BC Launches a New Strata Housing Website

Depreciation Reports - Normac

Main page:  www.gov.bc.ca/strata
Find it Fast page:  www.gov.bc.ca/strata/finditfast  (topics are listed as clickable links)

The website provides basic information about certain parts of the Strata Property Act, regulations and Standard Bylaws as a helpful starting point for strata owners, residents, and strata council members.  While the focus is on strata housing, strata legislation applies to all strata corporations.  It is important to note that the website is not a substitute for getting legal advice; it does not provide a legal interpretation of the Strata Property Act, regulations, bylaws and rules or court cases and how the courts have interpreted the legislative framework.


  • The website uses more plain language and more examples.
  • It uses the new government template which is mobile friendly.
  • It has new content and expanded content including:
    • Changes to Legislation
    • Insurance
    • The Role of Government
    • Living in a Strata
    • Bylaws and Rules Explained
    • Buying and Selling Strata” including “First Time Strata Owners

This site also provides links and references to other strata resources including:

  • Strata Associations”: CHOA, VISOA and CCI
  • Getting Legal Advice
  • Strata Legislation” with links to legislation and options for getting printed copies

Click HERE to visit the new strata housing website.


Strata Living – Trip and Fall Hazards


By Alfred H Y Lam, BASc in Civil Engineering, IIT, CRP
Normac Senior Depreciation Report Planner

Most Stratas, whether through the collective help of owners or through the service of a professional, are diligent with snow removal come wintertime. Perhaps the awareness is attributed to the numerous stories of mailman mishaps and the subsequent costs of compensation. However, there are many other trip hazards around a Strata complex or building that are often overlooked. It is therefore important to locate and understand the potential hazards in order to eliminate them and improve the safety of both the residents and visitors.

Strata Living – Slippery Moss

While snow may cause walkways to be slippery, slime and moss growth can have the same effect. These unwelcomed organic matter tend to accumulate in shaded areas and are both unsightly and dangerous to the user. To clear them, there are many commercial products available on the market; however, there are also household products that are typically effective and often more economical. Included are bleach, vinegar, and ammonia, among others, but these chemicals should be diluted if they are to be used close to soil.

Another common and costly issue surrounding walkways is the uplifting effect of trees. In most cases, the walkways are simply planned and installed too closely to the trees. As a tree matures, the trunk and roots gradually flare outwards and damage everything in their paths – they do not just raise the walkways, they may even devour a light post! Generally speaking, when there is an offset of approximately ½ inch, there is a tripping hazard. Tree removal or walkway relocation are obvious extreme solutions; however, these are likely not approved due to preservation laws or because they are simply not practical. It is important to seek further guidance from a qualified arborist for the individual case. Though, in most cases, the process will include slabjacking repairs to the walkways or repaving of localized sections to incorporate an acceptable slope while leaving some room to compensate for further growth of the nearby tree.

Strata Living – Uneven Ground

There are tripping concerns associated with staircases as well. The dimensions of the runs, treads, and risers, individually, are generally within the requirements of the building code and deviations are not common.  However, the non-uniformity of risers and treads within the same flight of stairs are seen more frequently. The unevenness is generally caused by settlement of the grounds or by poor planning which results in a deeper or shallower step as compensation; this would often cause the unsuspecting pedestrian to stumble and fall. Treads shall have a uniform run with a maximum tolerance of 5mm between adjacent treads, and 10mm between the deepest and shallowest treads in a flight. Required exit stairs shall have riser tolerances similar to those of the treads; otherwise, it shall vary by not more than 1 in 12. Concrete stairs can generally be fixed through a combination of grinding techniques and a new skim coat layer while wooden stairs can be fixed through re-attachment with the correct spacing.

All too often, tripping hazards are left alone until an incident occurs. It is recommended that Strata owners periodically inspect common areas and report any potential hazards to the Strata council. Proactive remedies are generally cheap and quick and would serve to eliminate some potential hazards. These efforts would undoubtedly create a safer environment for all occupants and visitors involved.

