As strata corporations and councils across the province adjust to new legislation introduced by the government late last year removing the ability to restrict rental units, many are moving to, or considering introducing, a 55+ age-restriction bylaw – the only remaining age restriction available to stratas.
While it might be an option for some, it is a move that should be considered carefully, says Condominium Homeowners Association of B.C. executive director Tony Gioventu.
“There’s over 100 buildings now – communities – who’ve amended their bylaws to be 55 and over,” Gioventu said Wednesday (Jan. 18).
“It’s happening across the province… Penticton, right in downtown Vancouver, Point Grey, Tsawwassen, Surrey, Mission, Victoria – we’ve been monitoring the number that have been doing this transition,” he said.
The bylaw adoption isn’t a loophole, he noted.
“The reason it was called a loophole was because people thought they were going to be able to avoid rentals. They can’t,” he said.
“It just simply means if you adopt a 55-and-over bylaw, any tenant will have to comply with that bylaw as well as any owners or occupants. You can’t prohibit rentals.”
While some felt that might edge families out of the affordable housing market, other owners of strata units have expressed concern about the value of their investment if their strata council votes in a 55+ bylaw, Gioventu said.
“My recommendation is be very aware of what the implications are before you adopt an age-restriction bylaw,” he said.
“If your community is predominantly 55 and over, then this might be an appropriate bylaw for your community. If you have a younger community, but you still have sufficient votes to be able to pass this bylaw, a number of things are going to happen, potentially.”
First, the people already living in the building when the bylaw is passed are exempt from the age restriction. But if a younger family lives in the building, and the family status changes (new marriage or children, for example) “technically speaking, they’ll now be in violation of the bylaw.”
“We don’t know how that’s going to evolve, but it certainly has implications,” he said.
Strata corporations must also consider potential caregivers with any new bylaws they introduce.
“In age restrictions you now have a requirement to accommodate family members or caregivers – if you’ve adopted a 55-and-over bylaw, you need to be aware of the need to accommodate support workers for people who are living there.”
As for property values, if the building is located on the waterfront or in a premium neighbourhood, an age restriction likely won’t affect demand, Gioventu said.
But if it’s in an area where units are generally occupied by people in the work force, under the age of 55, “it may very well affect price. Not only price, but how long will it take you to sell your home.”
‘Blindsided’ by legislation
Peninsula Strata Management Ltd. president Scott Ponuick, whose company manages more than 90 residential, commercial and industrial strata corporations throughout the Lower Mainland, said most everyone was blindside when the changes to legislation were announced last November.
“It came out of left field – there was no heads up, no inkling it was going to happen,” he said.
“It’s proved pretty challenging for most strata corporations, councils and owners to get their heads wrapped around.”
Most strata councils are hearing from owners who are concerned about what an increase in rental units and tenants will mean for their homes, their investment, he said.
“Owners are concerned about additional wear-and-tear, the care of the building … a number of owners who may not have been interested in renting (out their units) before, now may be,” Ponuick said, noting that many stratas in White Rock and South Surrey with an older demographic already have the 55+ age restriction in place.
If issues arise with certain tenants, there’s figuring out who will be dealing with bylaw infractions and enforcement, and if homeowners have done their due diligence in screening the renter, he noted.
It’s also not always renters who are the problem.
“There are many, many tenants who are better than owners,” he said, and pointed out how much of the housing built in the lower half of the province in the past two decade or so have been multi-family buildings.
Indeed, with 44,000 strata corporations across the province, Gioventu stressed councils should get legal advice before adopting any new bylaws.
Costs and confusion
Something everybody should pay attention to, he said, is the fact that insurance brokers and companies are now asking strata corporations “how many rentals do you have in your building, how are you monitoring your rentals and if you’re over 5o per cent rentals, who is essentially going to be responsible?”
“It has a higher insurance risk and implication – stratas with high ratios of rentals are probably going to be facing higher costs for insurance,” Gioventu said
“Landlords need to seriously acknowledge and understand that whatever your tenant does, you may ultimately be responsible for, fully and financially.”
Buyers also need to beware before purchasing, he cautioned.
“If you’re purchasing, make sure you have current and accurate information,” he said.
“We’ve already had one strata – in the first week of January – approve their 55-and-over bylaw, and this week, two units’ sales closed and both of the buyers who planned on living there are not 55 and over, and so the strata corporation is now scratching their head saying ‘Whoops! What do we do?’ and the buyers are saying ‘Why didn’t we know about this?’”