Effectively managing a strata

Date Published : Jul-20-2020

Written By : Phillip Livingston

Much like condo corporations, some strata corporations elect to hire a property manager for their community. Property managers are generally responsible for managing a community’s daily operations and carrying out policies established by the strata council. They work hard to ensure the development runs smoothly, and that lines of communication between council members and owners remain open.  

We will share some tips below on how to effectively manage a strata.

 

Strata property managers require a licence

Strata property management companies offer a range of services, and some will provide different services than others. However, every strata property manager in British Columbia must be licensed.

In 2006, B.C. became the first province to license strata property managers. The Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) is responsible for the licensing, education, and discipline of strata managers and strata management companies, under the authority of the Real Estate Services Act (RESA) and the associated Rules.   

RESA requires each strata property management company to be a licensed brokerage, and every company must have a managing broker who is responsible for the individual strata managers.   

In addition to the duties imposed on property managers by common law, RESA and the RECBC Rules have a code of conduct that licenced strata managers must follow. While these rules and requirements may seem unnecessary, they help ensure that property managers are qualified to perform their job well, and that they don’t do anything to jeopardize the wellbeing of the community or the company that they work for. 

 

Exemptions from licencing

There are a couple of exemptions from the licencing requirement for strata managers:

  • Strata lot owners in a self-managed strata corporation don’t require a licence
  • Caretakers, strata lot owners employed by a strata corporation, and owner developers who meet certain conditions may also be exempt from the licencing requirement

 

Understand your rights and obligations                   

It’s very important that strata property managers understand what they are permitted to do, what their clients expect them to do, and what they cannot do. If there is any disconnect between client and manager expectations, problems will almost certainly arise.

 

Strata management contract

Before taking on a new strata development, make it clear to your client what your roles and responsibilities will include. Be equally clear about anything that you cannot or will not do. The best way to do this is to have your client, usually the strata council, enter into a strata management contract. This contract is a legally binding agreement between the strata corporation and the strata management company. It clearly lays out the rights and obligations of the strata manager. A list of duties, powers and limitations of the manager and the company, payment methods and schedules, and termination procedures are all included in this contract. Each contract needs to comply with the Strata Property Act, and RESA. A strata contract should always be in writing and reviewed by independent legal counsel before it is signed.    

 

Roles/Responsibilities

Different developments will have different needs, but strata property managers may be expected to:

  • Attend strata council meetings
  • Prepare the minutes of all meetings and distribute minutes from meetings to strata owners
  • Prepare annual budgets and financial statements on behalf of the board
  • Collect strata fees, and other fees owed to the corporation
  • Pay corporation bills
  • Secure adequate insurance for the strata corporation
  • Keep records for the strata corporation
  • Provide access to strata corporation records when appropriate
  • Prepare documents on behalf of the strata corporation
  • Enter into contracts and arrange landscaping, insurance, electrical, maintenance, and other services
  • Hire and supervise employees who will work for the development

 

Limitations

The Strata Property Act and regulations clearly state that strata managers are not permitted to:

  • Act as an arbitrator in an arbitration proceeding without explicit consent from all parties
  • Keep strata corporation records beyond four weeks if they have been let go by the strata corporation who hired them
  • Act as a proxy holder for a voter in the strata corporation
  • Have a hearing on behalf of the strata council

Moreover, under the Standard Bylaws (which a corporation can amend), strata managers are not allowed to:

  • Determine if a person has broken a bylaw or rule
  • Determine if a person should be fined or decide on the amount of a fine
  • Determine if a person should be denied access to a shared amenity
  • Spend corporation money for a specific expenditure without a strata council resolution authorizing the specific expenditure or
  • Spend corporation money for general expenditures without a general spending authority by a strata council resolution. The resolution must state the maximum amount that can be spent, the purposes for which money can be spent, and any conditions that have to be met before a purchase can be made

Once expectations have been established, you can begin to understand the corporation’s wants and needs, and work towards improving processes and experiences for council members and owners.

 

Know the building

You can’t manage a corporation well if you don’t have a good understanding of who lives there, what its strengths are, and what difficulties it encounters. Study the building and learn the rules and bylaws. It’s also important to know the mechanical systems within the development. This way, you can build a list of contractors who have the skills to repair those systems if they require maintenance.

Become familiar with the general area as well. You never know when a prospective buyer will drop in with questions about the neighbourhood. If you can sell the area, that may persuade the interested buyer to purchase a home in the building. 

The more knowledge you have about your property, the more success you will have when it comes to managing it.

 

Communicate effectively

We cannot stress enough how important good communication is. Effective managers need to be able to communicate with many different people including caretakers, employees, council members, and owners or tenants. Keeping all of these parties happy is quite a challenge, but if you can build trust, transparency, and mutual respect between you and the different parties, your job will be much easier.

Strata management software can help managers build better relationships with the people who live and work in the corporation through effective communication. Condo Control Central, for example, has an Announcements feature that enables managers to reach the entire community in minutes. Send an announcement to everyone, or choose a specific group of recipients.

You can attach newsletters, notices or any other document to each announcement, and owners can elect to be notified about new announcements via email, text or automated voice message. You can create announcements from your computer or phone, and even schedule announcements to be released at a specific time.      

In addition to sending messages, managers need to listen to the people they work for and with, and respond in a timely manner. Whenever someone comes to you with an issue, aim to find a meaningful solution. If the problem is complex, keep the person updated at all stages of the process so that they don’t think you’ve forgotten about them. For common requests, such as service requests, you can let strata management software streamline the most repetitive and tedious aspects of the process for you. 

Communication is a skill that is often overlooked, but it is critical to becoming an effective strata property manager.  

 

Showcase the best of your building 

Strata management is not about being a salesperson, however, there are times where you will need to sell owners on your capabilities, and boost the interests of prospective buyers. The internet is your best resource when it comes to advertising. Make use of credible real estate sites, social media and your own website. A good website can help you attract future owners who will fit in with your community. Make sure you use high-quality pictures, include key information, and contact information.   

 

Conclusion

Managing a strata is a lot of work. While no two strata corporations are exactly alike, a manager should always be transparent, proactive and helpful. Make sure to maintain good communication with the people you work for, understand their rules and expectations, and use tools and software that will help make your job a little easier.