Useful Links:
Condominium Home Owners Association of BC (CHOA)
Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association (VISOA)


Insurance Appraisals & Insuring Your Property to Value

Insurance Appraisal

A strata property is a very valuable asset, and one of the key components to protecting it is obtaining a reliable and comprehensive insurance valuation performed by an experienced appraiser.  An appraisal will guarantee that the entire property is insured to a supportable dollar amount.   This is called the Total Insurable Value (TIV).  The Strata Property Act requires a strata corporation to acquire and maintain full replacement cost insurance on the building, the common facilities and any insurable improvements. The corporation is also required to review the adequacy of this insurance annually.

Insurance appraisals are highly specialized reports that start with a site inspection followed by a property analysis to determine the calculation of supportable estimates for replacement costs.  Qualified appraisers are able to produce reliable estimates based on expertise acquired through extensive training and experience. Moreover, experienced appraisers make their estimates based on an analysis of the current environment, and do not rely on third party software based outside the region or use generic information to determine their estimates.

The appraiser will have certain specialized skills to determine appropriate costing. There are several additional considerations to complete an effective insurance appraisal. The importance of bylaw reviews cannot be overstated as they are crucial to the appraisal process. In the event of a disaster, current municipal bylaws must be adhered to when rebuilding the property.  Consequently, an appraiser’s review of the property must include an assessment of the current property composition compared to the current standards and regulations of the specific municipality and province in which it is located.  Any code requirements that are not currently met are accounted for in the replacement cost estimate.

An experienced appraiser also considers current building practices and technological improvements that have become standard in new buildings.  As a general rule appraisers assume a like-for-like replacement of all components of the property whenever possible. However, there are some circumstances where appraisers assume that the existing subcomponents within a property will be replaced with something that is similar but up to current standards.  In these situations, the as-built construction practices are considered obsolete, and modern construction methodology and materials is assumed in the appraisal value.

Accounting for demolition and removal costs is another important consideration in the appraisal process.   This can prove to be quite costly and differs greatly by property type. Strata corporations should be wary of the misused straight percentage calculation to estimate demolition and removal costs. A straight percentage often proves to be overly simplistic and ineffective in the event of major reconstruction.

Without the review and knowledge of such additional costs and considerations, there is potential for significant exposure, rendering the strata corporation liable for the difference.

Insurance Appraisal - example

An insurance appraisal requires a unique skill set, and has specific demands that go beyond a house or commercial property review performed for a bank.  Keeping up to date in construction methods, costs, building codes, bylaws, demolition, and the Strata Property Act are critical to providing a reliable TIV estimate.  For this reason property owners are best served when they use appraisers who do this type of work full time.

For more information on insurance appraisals or to request a free, no-obligation proposal, please contact us at info@normac.ca.  

Useful Links:
Strata Property Act  – Property Insurance
CHOA – Property Insurance
Normac – Insurance Appraisals

In the News – LED Light Is All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Strata - LED Light

Photo from Condo.ca.  

We came across this great article from Condo.ca that highlights the increasing prevalence of LED lights as a sustainable alternative to traditional light bulbs. Read the article below to learn more.  

By Josephine Nolan, Chief Editor at Condo.ca
Original article can be found here

By the end of 2014, it will be difficult to find incandescent light bulbs in stores in Canada, except for certain specialty bulbs, like oven lights. The rest, including 40W, 60W, and 100W bulbs, will be gone. We shouldn’t lament their passing. While they were a great invention in their day more than a hundred years ago, they really hadn’t changed much. Their greatest drawback, the one that finally did them in, is their inefficiency: as much as 96 per cent of the power consumed by a bulb was lost as heat, not converted to light.

One option for replacing the old incandescent bulbs is the LED. These lights can be used in the same lamps and fixtures you already own, and there have been many improvements in their design and performance in the last few years. A few popular misconceptions persist.

The light from LED bulbs is cold and bluish

LED lighting can be as warm as incandescent lighting if you choose the correct colour temperature. Colour temperature indicates how warm the light will be. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in measuring colour temperature, the higher the temperature, the cooler the light. The range is usually given as 1,000–10,000 K (Kelvin), and the warm, reddish-yellow light that most people think of as “normal” for a light bulb in the home occurs at the 2,700–3,000 K range. Choose bulbs with a colour temperature in that range and there should be no issue of light that’s too cool or too blue.


