What Strata Fees Cover
2009/10/29 Originally published in the Vernon Morning Star.
I am often asked why the cost of monthly fees in strata properties varies so much from complex to complex.
There are a variety of reasons. For instance, in a bare land strata the Strata Corporation is not responsible for exterior maintenance of the home. The individual owner is. So items like re-roofing or replacement of siding are not expensed out to the Strata Corporation. Owners do, however, endure the expenses on their own, just as an individual non-strata homeowner always has. Bare land stratas also noticeably different from the majority of condo or strata complexes as the homes are fully detached. Bare land strata owners do contribute to pay for grounds maintenance, road maintenance, snow removal, liability insurance, water use in the common areas, recreational facilities, maintenance of the complex fence or wall if it has one, garbage and often water, sewer and the like.
In attached stratas such as apartment blocks and townhouses, the homeowners contribute to pay for the same items I just mentioned, plus exterior maintenance on all the buildings in their complex.
Over and above these basic principles, the individual complexes have their own unique set of expenses. Depending on how plain or how lavish the landscaping is, the gardening maintenance costs will vary a lot. If the complex has a pool, hot tub, clubhouse or waterscaping, they all cost money to operate and maintain. That cost shows up in the strata fee.
Occasionally in apartment blocks you even see heat and/or basic cable TV included. You would think that apartments would be able to run at a lower cost than a townhouse complex because there is much more landscape maintenance in a townhouse or bare land strata complex. This is not necessarily so. Apartments have elevators to maintain and extensive hallways to keep clean and sprinkler systems to keep up etc.
One large variance I see between complexes is whether or not the water and sewer are included. Complexes that were more recently built tend to have their owners pay it separately. This pretty much came along with water meters. When comparing strata fees always be sure to check for water and sewer charges. It's commonly $40 or $50 per month on top of your strata fee, if it's not already included.
Last, but certainly not least is the subject of unit entitlement. Unit entitlement means that the strata fees are set by the square footage of habitable floor area. So, if you have varying sizes of units within an attached strata complex the smaller ones pay the least and the larger ones pay the most. A number of newer complexes in this area have abandoned that concept and have set the complexes up at the outset so that every owner pays an equal share. In many ways, that is the most equitable arrangement. Replacement insurance would be more fairly paid if calculated by square footage, but the remaining expenses being paid on a per unit basis does make sense.
Jane Field works with RE/MAX Vernon. Jane has over 30 years experience in the Real Estate business. To suggest topics for future articles or to ask Jane questions, email or call 503-3755.
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