We know that many of you have already read the news on this subject as our phones have been ringing this morning, trumpeting in the welcome arrival of some long overdue ammunition for those strata councils and ownership groups dealing with headaches related to AirBnB and other short-term rental platforms and vacation websites. Now, not all strata corporations are having an issue with short-term rentals and some of them are finding a way to co-exist quite nicely. Others are fully embracing short-term rentals through community decisions and bylaws specifically allowing for them. However, for many of those dealing with the rapid turnover of short-term rental units where the individuals involved are concerned exclusively with generating revenue- showing little care for violations of established rules, the strata corporation bylaws, neighbours, security issues, noise and/or damage to common property- this (soon to arrive) new ability for strata councils to fine owners up to $1,000 A DAY for defying a strata corporation’s bylaws on short-term rentals is being met with significant enthusiasm.
Tony Gioventu, one of the foremost experts in Strata issues in British Columbia, has written an article which we think is critical to understanding developments over the past 5-10 years in our industry. You can find his article, entitled “‘Bargain’ Management Fees Need a Closer Look” here.
To understand the broader context of why this topic is so important, we recommend referring to previous articles we’ve written on the critical shortage of labour in the Strata Management industry, as well as the increasing cost of doing business for Strata Corporations in light of minimum wage hikes.
We are often asked by Strata Councils about some of the procedures we have put in place to ensure proper approval and authorization of work and then payment for that work. Below you will find a brief primer on some of the important terms and concepts that drive our policies, and yours:
Recently, a number of stories made the rounds regarding an open secret in the Strata Property Management world: that good labour is getting increasingly hard to find. Business in Vancouver (BIV) published the following article https://biv.com/article/2018/02/shortage-metro-vancouver-strata-agents-worsening this month and the CBC’s take be found here.
While there are some factors that are hitting every industry in BC and small business in particular (for example, the new payroll tax will be a very significant new $45k+ hit to our 30 person company in 2019), there are several that impact Strata Property Management more acutely than other businesses. It’s no secret that minimum wage increases, the sky-rocketing cost of living in the greater Vancouver region and the demographic shift of baby-boomers retiring is exerting an overall upward pressure on wage costs. While these problems are not unique to our industry, the resulting critical lack of capable strata licensees should be a grave concern to those living in or investing in strata corporations in BC.
While we’re not usually keen political commentators, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by our firm that the government elected in 2017 has made several promises which will have a significant impact on Strata Corporations. One of those, and the focus of this article, will be the promise to increase the Minimum Wage to $15/hour by 2021. In September of 2017, the rate for Minimum Wage saw it’s first increase to $11.35 (from $10.85).
With continued incredible support from our staff and industry colleagues alike, Stratawest is proud to have made significant contributions to the North Shore Christmas Bureau for the 7th year running and to Harvest Project in our second year of involvement with their fantastic program – extending a hand up, not just a hand out. The response this year was again awe-inspiring, with amazingly generous donations of toys, clothing, thousands of dollars in gift cards, movie passes, and restaurant meals, sporting equipment – including 12 NEW bikes! – and sporting event tickets, iPods and many other items for needy families. Incredibly, there was far more than the picture shows as we had to make a number of trips over the past couple of weeks.
We were also inspired to take part in Harvest Project’s Adopt A Family campaign to bring hope to North Shore families in need and on their way back to healthier lives. The staff and leadership of Stratawest believe it’s important to ‘give where we live’. Harvest Project is a local charity that supports over 350 families each month with coaching and counsel along with grocery and clothing support. On our goal of $2,400, we are thrilled to have raised (so far) over $3,100 which will help support a family for the coming year. Amazing!
We want to sincerely thank and acknowledge the support of our colleagues in the industry and our staff for making this holiday season a better one for so many kids and their families. It is because of the participation and big hearts of many that we are collectively able to make a difference in so many lives, so thank you so much to those that took part and to the many others holding events of their own this holiday season.
Season’s Greetings to all of you, and best wishes from all of us here at Stratawest Management. Cheers!
P.S Shout out to James Wilson at Obsession Bikes and their 2017 Bikes for Tykes program in benefit of the North Shore Christmas Bureau for again handling delivery duties of the donated bikes. Merry Christmas guys!
Such large props to http://www.stratawest.com/ For filling our truck with NEW kids bikes for our program!! #bikesfortykes2017 is going strong and we are well on our way to providing over 250 kids in this area with new bikes! Thank you to all who have helped either by donating bikes or for buying a child a new helmet. #togetherwearebetter #giveback #payitforward #loveyourcommunity #lovebikes @fsnorthshore @salvationarmybc @northshorenews #obsessed
Occasionally, our clients will ask us for advice on planning for disasters (earthquakes, fires, terrorism, etc.). We must admit that while we will always play a role in dealing with elements of a disaster, we are not experts in planning for one. We usually refer our clients to professionals who have the expertise to provide diligent and thorough advice on steps a Strata Corporation can take to mitigate the risk and plan for significant calamities.
For those interested, the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI) is holding a seminar on Thursday November 16th, 2017 with exactly this sort of expert to provide just this sort of advice.
Many of our clients are already members of CCI, and if you aren’t already this might prove to be a good opportunity to join. If you are interested in attending, you can find more information here.
More information on the general benefits of membership can be found here.
Condo Smarts is a regular read for many Property Managers and Strata Councils throughout the province. The author, Tony Gioventu is also the Executive Director of the Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA) of which we have been a proud member for many, many years. He is well respected throughout the industry for his practical advice to Strata Councils on a variety of matters, including issues they might face when dealing with their Property Managers.
Tony recently wrote an article on the importance of Council members reviewing and executing contracts. We think this is important advice. For the most part, Property Managers will enter into day to day agreements with Contractors (for example, it is not practical to ask a Council member to sign a work order asking an electrician to come and replace a burned out ballast). Our Property Managers will habitually ask Council members, usually the President, to sign larger agreements (once they have been reviewed and approved by Council) such as ongoing contracts and those for substantial projects. Contract awards should also be reflected in Council meeting minutes. This serves as demonstration that the project is both authorized by Council and that the Council is aware of the specific terms of the agreement, not just what the quotation says. This may be seen as a nuisance by some or ‘the Property Manager’s job’, but we do this to avoid the type of scenario described in Mr. Gioventu’s excellent article.
Mr. Gioventu also makes a small comment about the importance of legal review of contracts before they are entered into. This too is important advice, especially on larger/ongoing agreements which are binding on the Strata Corporation for lengthy periods of time and/or for large dollar amounts. Our Property Manager’s are never a substitute for legal advice and Strata Councils should consider having contracts reviewed by qualified professionals to ensure the terms are fair and that they are consistent with what the Strata Council expects from quotations/proposals.
We have written on other occasions about the need to ensure your Strata Corporation’s bylaws are thorough and enforceable. That is best done by independent legal counsel, to ensure that they are consistent with current practices, the applicable legislation (Strata Property Act “SPA”, Personal Information Protection Act “PIPA”, the Human Rights Code, etc.) and recent case law.
Many of our clients are struggling with the relatively new phenomenon of short-term rentals within their Strata properties. Over the past few years, new technological platforms and tools (Air BnB, VRBO, Homeaway, to name a few) have made it simple for homeowners to let out a portion of or all of their home to third parties. We are Strata Property Managers so don’t profess to have any insightful commentary on the long-term implications of this element of the new “sharing economy” on broader elements of society, but there are impacts on Strata Corporations that have been felt and are likely to continue which are important to discuss.