have been started and payment into court is permitted
paid the disputed amount to the strata corporation to hold in trust if the matter has been referred to arbitration or if court proceedings have started or
made satisfactory arrangements with the strata corporation to pay the money.

The "Form F: Certificate of Payment" must not include claims of damages against an owner that have not been determined by a court or by arbitration. 

Council Minutes (Including AGM, SGM and Notices)

Owners are entitled to receive information from the strata corporation including: minutes (strata council meetings, AGM and SGM); the strata corporation’s bylaws and rules; financial statements, information related to repairs and maintenance and more. An owner, or person authorized in writing by a strata lot owner, may request access to the records. 
Does the strata council act on important matters fast? Are they responsible with their budget practices and sourcing external services needed? Are there regular complaints about neighbours that are concerning? You can get a glimpse of these kinds of matters in the minutes.
The standard practice is to get 2 years worth of minutes. You may not always receive the notice packages, however you can request these documents as they may have information left out in the minutes. Generally, you get all the regular minutes, Annual General Meeting minutes and Special General Meeting minutes. 

Insurance Certificate

Strata insurance is the coverage provided for properties and liabilities within a strata and is a requirement for every strata corporation. The Insurance Certificate ensures the strata is fully insured or helps you determine if you’ll need any additional personal insurance. Make sure to check this document to find out if the strata is under-insured or has a high deductible which may require money out of your pocket. 
It also serves as insight into damages within the strata! Read through to check for any red flags before buying into a strata.

Bylaws and Rules

Both these documents are useful in reporting the rules and restrictions in the strata. This is where you can check for pet restrictions, rental restrictions, parking rules, amenity rules, etc. They may also include specific rules like what kind of barbecues you are allowed on your patio. Also, any consequences for breaking the rules may be included. Check these documents to understand the rules and see if it matches what you are looking for.

Engineering Reports

Engineering Reports may contain material information affecting a buyer’s decision. The reports could relate to major building repairs or projects that are coming up, or have already been completed but in either case, it is one of the most important documents for a buyer to review.

Depreciation Report

The Depreciation Report is another document that assesses the condition of the building’s overall condition. This report is done by an external company and is done every few years.

Owners are entitled to receive information from the strata corporation including: minutes (strata council meetings, AGM and SGM); the strata corporation’s bylaws and rules; financial statements, information related to repairs and maintenance and more. An owner, or person authorized in writing by a strata lot owner, may request access to the records. Learn more about what information owners are entitled to in information and record keeping.  

Read over Strata Documents with an Experienced Realtor

The best way to ensure that you are making an informed decision when buying into a strata is to read the docs and work with an experienced realtor. While it may be overwhelming as a buyer to read through these documents, realtors are comfortable with this. They deal with these documents daily and have a good sense of what to look for. It’s important to get the opinion of a realtor with expertise. 

Good realtors always go through these documents for you to make sure there are no compromising factors. And if there are any concerns, they work with the listing realtor to find out the details for you.