Why living in a Strata can be a Sisyphean challenge

As most readers of my blog know, I’m a pretty strong opponent of strata councils and any third parties  that thrive on  making a mockery out of BC strata legislation. I make a daily exercise of searching the internet for articles and opinions about anything to do with strata. What I find most perplexing are issues brought forward by owners angry at their councils for things the bylaws and the strata property act should make quite clear. It becomes a real effort sometimes to figure out when an owner actually becomes a bigger problem than the council. Actually, I know the answer to that question-it’s when those same owners become the strata council.

If an owner did not bother to read the bylaws or the legislation upon moving into a corporation, chances are they are getting on council to perpetuate the same level of ignorance they held to as an owner. Here’s a good example: if an owner buys a strata unit and earnestly believes they are buying a piece of property they own fully and control completely then when they are on Council they will define all their decision making with that same thought process.

Additionally, if an owner buys into a strata corporation believing rules are meant to be broken, that owner will run for Council and, by example, demonstrate how bylaws can be ignored. When a small percentage of the ownership points out the double standard employed by their council, they are met with derision and legal boondoggles. Bully councils flourish because the majority of owners have been co-opted if they follow council’s example and disregard bylaws.

When a pet bylaw states dogs must be leashed on the common property it is difficult to enforce when strata council members ignore it.

When a parking bylaw clearly defines no parking areas but strata council members park where ever they please it becomes difficult for other owners to comply with the bylaw.

When bylaws determine the parameters of common property but strata members  redefine those areas for themselves it makes the term common property redundant.

When owners observe council members meeting socially, drinking together, smoking together and being noisy together it is difficult to complain about nuisance even though bylaws exist to ensure every owner has rights to peaceable enjoyment of their property.

These are just a few of the ways a Council can strong arm owners into silence.

I’m one of those owners who clearly is more educated than most of the owners on my council right now. Fear of my knowledge has guaranteed one thing: the only time my council attempts to educate itself or extend any effort, is when it is strategizing to shut me up.  I don’t know half the owners in my corporation anymore but I’m amazed at how they all vote against any attempt I make to get a position on council.

This brings me back to Sisyphus. As you all know Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder uphill because he was a less than honorable king. The torture for Sisyphus of course was that the boulder never remained at the summit and he had to watch it roll back down and then, in perpetuity, attempt to reach the mountaintop once again.

My Council is like the mountain. Strata legislation and strata bylaws are like the boulder. Owners are like Sisyphus. Apathetic owners deserve the torture and although knowledgeable owners do not deserve any more punishment they must in fact be part of the effort to overcome the mountain.

I don’t quite know how to get it through ambivalent owners’ heads that a problematic Council controls them by building a sense of camaraderie, allowing individuals to believe the Council cares more about owners than they actually do. The sad outcome,of course, is that bully Councils divide to conquer. A low contingency fund,  unauthorized  expenditures hidden in an inflated repair and maintenance budget line item, failure to communicate and of course, verbal edicts between” friends” should warn individual owners that their Council believes it is omnipotent and needs to be questioned.

Unfortunately, at present, the government does not feel it is necessary to enforce its own legislation and the justice system doesn’t like to trample on the “volunteer” aspects of strata governance. All of these things taken together present a Sisyphean task for owners who do respect Strata Property Act and corporation bylaws.

C’mon BC strata owners….you don’t like it when your premier oversteps his authority – how come you let your neighbours bully you so effortlessly?

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Posted in Cost of Ignorance
5 comments on “Why living in a Strata can be a Sisyphean challenge
  1. Johnny Stork says:

    GREAT article. I could not have said it better myself and I have experienced many of the same issues that you have. I also share many of the same opinions of how these sorts of things occur, the apathy and ignorance of owners and how often those that speak up and simply try to educate council or owners, are often met with criticism. It blows my mind at how often there are numerous issues, concerns, frustrations and wasted time over things that are clearly covered in the SPA. In other words, simply getting familiar with the SPA, ensuring all council members read the Act and ensuring that its regulations are followed, can resolve many problems at most strata’s. Having the capacity to read English, combined with a sincere desire to work in the best interest of owners, is usually all that is required.

    I will have a few new updates to my own strata saga over the next few weeks which may be useful to your readers as well. I have now received my second “Cease and Desist” request from a lawyer over my blog. My response to the second was pretty much the same as the first. If you feel that the content on the blog is false, collect a healthy retainer from your client and file a petition or claim in the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Like

  2. advocate says:

    Well said. Watch for Suzanne Morphet’s column in the Vancouver Sun on October 9. I think you will recognize some of the people described therein.

    Like

  3. Dianne Bond says:

    I agree – well said!
    When it comes to strata councils, truth is stanger than fiction.

    Like

  4. Elaine Corner says:

    I cannot believe that what I read is exactly what our Strata Council is doing, but to only a chosen few. When the bylaws and SPA were being violated by the Strata Council and Property Manager, five owners decided to file a petition against them. After Mediation was turned down twice by them, the five owners decided to take it to court. To not create a greater expense on both sides the owners dropped the petition.

    Every since the petition was initiated, these five owners have been persecuted by the Strata Council (unbenounced by all Strata Owners). I am so tired of being bullied by our Strata Council. It has been going on for two (2) years and I really can’t take it anymore. The bullying as gone out of the Strata to personal vendatas. I have had to put my unit up for sale, with no luck so far. Why do I have to leave my home because of bullies. Who is there out there that can help? Would someone please let me know.

    I constantly see TV programs about bullying but nothing to save owners from this poisoned environment.

    I am retired and really cannot afford to move. It hurts me, to say the least.

    Thank you for such a well written document.

    Like

  5. George says:

    Strata Councils are the devil …

    I currently live in a pet friendly building – and have one senior dog – of 14 years and a 50 lb cat who goes to the

    bathroom on a wee-wee pad – that’s on the balcony when needed,usually in the middle of the night .

    The Strata has just put a letter under my door stating – remove the pets or there will be a $200 per week fine.

    WTF !

    Like

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