LED bulbs are not dimmable

LED lights are dimmable. There is a potential issue with dimming, however, arising from the fact that LED bulbs use much less power than incandescent bulbs. Typically you can replace a 60W incandescent bulb with a 12.5W LED. For decorative bulbs, as in a chandelier, a typical 25W incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 3.5-W LED bulb. It may be necessary to replace your dimmer with one that is compatible with the specific bulbs you are using. You may also buy LED bulbs that have the necessary circuitry built in to handle dimming. Check this before you purchase. Better, ask for a demonstration.

LED lighting is expensive

Prices are dropping all the time, but the average LED bulb is still more expensive than the average incandescent. However, given that LEDs use significantly less power, and last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, there is a total cost saving over the lifetime of the bulb. While you could get  cheap incandescent bulbs for less than a dollar, they would typically have a lifespan of about 1,000 hours. The LED replacement could cost ten times more, but last up to twenty-five times longer. You save in the long term.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact us at info@normac.ca.  


Don’t Get Caught With Your Walls Down – A Lesson in Cladding

BC Strata; depreciation report

Photo By CBC News.

By Aaron Wittstock, BBA, PGCV, CRP
Normac Insurance Appraiser and Depreciation Report Planner

A recent event at an Edmonton-area hotel has provided us with a great example of the importance of regular building review and maintenance. Last week the Downtown Westin Hotel in the Albertan capital experienced an unusual but possibly avoidable situation when a 3-meter high by 15-meter wide section of the brick facade came crumbling down into an adjacent parking lot. Luckily the incident didn’t result in any injuries but it will definitely end up costing the hotel a lot of money for the replacement of brick cladding and lost revenue from having to move out the guests who were staying in the hotel when the wall came down.

Masonry cladding is different from other typical cladding because it is comprised of two distinct materials, bricks and mortar, and it is supported from the ground up as opposed to other materials, such as vinyl or wood siding, which are adhered throughout to the exterior wall construction. The higher the brick wall, the more important it is to regularly ensure that the wall is performing optimally through regular reviews and repairs. Typical problems to look for when reviewing masonry cladding include damaged or deteriorating mortar joints and cracked bricks.

For Stratas, the incident at the Westin not only serves as a reminder of the potential deterioration of one of the most important elements of any building but it is also a great reminder of how vital it is to have a healthy contingency reserve fund in preparation for the inevitability of a major replacement of a significant building component. Without the inclusion of proper reserve fund contributions in the annual budget, a major failure of any common property asset is likely to lead to the Strata having to enforce the collection of special levies. For many owners the collection of regular smaller-scale contributions to the reserve fund is a much more manageable approach to major project funding than having to come up with money for a large one-time special levy.

Original CBC Article can be found here.

Edmonton’s Westin Hotel guests evacuated after wall partially collapses
John Baker, CBC News

About 250 hotel guests were evacuated from the Westin Hotel in downtown Edmonton after part of the exterior back wall collapsed Sunday morning.

As of 3:30 p.m. MT, a structural engineer for the city declared that the damage to the hotel was limited to the façade of the building. A statement released by the Westin said the hotel was given the all clear from city officials to re-open Monday.

A section of the brick wall about 10 metres from the ground appeared to bulge out and collapse into a largely-vacant parking lot Sunday morning. The brickwork failure left behind a hole about three metres tall and 15 metres across.

No one was injured in the incident.

“It’s kind of lucky it’s Sunday and not Monday,” said fire district chief Randy Shakura. “The potential here was huge for injury. At this point we don’t have any injuries at all and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Most hotel guests didn’t appear to be bothered by the sudden disruption and evacuation — not even an Edmonton couple that was celebrating their wedding.

Ilia and Denise Biziaev spent their wedding night at the Westin Hotel on Saturday.

The newlyweds were hoping for a late checkout on Sunday before officially departing for their honeymoon. Instead, they received a knock on their door around noon and a firefighter telling them they had to leave the building.

Ilia Biziaev said the firefighter told them there was “serious structural damage” at the other side of the building and they would have to leave the hotel immediately. .

