‘Strata’ is the legal term used in British Columbia for a type of joint ownership of real property, in which portions of the property are commonly owned and other portions are individually owned. Colloquially, strata is referred to also as condominium or apartment unit.
To create a strata development, a developer must first subdivide the land, including any buildings, into designated parts for separate ownerships together with common features. This is done by depositing a document called Strata Plan at the Land Title Office. The plan must show which parts are strata lots for purchase by individual owners and which parts are common property.
Although the requirements for depositing a strata plan are very technical, every plan must show, among other things, the following:
[ ] a unique registration number (for example, SP LMS3729);
[ ] the boundaries of the land;
[ ] the location of all buildings (with the exception of ‘bare land’ strata developments);
[ ] a drawing distinguishing the strata lots from one another by numbers or letters in consecutive order;
[ ] the area of each strata lot;
[ ] a schedule of unit entitlements;
[ ] a schedule of voting rights, if there is at least one non-residential strata lot;
[ ] any by-laws that differ in any respects from the Standard By-laws contemplated in the Strata Property Act.
Unit entitlement is the figure on which the strata units monthly maintenance fees are assessed. This usually takes into consideration the size of the strata unit, as well as the area of the limited common property that the strata unit has use of. If the strata council needs to raise $100,000 per year, and the unit entitlement is 18/1000, the monthly maintenance fee assessed would amount to $1,800 per year, or about $150 per month.
Copies of registered strata plans are available at the Land Title Office in the district where the strata development is located.
It is important to notice that a strata development is not the same as a cooperative building project (coop), in that the legal structure of a housing cooperative is different is some important respects.
In a housing cooperative, a corporation is created to purchase or lease and subsequently develop land for housing. The corporation is called the association. The corporation owns the land or building or, in some cases, leases the property from a landlord. An individual becomes a member of the cooperative by purchasing shares of the association. Typically, ownership of a share carries the right to occupy a unit in the cooperative housing complex.
From a member’s perspective, the most significant difference between a strata development and a housing cooperative is the nature of the member’s interest in the project. In a strata development, the owner buys and interest in a strata lot. So, therefore, the owner purchases real estate. Conversely, in a housing cooperative the member does not own an interest in land. Rather, the member owns only a share in the association, not real estate.