Strata Rules: Why Clear Communication is Key
Bylaws and rules are integral to the success of a strata corporation. They must be put in place and fairly & consistently enforced to help with resident safety while preventing unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of units and common elements.
Rules are often used to supplement the bylaws and are easier to create and change. This allows strata councils to quickly respond to the changing needs of the community. For example, a strata corporation may have a bylaw that states that unit owners require the strata council’s approval to install an electric vehicle charging unit in their parking stall. The supplementary rules for that bylaw might include the types of chargers allowed and the applicable user’s fee to be paid to the strata corporation. An important distinction between bylaws and rules is that rules cannot govern the use of strata lots, only bylaws can. The strata council can pass new rules via majority vote of council at a council meeting. New bylaws must be passed by a ¾ vote resolution at an Annual or Special General Meeting.
Strata councils therefore have a lot of control over a set of strata rules and should take advantage of this ability.
Establishing realistic strata rules that are easy to uphold and meet the needs of the community can be a challenge. To ensure success, councils must lay an effective groundwork with open communication at its core. Doing this will establish trust between residents and the strata council.
Here are some proven tips and best practices to ensure that your strata rules positively impact your community. In doing so, strengthening the strata corporation’s reputation for years to come.
Strata Rule Tip #1: Identify The “Why”
Effective strata councils understand the importance of staying connected to their residents and working together towards mutual goals. When a strata council proactively communicates the “why” behind a rule, they can ensure that decisions are in line with the community’s best interests. At the same time, this will help increase resident satisfaction and property values.
As a strata council, make sure you answer the question, “What’s the purpose behind this rule?” In other words, why was the rule introduced?
Is it needed because of multiple owner and occupant complaints?
Has a new law or ordinance come up in your area that requires a strata rule?
Will this rule prevent or mitigate potential liability in the community?
Identifying your “why” can be straightforward, and in some cases may require a little more time. Either way it’s critical for effective rule adoption.
Before introducing a new rule, your strata council, strata manager, and management company need to work together to determine why it’s necessary. Once you’ve accomplished that, you need to decide how you will communicate it. A great management company will help you define the purpose of your strata rule and effectively communicate it to residents either via council meeting minutes and/or building notices.
Strata Rule Tip #2: Communicate the Purpose and Benefits
Once you’ve identified the reason for your strata rule, you must communicate that purpose to owners and tenants. In doing so, you can help them understand the benefits of instituting this rule along with why it will improve the resident experience and property values.
(Reminder: If you can’t easily communicate the rule to residents, the benefits aren’t clear, or it goes against the corporation’s bylaws, the strata property act, or local laws, take a step back. Ask yourself, is the rule reasonable, necessary, and enforceable? If not, consider reviewing the rule again with your management company or retain legal advice for more complex rules set.)
When implementing a new rule in the community, remember that they can be opportunities to allow additional activities or exceptions. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many strata corporations relaxed limitations to enable additional activities and experiences for residents.
Creating rules for a strata corporation requires a delicate balance. Owners want to be able to live their lives without too many rules impeding them. However, living in such close proximity to your neighbours can make that more difficult to do. Things you can do in a single-family home can’t always be allowed in a condo for the betterment of all residents. A perfect example of this would be smoking. While prohibiting smoking in a unit would require a bylaw, supplemental rules might be required regarding smoking in common areas, such as shared outdoor spaces.
Communicating clearly with residents about the benefits along with the reasoning behind a certain rule gives them an increased level of understanding. If a rule has been implemented due to numerous owner complaints, explain that to your residents. An increased level of understanding along with feeling like your strata council is being transparent in it’s reasoning behind a new rule leads to greater compliance and agreement.
If partnered with a professional management company, they will have the resources and technologies to communicate effectively to your community. They will also provide your strata council with templates and best practices for communicating with residents.
Strata Rule Tip #3: Explain the Process
Strong, effective communication is the cornerstone of the successful implementation of a new rule. Keeping residents informed and engaged throughout every stage - from conception to enforcement - helps ensure that everyone understands the rule. It also makes it easier for residents to comply without hesitation or confusion.
Explain the process of rule creation and enforcement to the community so that owners know what to expect. This can be done through community notices and should be information that is shared on a regular basis.
A strata council can create or amend a rule without consulting owners until the next annual general meeting or special general meeting should that occur first. At the general meeting, the rule must be ratified by a majority vote or it ceases to have effect. When a rule is successfully ratified it remains effective until it is repealed, replaced, or altered without requiring further ratification.
A good strata management company will have sufficient tracking tool to ensure new rules ratification vote is proposed at a general meeting as required.
Strata Rule Tip #4: Reinforce the Long-Term Benefits and Value
Even after you’ve communicated the new rule’s purpose and process, ensure you are reinforcing the long-term benefits. Work with your manager and management company on creative ways to communicate the importance of the rule.
You may consider asking a subject matter expert to share how a particular rule might increase property values. This should be done on an ongoing basis so that new owners understand the benefits and value as well. A good management company will help create a solid communication plan and strategy to reinforce the benefits with residents and owners.
The Key to Successful Strata Rules: Communication
From rule creation to rule enforcement, the key to effective and reasonable rules is communication every step of the way. When owners understand why the strata corporation has certain rules and what the benefit of them are, it leads to happier residents. Not to mention a stronger community.
Learn how FirstService Residential can support your community in implementing and enforcing strata rules and bylaws by contacting us here.