“Thankfully we don’t have to get relocated, but still it’s kind of frightening,” he said.

The couple laughed off the experience, saying it makes for a memorable start to their honeymoon.

“I’m not too worried myself,” said Trevor Huyd, another hotel guest. “Hopefully everyone was OK, but it’s not too big of an issue.”

“We’ll just find something else to do for a while,” said Barb Hutton. “They are doing everything to keep people safe so I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about.”

Hotel staff are working with emergency crews as well as experts to determine the cause of the collapse.

Police closed the city block around the Westin Hotel, located at 10135 100th Street for several hours. All roads were later reopened, but the alley behind the hotel remains closed.

Shakura said it was important that fire crews take precautionary measures to ensure all guests and staff were safe.

“Anytime you have a collapse, there’s always potential for further collapse,” said Shakura. “It’s a lot easier to err on the side of caution than to wait until it happens and try to get people out in a hurry.

“We’re taking it slowly. We’re relocating them in a calm fashion, and I hope it doesn’t ruin their day too badly.”

For more information on building components and maintenance tips, email us at info@normac.ca or request a quote

In the News – Vancouver Issues Record Number of Building Permits

Depreciation Report - Normac
Vancouver Sun Article:  Vancouver Issues record number of building permits worth $1.12 billion in first half of 2014
By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun  
July 18, 2014
The value of buildings for which Vancouver issued building permits hit a record in the first half of 2014, for a total value of $1.12 billion, the highest amount since the 2008 recession. And it appear on target to exceed the record year of 2012, when permits worth $2.6 billion in building values were issued.

In a statement Friday the city said that this is the third year in a row that construction values have exceeded a billion dollars in the first half of the year. The values in the first half of 2014 are up 6.7 per cent over the same period last year.

The statement is the civic bureaucracy’s acknowledgment of something that most drivers and residents already know, that developers are hustling all over the city with major developments that will bring thousands of more residents to Vancouver.

The city said some of the major developments in 2014 that have added to the city skyline include Concord Pacific’s two-tower, 435-unit One Pacific, valued at $87 million, and Bosa Blue Sky Properties’ 195-unit rental building on Main Street at East Georgia, valued at $27 million.

According to the city, the following building permit values are for the first 6 months of each year; numbers in brackets are annual figures:

– 2014: $1.12 billion

– 2013: $1.05 billion ($2.2 billion)

– 2012: $1.03 billion ($2.6 billion)

– 2011: $768.7 million ($1.7 billion)

– 2010: $653.0 million ($1.5 billion)

– 2009: $373.9 million ($1.3 billion)

– 2008: $924.9 million ($1.6 billion)

There is no indication how much money the city took in for building permit fees. The numbers cited represent the buildings’ value for construction purposes.

jefflee@vancouversun.com © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

How to Invest the Money in the Contingency Reserve Fund

depreciation report; depreciation reports

By Gina Arsens, CA, CBV, CRP

Saving money is a key part of what a depreciation report is about.  The requirement to obtain a depreciation report has made the importance of saving for future repairs top of mind for Strata living.  It is estimated that Strata councils in BC will be managing a substantial amount –soon to be several billion dollars in assets.

As a result, Strata Property Regulations have been updated to define how Strata corporations can invest their savings.  Section 6.11 of Strata Property Regulations has been rewritten and effective July 16, 2014, outlines permitted investments for money held in the contingency reserve fund or collected on special levies.

Many Stratas have been putting their investments in low interest bank savings accounts, which have been at some of the lowest levels in history.  If Strata corporations can earn more than the savings rate it means that there will be less future fees for Strata owners.  Based on feedback and in order to simplify and improve the rules around investments, changes were made.

The permitted investments are easier to understand and more current to today’s environment. They are still considered to be safe investments.  Highlights of the permitted investments are:

  1. Savings or chequing account outside of BC and insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corp. (CDIC)
  2. Term deposit or GIC’s insured by CDIC with a fixed interest rate
  3. T-bill issued by the government of Canada
  4. Bond, debenture or other debt issued by Canada or a province or a company as long as the debt:

a)    is less than 5 years to maturity
b)    Based in Canadian dollars
c)    The debt has a DBRS rating of A or higher

  1. Fixed Income exchange traded fund, trading on a Canadian Exchange if:

a)    the fund doesn’t have securities (stocks) – just bonds or debenture or other debt
b)    The funds are in Canadian dollars
c)    Term to maturity is 5 years or less
d)    98% of the value of the holdings have a rating of BBB or higher

It should also be noted that if the Strata has invested its funds in instruments based on the past regulations, there is a grandfathering provision.

