StrataSmart Living

March 18th 2008
StrataSmart Living

Check Before You Renovate Your Strata Lot

More and more often owners are requesting permission to alter their strata lot or the common property. Alterations can range from installing skylights, closing in decks, to opening the attic in order to create another room. The standard bylaws of the Strata Property Act require the owner to obtain the written permission of the Strata Corporation before commencing the alteration.

Not all alterations may be of a type that requires the permission of the Strata Corporation. An owner must look to the bylaws to know what alterations require permission before they can be undertaken. Under the standard bylaws of the Strata Property Act an owner must obtain permission before altering the structure or exterior of the building, and things on or attached to the exterior of the building such as doors or windows and stairs or balconies. Permission must also be obtained to alter patio or deck enclosures such as fences or railings. Additionally, the standard bylaws require that an owner obtain approval before altering fixtures such as floor and wall coverings and electrical and plumbing fixtures built or installed by the owner developer as part of the original construction. A Strata Council may find that the provisions in the standard bylaws do not meet the needs of the Strata Corporation.

Every Strata Council should consider amending the standard bylaws regarding alterations to ensure that the bylaw reflects the particular needs and concerns of the owners.

The standard bylaws do not specify what constitutes an "alteration" in relation to common property, including limited common property. In order to prevent disagreements regarding what alterations on common property require the approval of the Strata Corporation, every Strata Council should also consider amending the bylaw relating to alterations on common property to set out what alterations require approval.

The standard bylaws permit the Strata Corporation to require the owner wishing to make the alteration to agree in writing to take responsibility for any expenses related to the alteration.

When presented with a request for an alteration what steps should the Strata Council take?

Before agreeing to any alteration, the Strata Council should obtain all the information necessary regarding the
proposed alteration. The Strata Council should know exactly what alteration is being proposed. If necessary, an architectural drawing may be required so that the Strata Council has an idea of the visual impact of the alteration. Whether a professional engineering study is required must also be determined before a decision is made to permit certain alterations such as balcony enclosures, and other alterations that could affect load bearing walls of the building. The Strata Council should also determine whether any permits must be obtained before the work is carried out.

The Strata Council must then consider whether the proposed alteration affects any other owner's ability to use and enjoy their strata lot or the common property. The Strata Council may also want information such as the colour and quality of materials to be used, whether a skilled contractor will be carrying out the work, and if so, particulars regarding the contractor's insurance coverage and WCB registration, how long the alteration is expected to take, whether during the construction of the alteration any other owner's use of their strata lot or the common property will be disrupted, for example, by the contractors depositing debris on the common property lawn until the work is completed. The Strata Council should also consider who would be responsible for any damage caused during the construction, and whether anything that is being done could raise a safety concern for the other owners, occupants or guests of the residents.

The next issue for the Strata Council to consider is whether the owner should be liable for the future repair and maintenance related to the alteration.

Once these matters have been considered, and the Strata Council has determined that the alteration is appropriate, the parties may then enter into an agreement setting out the fact that the owner has agreed to take responsibility for the expenses relating to the alteration. Under the standard bylaws this agreement must be in writing.

Most agreements relating to alterations should contain at least the following terms:

1. The name of the owners of the strata lot. A Strata Council will want to contract with the owner of the unit. Often times, the strata lot may be in the name of a parent, child, or only in the name of one spouse. It may therefore be necessary to search the title to the strata lot to confirm the owner.
2. A description of the alteration. The description should include the material specifications and should attach the architectural drawing, if one was provided.
3. Any professional inspection or supervision of the work that the Strata Council has required. The Strata Council may wish to require an engineer, or some other professional to inspect the work and certify that it meets the necessary codes or standards.
4. That all work will be done in accordance with the relevant codes and regulations and that all building permits and certificates will be provided to the Strata Council.
5. The permit numbers on all permits that are required to be obtained.
6. The names, addresses and contact numbers for the contractors including their WCB number, insurance agent and policy number.
7. That the owner will amend their Home Owner's Insurance Policy to increase the Betterment and Improvement coverage to include the alteration and that a copy of the policy will be provided to the Strata Council.
8. That the owner agrees to be liable for all expenses related to the alteration and will maintain and repair the alteration.
9. That the owner agrees to waive the liability of the Strata Corporation, Strata Council and individual owners for any injury or financial loss resulting from the installation or operation /use of the alteration and for any liability and responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the alteration.
10. That the owner will notify all prospective purchasers that the alteration is the owner's improvement and that the repair and maintenance of the alteration is the responsibility of the new owner.

When presented with a request for an alteration, a Strata Council should take the time necessary to obtain enough factual information to make an informed decision. The members of the Strata Council should also take enough time to ensure that the contract that is drawn up reflects all the relevant terms to ensure that both parties understand the arrangement during the construction period and in the future.

This article provided by the Condominium Home Owners Association. For more information visit page or contact their office at 1-877-353-2462.