STRATA LIVING IN SUMMER
After a month of exploring, confronting and swimming while receiving information and an education from my fellow Strata council members, I now have a bit of an understanding what strata life is like in summer. As with everything else in life, there are positives and not so good things at the strata. For those who are contemplating to downsize their homes and thinking that the communal life might be for them, this blog might be helpful, although personality plays a big part on how you might like or detest it. I say: never say never. I am trying it out. I still have a home to return to for now, if I don’t like it.
The first choice anybody probably would make on entering a strata home is to get involved, or stay watching at the side lines. For those who have some initiative and hate to be unoccupied, it pays to get involved and feel some satisfaction from helping solve problems. If you like to be busy and would miss your maintenance projects of a house, this is a good alternative, at a lower level of intensity, and still using your expertise. In a practical way, all repairs are completed and outstanding decisions finally made, such as about water damage. The pool was fixed nicely and looks great with new lounge chairs and a wonderful professional class BBQ.
Most council members are male and some of them just love to do things, fix minor maintenance issues themselves, or get a service to fix it and monitor the contractor and the work to be done. Others are more talented in the area of coordination, and with a calm and authoritative presence get people to focus and collaborate on the jobs to be done.
I just like to see things solved and put the conditions in place to ensure that most people can enjoy the facilities. I think that people, who are selfish and disrespectful of the other strata owners and residents, should be stopped and called on their attitudes and hopefully, change their errand ways.
My experience so far is that lots of residents would complain and grumble, but not file an official complaint with the strata council or the strata manager. So, nothing will change, because an official, preferably written, case need to be forwarded for it to be heard. I know the Canadian saying: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I do not agree with that at all.
Pardon me, but that is just a cop out to keep people down and not change things. How do you think things get solved, or how would anybody get any satisfaction from grumbling to a few friends? Unless of course that is your inherent goal and seeking people who will listen, is your pleasure. I doubt that it would get you any new friends.
As I found out, rules already are laid down in Strata Bylaws and in Written Rules and are backed up by a provincial Strata Act and those are sufficient to deal with most issues. As far as I can see, the problem is that nobody was enforcing those rules. Council members closed their eyes, probably not wanting to be the heavy and not really be willing to stand up. People living in the strata assumed they won’t get help if they do speak up, so the status quo remains. Yes, it is not easy to speak up, but one can forward problems in writing to the strata manager. If the strata manager is not functional, then things would deteriorate even more. That is what happened last year, but we have a new competent manager now.
My thing this summer became the pool.
During the winter as a new strata resident I developed an interest first. Next, I needed to self-identify as a resident and a strata council member to feel justified to address others (for instance in the pool). I was added to council in this spring at the AGM where I heard other had concerns about pool use as well. I needed to try to identify the people that are breaking the rules, what unit they live in, and who their guests are. The members who have lived here for many years know most people, but still did not feel justified somehow to file a formal complaint. Then here comes this newbie resident with a big mouth and a social conscience who is oblivious to the gossip and starts asking around, introducing herself to everybody she talks to, and causing a lively discussion about the strata rules: what are these, should they be enforced and who is responsible for that? At least I caused some new signs to be produced.
Those who have read the two previous posts on this blog: well, let me enlighten you what happened with the swimming pool guests that annoyed me.
The people of my first story that were being loud and obnoxious and increased their numbers each time I was in the pool: they had no business being in the pool at all, we found out. One written rule is that any guests must be accompanied by a resident, whether that is a strata owner or a renter. In this case, the owner did not want/could not come out to be in the pool. The absentee owner and the resident (the owner’s mother) received a letter after the strata manager had inquired and spoken with the owner. The guests were the owner’s sister and her whole family with 5 adult children and their children, in town for a 2 month vacation. They thought it would be nice to use the strata as their home basis, but grandmother (90 years old) was unfortunately not able to sit poolside. However, they did not think twice of dropping their little ones off with Nana to babysit, while the adults had fun in the pool.
As the guests so far had broken all kinds of other pool rules as well that are clearly displayed on a sign within the pool enclosure, such having glass beer and hard cider bottles in the pool area, were clogging the pool with big blow up pool toys and taking their kids with diapers on in the hot tub, we did not grant them approval for an exception to that rule when we finally received a request from the owner for two more weeks of this. Strata rules should be enforced; the strata owner and resident were responsible for their guests and needed to abide by the Rules.
The group of my second story proceeded to use the pool extensively with different groups of young guests. They started drinking in the pool, smoking and swearing. Although alcohol consumption is allowed, rules state that glass in the pool is not, or smoking, nor is being a nuisance to other residents and interfering with their enjoyment of the pool as a Bylaw describes. Although the unit resident was listed as the owner, her parents indeed had co-signed the mortgage. The young lady had taken a roommate to help pay the mortgage fees. Her guests were in the pool legitimately, as well as her roommate’s guests, but the owner did get a warning letter with the infractions that were observed and complained about by other residents and a copy of the Bylaws, as she was blatantly unaware of them.
What if the people that got a warning letter just don’t care, you ask. As I studied the Bylaws and talked with the manager, I learned that the council has more tools in their kit to enforce the written pool rules and Bylaws.
1. If the strata council gets more complaints about a certain unit, the owner/resident can lose their pool privileges and the key taken from them.
2. If the locks have to be changed, as people do not surrender the key, or the owner provides the key without being there with their guests in the pool, the costs of re-keying the locks are charged back to the owner.
3. If uninvited guests or others who are illegitimately at the pool do not leave when requested, the strata council member can call the police to have them removed from the premises.
4. If the person continues to be a nuisance and is breaking the Bylaws and written rules more frequently, fines can be imposed with amounts from $500 to $1000 for each new infraction, and eventually, a procedure could be started to have this person evicted.
So, I am enjoying the pool regardless, and swim every day. Because I am a person who speaks to people socially, I also take initiative to inform people of the written pool rules and the Bylaws when I see a need after I introduced myself. I do not want to be hypocritical and complain about them behind their backs, I would rather do it in person. I point out to the lady with her little lap dog that dogs are not to be in the pool enclosure, as their defecation and urination is unhygienic were people walk barefoot. I inform parents with babies who sit in the hot tub, that having baby in the pool (with diapers on) is unhygienic and against Interior Health rules. I do not let people into the pool that come to the pool without the resident, and when they have a key already, I do ask whose guests they are and inform them they should not be there without the resident. Yes, it seems a bit of a job, but that’s what I signed up for. I try to be not too intrusive about it, and sort of pick my timing. Hopefully word gets around what the Bylaws and the written pool rules say.
We need to share our resources, because each of us individually don’t have the funds to build our own pool. But here at the strata we have the luxury of a pool and a hot tub. I have taken to it very well en enjoy it a lot, as I could not have anticipated. As well, community life is earth friendly. It is more responsible to use less gas to heat one pool shared with twenty people than just with one or two, considering also the water and use of chemicals, and the amenities. Life is cheaper as a community.
I have not mentioned the social aspects that can be a boon to people who are shy and not inclined to leave their home. In a strata, you meet new people all the time, in the pool, yes, and also just walking around the development where people walk their dogs and stop to chat, and especially when serving on the council. Yes, I like living here.