This blog post is provided to provide highlights from the regulations.  For advice and further information, please consult your investment advisor and the Strata Property Regulations.

What are Sectioned Stratas?

Content by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.  To view the original post, click here.  

Although the Real Estate Council does not enforce the Strata Property Act (the “SPA”), to appreciate how the requirements of RESA and the Council Rules apply to strata corporations with sections, it is helpful to understand the provisions of the SPA that govern the creation of sections.

Creation of Sections

The SPA permits the creation of sections in order that the different interests of owners of residential and non-residential strata lots, owners of non-residential strata lots used for different purposes, and owners of apartment style, townhouse style or detached strata lots may be represented. Sections are created by bylaws established by the developer at the time the strata plan is filed, or subsequently by an amendment to the bylaws approved by a 3/4 vote of each of the groups of strata lots intending to form a section and a 3/4 vote of the strata corporation.

Notwithstanding the creation of sections, the strata corporation retains its powers and duties in matters of common interest to all owners. Thus, even if sections are created, the strata corporation continues to exist and is required to function in the same manner as any other strata corporation by holding general meetings, electing a strata council, approving a budget, and collecting strata fees for those expenses that are common to all strata lots. The items for which a strata corporation will be responsible and for which it must collect strata fees will vary depending on the structure of the development, however, at a minimum, the strata corporation will be responsible for obtaining insurance as required by SPA and collecting strata fees to pay the insurance premium.

Powers and Duties of a Section

The SPA provides that once created, a section is a corporation and has the same powers and duties as the strata corporation in respect of matters that relate solely to the section. As a result of this provision, once the bylaws creating sections are filed in the land title office, each section identified in the bylaws is a separate corporation. Thus, each section is a separate legal entity. The fact that each section is a corporation and thus a legal entity, is extremely significant. Because each section is a separate legal entity, the section is equivalent to a strata corporation in respect of matters that relate solely to the section as set out in section 194 of SPA. Sections are often referred to as “mini” strata corporations. The SPA sets out that a section has the power and duty to:

  • Establish its own operating fund and contingency reserve fund for common expenses of the section
  • Budget and require section owners to pay strata fees and special levies for expenditures the section authorizes
  • Sue or arbitrate in the name of the section
  • Enter into contracts in the name of the section
  • Acquire and dispose of land in the name of the section
  • Enforce bylaws and rules

Once a section is created, the SPA contemplates that the section will operate independently of the strata corporation. The section must establish a budget for expenses the section authorizes and must establish its own operating and contingency reserve fund.

Administration of a Section

The SPA provides that the eligible voters of a section may call and hold meetings and pass resolutions in the same manner as the eligible voters of the strata corporation. This provision is further evidence that a section is to operate as a “mini” strata corporation.

The SPA also provides that each section must elect an executive for the section. The executive has the same powers and duties with respect to the section as the strata council has with respect to the strata corporation.

Practical Effect on Governance

Once bylaws have been filed creating sections, each section is a legal entity. Each section must hold (or waive) an annual general meeting to elect an executive and to approve a budget for the common expenses of the section that are authorized by the section.

Although it is often common practice for strata corporations with sections to have one AGM for the strata corporation, and for the budget approved by the strata corporation to contain expenses for the sections, such a practice does not conform to the SPA. To comply with the SPA each of the strata corporation and sections must hold (or waive) the AGM at which time the budget for the legal entity that called the meeting must be approved and a strata council or executive, as appropriate, must be elected.

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia (Council) is a regulatory agency established by the provincial government in 1958. Its mandate is to protect the public interest by enforcing the licensing and licensee conduct requirements of the Real Estate Services Act. The Council is responsible for licensing individuals and brokerages engaged in real estate sales, rental and strata property management. The Council also enforces entry qualifications, investigates complaints against licensees and imposes disciplinary sanctions under the Act. Visit www.recbc.ca for more information.  

