A strata council plays a vital role in governing the strata corporation on behalf of owners. It is responsible for making decisions and fulfilling responsibilities that will benefit the corporation and the community.
Council members are granted certain powers that enable them to perform their duties, but they can’t improvise as they go. Over 1.5 million people live in stratas in B.C., so to ensure consistency in the way each strata operates, each council is required to act within the parameters laid out in the Strata Property Act. The Act is very detailed; it has extensive regulations and over 26 forms. The Act covers several key matters, including strata fees, records, contracts, work orders, budgets, voting, meetings, and of course, obligations of council members.
So, strata councils make their decisions based on the Act, and the corporation’s bylaws. In exercising the powers and performing the duties of the corporation, each council member is expected to
a) act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the strata corporation, and
b) exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person in comparable circumstances.
Being a strata council member is a lot of work, but it can be very rewarding, too. These individuals get to make decisions that will bring about real changes in their community.
The purpose of a strata council
The strata council is elected to represent owners of the strata corporation. The members are responsible for maintaining the health and wellbeing of the strata and the community. The strata council
- Acts as the managing body for the strata corporation
- Makes decisions that enable the strata corporation to operate smoothly
- Ensures the strata and strata members comply with rules and bylaws
Who can be a member of council?
Almost any owner or individual representing a corporate owner can be elected to be a part of a strata council, but there are some exceptions.
Tenants who, under section 147 or 148 of the Act, have been assigned a landlord’s right to stand for council may also be a member.
The strata corporation may, by a bylaw passed at an annual or special general meeting held after the first annual general meeting, allow other people who do not fit the above criteria to be council members. However, most stratas will prefer to elect owners who understand the community’s needs and issues.
Owners cannot run if their strata lot can be liened for money owing to the strata corporation, and a bylaw supports this restriction. Owners who live in the same strata lot cannot both be on the strata council unless the strata is so small that all of the owners are required to be a part of the council (the Standard Bylaws provide that if there are fewer than four strata lots or owners, then all owners must be a part of the council). In this case, each lot still only has one vote.
The strata council is usually elected every year at an annual general meeting, in accordance with the strata’s bylaws.
The number of council members is also determined by the strata’s bylaws. Under the Standard Bylaws (which can be amended) council must consist of three to seven members (unless there are fewer than four lots or four owners).
Key duties and responsibilities
The specific duties of the strata council may vary depending on the community, but members are generally responsible for:
- Calling and conducting general meetings
- Preparing budgets and financial statements
- Collecting and archiving a list of the names of owners and tenants
- Directing investments and expenditures
- Collecting strata fees and other fees owed to the corporation
- Ensuring the strata has adequate insurance
- Paying bills and invoices
- Enforcing rules and bylaws
This list is by no means extensive, which is why many councils decide to hire a strata management company to help them with the heavy workload.
Although the strata council has a critical governing role, under the Strata Property Act, many actions need to be approved by strata owners. For example, a certain number of votes needs to be submitted by owners in order to create or change a bylaw, or approve a special levy.
Different decisions have different voting thresholds.
A majority vote requires more than ½ of the votes are cast in favour of the resolution. All resolutions are determined by a majority vote unless the Act or regulations require an alternative level of voting.
A 3/4 vote requires that at least 3/4 of the votes are cast in favour by eligible voters who attend the meeting in person, or by proxy. If a resolution requiring a 3/4 vote was passed at a general meeting by owners holding less than 50% of the votes in the corporation, then the strata council cannot implement the resolution for one week unless the resolution is to ensure safety or prevent significant loss.
Interestingly, strata corporations can compensate council members for their work if their bylaws allow it, or if a resolution passed by a 3/4 vote of the owners makes this possible.
An 80% vote means a vote in favour of a resolution by 80% of all eligible voters. This can be hard to achieve. It is usually only required to cancel the strata plan and terminate (or wind up) the strata corporation with or without a liquidator.
A unanimous vote means a vote in favour of a resolution by all the eligible voters. Stratas need a unanimous vote to:
- Give approval to the Owner Developer to enter into a contract/transaction on behalf of strata with the Owner Developer or with a person who is not at arm’s length to the Owner Developer, after the first strata lot is sold but before the first AGM
- Approve any resolutions ordinarily requiring a 3/4 vote, during the period from the sale of the first strata lot to the first AGM, unless: the resolution is to amend the bylaws in a wholly commercial strata corporation or to amend the commercial section bylaws in a strata corporation consisting of residential and commercial sections; the resolution is to amend a “Form J: Rental Disclosure Statement”
- Approve changes to the schedule of unit entitlement
- Approve a method other than by unit entitlement, in which a special levy will be assessed to the owners
- Approve changes to the bylaws in a residential or mixed-use development before the second AGM
- Amend a strata plan to add a strata lot to the common property
- Change the basis for calculating a strata lot’s contribution to the operating fund and contingency reserve fund
Council members should be aware of the type of vote needed to approve a resolution.
Removing a council member
A council member can be removed, with or without cause, by a majority vote of the owners at a general meeting. However, the owners must then elect someone to replace the former member. Removing a member by majority vote can be an item of business in a special general meeting if there is a written demand to hold that meeting by at least 20% of the corporation’s eligible voters.
If a council member is unwilling or cannot perform their duties for two months or longer, they can be replaced by a new council member appointed by the existing strata council members. If all council members resign or cannot perform their duties for two months or longer, a special general meeting may be held, with at least 25% of the strata corporation’s votes, to elect a new council.
What if no one wants to sit on the council?
If there are not enough eligible people willing to sit on the strata council, then the corporation, or an owner, tenant, mortgagee or other person having an interest in a strata lot, can apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for the appointment of an administrator to take on the role of a council member. The court would appoint an administrator if it believes this would be in the strata’s best interests. Note that the administrator would receive payment from the strata corporation. So, while there is no reason why a council seat should remain empty, it’s better (and less costly) to have owners sit on the council.
Strata council members are always encouraged to act with the best interests of the strata in mind. Although this can be a challenging role, the council can work collaboratively with each other, and with owners to achieve goals and resolve issues.