Do you live in a sectioned strata that requires a Depreciation Report?   Click here to request a free, no-obligation proposal from Normac.  

Can One Small Group of Owners Block the Strata from Selling?

In British Columbia, an estimated quarter of the population lives in jointly owned housing. With the province’s older condominium developments approaching the 50 year old mark, there has been increasing contention surrounding the BC Strata Property Act’s requirement that 100% of owners agree to the sale. A recent decision by a Supreme Court Judge highlights how BC’s legislation may be revisted in the near future.

Shared property owners in North Vancouver can force sale, B.C. Supreme Court rules
Content By Frances Bula, The Globe and Mail. To read the article as it originally appeared in The Globe and Mail, click here.

A Supreme Court judge has ruled that a majority of owners in a strata-type project in North Vancouver can ask for a sale of the whole property, even if a minority says the sale will force them out of the only affordable homes in their neighbourhood.

That adds one more decision to an increasingly contentious issue in British Columbia – how to deal with jointly owned properties in a province where a quarter of the population lives in collectively owned housing, largely stratas.

The issue is so thorny and prevalent that the B.C. Law Institute is working on a research project to look at how to improve the law in B.C. for dissolving strata corporations.

Lawyers for both groups at Seymour Estates, near Capilano University, say the decision by Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon put conditions on the order that require the final sale price and buyer to be approved by the court.

But the door is still firmly opened for 87 owners in the 114-unit project, who have been courted by Darwin Construction Ltd. of North Vancouver the last three years, to sell the entire seven-acre parcel. Seymour Estates, built in 1970, is not a strata under current B.C. law, but has an ownership model similar to a strata.

The court ruling is an important decision because it makes it clear that one small group of owners cannot block everyone else from selling, said Peter Roberts, the lawyer who acted for the pro-sale group.

John Whyte, who represented the small group of owners resisting, said the ruling Friday by the judge drew an “audible gasp” from the standing-room-only crowd.

For his clients, he said, “it was really their only option into the market in this neighbourhood.”

He and his clients are hopeful about Justice Fenlon’s conditions, which are meant to ensure the owners get the best possible price. That price will be scrutinized in the second legal round, to determine the impact for existing owners, Mr. Whyte said.

“Then we will know if people will be dislocated. They can compare that number for what they could buy in the area.”

Many residents in the complex didn’t want to speak publicly about where they stand on the issue. But some said they felt many owners didn’t understand that the Darwin offer was not the best deal they could get.

Darwin confirmed it is offering owners about 30 per cent more than they could get on the market right now. But if Darwin is successful in getting the land rezoned, the property will be worth significantly more than that. The area is slated for increased density, according to the District of North Vancouver’s official community plan.

One resident, however, said she’ll be happy to sell and get out.

“These are really nice places but everything is going wrong with them,” said Susan Watson, who has lived at Seymour Estates for 18 years. “If we stay, we’re going to be hit with a huge special levy. There’s plumbing trucks here every day.”

The dilemma of selling jointly owned properties has been rising to the surface, as the province’s older condos and jointly owned properties approach the 50-year mark and as builders hunt for low-density tracts near transit that they can redevelop.

The current B.C. Strata Property Act says that a strata-owned property can only be sold as a whole if 100 per cent of the owners agree.

“It’s very difficult to get to that point,” said Kevin Zakreski, the staff lawyer with the B.C. Law Institute working on the project to find a better mechanism.

At the moment, if there is anything less than unanimity, the group of owners wanting to sell have to go to court to try to get a sale ordered – an expensive, time-consuming procedure.

Two years ago, a group from an older North Van project, Cypress Gardens, tried to get a sale ordered, but were turned down because the judge said they didn’t represent a majority and they’d create too much hardship for those who didn’t want to sell.

Mr. Zakreski said B.C.’s rules are more onerous than those of other provinces, which typically allow a sale to be completed by the strata council if around 80 per cent of owners agree.

The law-institute project is going to go out for public consultation later this year.

Useful Links:
BC Strata Property Act